Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fuck: Promoting Decency in Language

I occasionally visit Roger Ebert's blog from time to time - I'm not a huge fan of movies, I think the movie industry is a pile of shit and I could only wish Hollywood was half as liberal as the conservatives in the tinfoil hats wearing the persecution complexes say it is - but this one stuck out so I had to comment on it.

I've blogged in the past on bullying. I think bullying is endemic, and I think that the bullies have friends in high places who are willing to excuse their behaviors in the "name of tradition," which is this skewed thing that White people remember when they think about television shows set in the 1950s. In it, little scamps who always said "gee wiz" and wore stripped shirts knocked out Mr. Humperdinkel's back window with a slingshot, and had to apologize and everyone learned a valuable lesson. Bullies as they were remembered are nothing more than bromances waiting to happen. All you had to do was stand up to the bully and the problem went away.

I've commented before how I don't trust people who claim to have good memories. Claiming any of the above was even remotely true and attempting to prove to me that Andy Griffith or Leave it to Beaver are historical documentaries is enough for me to laugh you out of the country (fools like this are already promoting The Flintstones as a historical documentary). The memory is a funny thing, and the way memories are built are influenced less by the actual events and more by the things we see and hear about those events. This concept of the 1950s as a Utopia where the only Black guy on stage was a mailman who was always smiling and you never saw a gay person are memories of the 50s clearly built ex post facto. This argumentum ad excogitari praeterium/ratio ad fraudulenta historia is a framing device through which most conservatives - indeed, most Americans - view the present world.

This is especially prevalent in the way that we tell children to deal with bullies. The rugged independent nature of America dictates that we shouldn't rely on authority for anything, including dealing with our problems. All too often, said authority is the problem in this country, anyway, but that's another point. Because we live in this imagined past, all that needs to happen to deal with a bully is to bust him in the face (unless said bully is a girl. And then, when other girls fight back, we stand aghast a how violent society is making girls. Welcome to the world where no matter what you do you can never win - 51% of the human population lives here. It's not a pleasant place). For those of us anchored here in the real world, without our heads rammed up our ass and lodged in the colon of the made up past, that's not how this works. Not remotely. Violence isn't the answer, first of all, because it accomplishes nothing. Second of all, victim blaming and saying that it's the job of the individual being picked on to fight back leaves a bitter taste in my mouth; it's the job of the bully not to bully. How about that?

Enter a movie named Bully. I've heard in passing about this movie; it's a collection of stories about individuals who have been bullied, with the intent of yank America's head out of it's ass the hard way. It sounds like a pretty good movie - a movie that, unlike Avatar, serves a social function that society desperately needs (because what society really needs is more Magical Native American stereotypes projected on fictional creatures. Especially when most people treat Native Americans like they're fictional, anyway). So, in being what sounds like a pretty good movie, with a useful social function that society very much needs, the MPAA did the usual thing the intelligent folks at the MPAA does: they rated it R so that teens, who the movie is about, wouldn't be able to see it.

If the MPAA were to be given an alignment, I'd have to say that alignment would be Lawful Stupid. It's not completely fair, because the MPAA is a wonderful reflection of American values. Sex is evil, wrong, dirty, nasty, and should never be displayed as anything other than a way to titillate White men into seeing a movie. Only White men are protagonists (overlooking the literal handful of POCs), and "fuck" can only be used an arbitrary number of times before it's deemed offensive. Really, everything about the MPAA is arbitrary, but that's because everything about "standard American values" is pretty fucking arbitrary too.

So this movie, Bully, uses "fuck." Apparently, it uses "fuck" a lot. You know, like teenagers do. I use "fuck" a lot. I have a tag for that; when I wheel out the cluster F-bomb daisy cutters, it's because some jackass on the Right or some jackass on the Left has really pissed me off. I have nothing against the world "fuck" and I don't think society does, either. And if you do, get your fucking knickers out of their fucking twist and then pull that fucking stick out of your fucking ass. Fuck.

The fact that I don't care about language is the reason why I don't have the warning "adult content" on my blog. As far as I'm concerned, I've been saying "fuck" since I was 5th grade, if not earlier, but I was one of those stuck up assholes who thought that it shouldn't be used a lot (we can tell I got over that).

This sort of thing gets on my nerves. The word "fuck" is not a bad word. It's only a bad word because people assign some meaningless context to it (of course, one can make the same claim for all words; what about a chair says 'chair', other than social conditioning? For all it's misuse on the internet, this is the real meaning for Derrida's "Deconstruction Theory" - it's a way to view language and read texts "between the lines", to read what the text wants to say, rather than what it actually says. Yes, it is confusing. If you're not sure what you're doing with Deconstruction Theory, odds are, you're doing it right). The moral guardians assign this value and as moral guardians are wont to do, they expect everyone else in society to listen to them. At all costs.

And the cost of this little bit of moral prudence is rating a movie that everyone should see R because it says "fuck." This is morality at all. This is vulgarity. This sort of thing is far uglier than the word "fuck" could ever hope to be.

The MPAA is full of double-standards and hypocrisy. This is just another example of that, but it's also an example of how this double-standard and hypocrisy hurts people who need help. Not that the MPAA will care. In fact, the movie that showed just how bad and hypocritical the MPAA is? It got rated R, because it showed scenes from movies that got cut so they wouldn't get rated R.

The banal vulgarity of the MPAA is one reason why I don't watch a lot of movies. The banal vulgarity of America is on reason why I don't like popular entertainment. I will likely see Bully, however, even if I don't get the chance to in theaters. It looks like a good movie, and the MPAA - that is, the authority in society - standing against it in the name of "decency" only makes me want to see it all the more.

1 comment:

  1. So why do theaters have to have their movies rated ... but the stores don't? The stores have DVDs that proudly advertise how they're UNRATED by any authority. Are theaters the only place we worry about depravity of morals?