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Friday, July 15, 2016

Cursing in the Movies

Dear Bro Jo,

I have some questions about swearing.

I know we aren't supposed to swear, and that we are disciples of Christ and as such should speak like it,

But my question is about swearing in media.

I have always thought that swearing in movies could make the movie better by creating emotion and having better character development.

But I was talking to a friend who walks out at the first sound of swearing in movies.

After she called me stupid several times she sourced the Strength of youth saying:
"Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.'' 
I agree with this completely, But does the spirit leave the second any of the above happens? For example, take violence,

A classic good story has opposition, Good and Evil, Violence is often involved.

So does that make it bad?

Does that mean Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars are from Satan?

Or is violence somehow different from swearing?

If not, Is there a level of appropriateness with these things in media?

Or is it all bad and we should walk out the second it shows up?

Or is there a middle ground where you can keep the spirit whilst seeing some of these things?

While I would never watch ''The wolf on wall street'' I have always thought it was okay to watch some of these other movies.

Am I wrong?

- Confused.

Dear Confused,

"I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean 'bad'?"  

(Sorry, couldn't resist).

Okay, here's my take: (and please understand that a large part of my opinion is influenced by the fact that I have a degree in Theater / TV and Film and LOVE the stuff)

1. Swearing never makes a movie better.

In life when we hear someone swear what we should realize is that person lacks self-control. In media what we should realize is that the writers, director and actors lack ability.

Consider: what are the purposes of swear words? 

To express anger, frustration, or to shock people. Right?

Or, as Sister Jo correctly (IMHO) identifies "because one lacks the class or vocabulary to intelligently express themselves.

Are those reasons that INVITE the Spirit?

Of course not.

If you expand your exposure to media beyond the last few years you'll find that phenomenal movies and TV shows, with top-notch acting, directing and writing, with outstanding character development, didn't contain those things.

In the same way that "To Catch a Thief" is one of the sexiest movies of all time (and we never see the leads do anything more than kiss, and no clothing is ever removed) Good Classic Movies and TV shows contained none of the "curse words" that we hear so often today.

I submit that no TV show did a better job of Character Development than Star Trek the Next Generation. Deep cast. Outstanding writing and acting and direction.



I love Star Wars, but I can't hold it up as an example of good acting, writing or directing, but I sure can Lord of the Rings.

If you look those three movies up on, say, Kids-in-mind you'll see that they only score a 1 out of 10 in the Profanity category.

In fact, for Fellowship it actually says "Though unclear, it is possible that there was one scatological term".

That's not very profane.

And is or is not the character development top notch?

Of course it is.

And they are (certainly for me) very emotional movies.

2. Does the Spirit leave once cursing starts?

I think it can.

And I submit to you as someone who has been trained as an actor and director (and done a little writing) that is exactly the point.

Every honest person will tell you that nudity is never required in a movie.

No movie.

So why is it in so many?

Well . . . the number one reason is because many in Hollywood think you won't go pay to see their movie without it.

Now that's true . . . and it's not.

It still holds that the top grossing movies of all time (most, anyway) are PG and PG-13.

See, most money spent on movies is by families on family movies (when you take a date you buy two tickets, when I take all of the Jo Kids and Sister Jo I buy nine tickets) and those movies tend to be UPLIFTING . . . so people see them more than once and are more likely to buy the DVD.

But that's what movie makers (producers) believe . . . so the nudity happens.

The other main reason is, frankly, because the people making the movie want to see people naked, and this is a way for them to do that.

Nudity in a movie?

Yeah, I promise you someone making the decisions wanted to see those people naked.

In person.

All day.

Perhaps for several days.

3. I think you're missing a crucial phrase in the FTSOY paragraph you quoted: "anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable".

You've seen A Christmas Story, right?

Do we ever hear Ralphy or his dad or his mom (or Mrs. Schwartz, for that matter) actually say the really bad word?


And yet the whole bit is hysterical!

 AND we know what's going on without hearing the word AND it's presented in a way that we know it was wrong.

Is the violence in the movies you mentioned presented in such a way as to make you think "hey, that's acceptable!"

No again.

The bad guys use violence because they're evil.

The good guys use violence because they have to, because they are protecting someone, something, or an important ideal.

And I want you to consider a contrast.

There are Church movies that depict the crucifixion of the Savior.

No blood spatters.

Nothing is shown to make you think you're actually seeing the torn flesh.

Still violent?



You bet!

Do you feel the Spirit?

I know I do!

Excellent film making!

And there are movies out there that go out of their way to make the violence the POINT of the story. 

It's gross and disgusting and graphic.

Some of them go so far in their efforts to desensitize that they make the gratuitous and graphic into a joke.

I don't watch those because of how they make me feel.

I don't like it.

And therein I think you see the point.

If you don't feel the Spirit, walk out.

If you feel that the language or violence is age-appropriate (we didn't talk about that, but I think you understand that what's okay and understandable at 6, 16, and 26 are different things) and, well, "the smooching" (as we call it here in our house) then I think you're fine.

As a rule our family takes all R-rated movies off the list, regardless of how "great" everyone says they are. 

When in doubt, all PG-13 movies are researched (usually by me) at a service like Kids-in-Mind.

And I will tell you that on a personal level, I'm more tolerant of Violence than I am Nudity.

A famous actor's son once pointed out to him that the reason he was more comfortable seeing his father be violent than "romantic" in a movie is that we all know the violence is fake, but when dad is kissing that woman who isn't mom . . . well, he's really kissing her.

Now, let me also say that I think that we Latter-day Saints, as a group, are often horrific hypocrites when it comes to swearing.

In American English (swear words vary by culture and location, you know) we know that the "big four" (F, S, D & H) are replaced by Mormons with words like "Frick", "Shiz", "Dang" and Heck" . . . . ALL . . . THE . . . TIME.

The problem, as I see it, is not only are they horrible substitutions (we all know what the person WANTS to say - it even starts with the same letter and SOUNDS the same) but, and this is I think the point, they are used to communicate the SAME THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.

Does it then matter?

Other than that the people around us don't think of them as swear words, I think using the "Mormon Substitutes" is every bit as bad as the real words.

Every time I hear a Latter-day Saint say "Frick" I know he means to say the other F-word, and I think that's still cursing.



And no.

Again, I invite us to consider the Reason, Motive, and Purpose.


A bit. But if the purpose is the same . . . See what I'm saying?

Now, to you and your friend.

Based on the information given I think she's too uptight and you're not uptight enough.

Still, while I think she's sheltered, I think she also needs to follow what's right for her and applaud her for having and sticking to high standards. I would never support anyone making her feel bad for only watching media that she feels is uplifting and invites the Spirit.

I think you're a good guy with your heart in the right place, but you should let go of your ill-conceived notion that swearing makes a movie better.

It never does.

And, candidly, I say that as an expert.

Thanks for the email. Fun topic to discuss. Hope my response helps.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you for your response. Indeed it is a fun topic.

I think you're right on with the strength of youth part that I missed. I think it's great that you research the movies that are questionable, I do that as well.

I absolutely agree with your thoughts on nudity.

Thank you for your thoughts, they have helped.

- Confused

Dear Confused,



- Bro Jo

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