Let’s talk about swearing.
I have no problem with swearing. I swear, I swear a lot. But just like everything else, wearing a suit, juggling, smoking, and the tiny three pronged fork you get in fancy restaurants (which may be for eating your salad, but we’re all too embarrassed to admit that we’re not quite sure) there is a time and a place for it. I would never dream of swearing in front of my dad; and the harshest words I have ever uttered in front of him are bloody and crap. But I do swear, and I use swear words in my stories where I feel it is appropriate.
Now to the point of this little ramble; last night I watched The Sweeney. Not the classic TV series, but the new re-envisioned movie starring Ray Winstone. Now first off, it’s not a bad film and it rattles along at a tidy pace. But it is grim and rather unrelenting and could have been a whole lot better than the end result. The one thing that jumped out at me though was the use of profanity in the film. Like I said, I don’t mind swearing, but this was taking it to an extreme. If regular, everyday swearing is like skydiving then this was skydiving naked, with a napkin for a parachute, while juggling tigers. It was excessive, it was too much.
It seemed as if every other sentence was peppered with profanity and it came in a steady stream like machine gun fire. Perhaps it was an effort to make the film dialogue more “real” or more “urban” but all it really did was make me cringe. I know people really do swear that much; heck I was walking behind some the other day who couldn’t get through a single sentence without using the word fuck, but I really don’t need it in my movies. Why couldn’t they have dumped half the swearing and added some pithy one-liners? It would certainly have improved the final film. I don’t need to hear a character punctuating their dialogue with fuck, shit and cunt to know that they’re meant to be a serious hard-ass. An example?:
“Have you got big bollocks? Have you? You got big fucking nuts? Lets have a look at them.”
Contextually it was fine for the character and situation to utter the line, but honestly it was excessive. All The Sweeney managed to do was desensitise me and leave me less sympathetic to the characters. The flip side of this particular coin is Luc Besson’s The Family, which also contains swearing. However in this case the word fuck is used inventively, sparingly and makes a great punchline when uttered by Robert DeNiro. There is a world of difference between the two films, and I wish the writers would recognise that adding a shitload of swearing to a screenplay does not in any way make it a better piece of work.
In closing? I swear, and have used profanities in this article, but that doesn’t mean I want or need to have my ears assault by a cacophony of dirty words whenever I watch a movie. Give me great dialogue, entertain me, and be sparing with the swearing!
The amount of time the auto-correct has tried to force me to change a word it deems incorrectly spelled in this article is ridiculous. I’m British, I write in English, so please, please dear spell-checker stop trying to make me spell like an American!