Let me preface this week’s rant by saying I’m not a prude. You can’t spend the overwhelming majority of your life in the military without picking up a cuss word or four thousand. I have a towel in my kitchen that reads “I love Jesus, but I cuss a bit.” In my case, “a bit” might be a stretch. (Refer to sentence two.) Yes, yet further proof I am far from perfect. But! In my defense, I don’t cuss in church, at the grocery store, at the mall, or within hearing of people I don’t know, especially if said people have a child in tow.
I never cussed in front of my mother. Mainly because I knew she’d slap me, but I respected her enough not to. Sometimes that became quite the challenge. For instance. She asked one time what I was cooking for dinner and I told her SOS. She asked, “What’s that?” Uh oh! It’s hamburger gravy on top of toast or biscuits, and in the military, that’s known as Sh.. On a Shingle. How to explain that to my mom? I’m fairly quick on my feet, so I told her it stood for Stuff On a Shingle. Nice save, right?
Imagine my surprise when she replied, “Hmm. Your dad always said that stood for Sh.. On a Shingle. Must be an Army thing.” Luckily, I hadn’t just taken a gulp of water, or I would have spit it all over the floor. I had to backtrack and explain it was really the same in the AF and I was just being polite. She thanked me for not cussing and failed to realize I was now permanently traumatized by hearing my mom dare to utter such a word. She got more liberal in her old age, but I can still count on one hand the number of times she cussed in front of me.
Television used to have a deep appreciation for people like my mom. On the major networks, cussing wasn’t allowed until after eight p.m., and then it was only the really mild cuss words. They had a censor whose sole mission in life was to make sure that an errant word didn’t slip through and offend the sensibilities of the young and/or innocent. Pretty sure he (or she) has been fired, because times, well, they aren’t just a changin’, they’re long gone.
With the advent of cable TV, cussing became the norm. In fact, I’m almost positive it was a requirement of most shows to be liberally peppered with offensive language. I’ll readily admit I still watched the shows, but over the course of years, it’s gotten much worse. At first, it was limited to just the cable shows, then slowly but surely, they started encroaching on network TV at any time of the day or night. And that’s where we are now.
I am a big Sylvester Stallone fan. In fact, if certain actors are on, you’ll find me watching whatever movie they’re in. (Ed will be watching chick flicks or sci-fi, but that’s another blog post.) Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Neesom, Gibson…the list is fairly long. If you want a refresher on bad words, you can watch one of their movies. Pretty sure every bad word known to man is used more than one. I expect them to be there, so it doesn’t bother me.
What does bother me is how much cussing has invaded other shows. Sitcoms, dramas, etc. About the only place you won’t find multiple swear words being used is in cartoons, but I think that day is fast approaching. I put cussing in the same category as gratuitous sex in a movie or show. If it doesn’t advance the plot, then why do it? Have we actually reached the point where producers think the only shows we want to watch must be filled with stuff that years ago would have gotten our mouths washed out with soap?
If you want to write novels for a Christian market, you need a better command of the English language than otherwise. You might think that’s just my opinion, but you’d be wrong. You can google it and find others who think the same thing. Whether you’re writing a novel or a script, it’s easy to pop in some bad words to stress the tenseness of whatever situation your hero/heroine is facing. It’s much harder to create that same stress without the use of cuss words. And guess what? It’s just as effective, if not more so.
I love the Expendables series. Maybe because I’m pretty sure Stallone will lose his shirt at least once, but also because they’re jam-packed with my favorite actors. Everyone I love in one neat little package, even though the character Gibson portrays is a complete jerk. The downside of those movies is the language. Every sentence is peppered with words I wouldn’t use, and I think they may have made up a few new ones. But they seem to fit.
Another great series is the Equalizer. Two words. Denzel Washington. How can you not appreciate a movie starring him? I loved the TV series it was based on, and the movies are just as good. Does it have filthy language? Uh…yep. But! Denzel never utters a foul word. Everyone around him is using unbelievably foul language, but he doesn’t need to. One look at his face and you know Robert McCall is someone you better be very afraid of. That’s what I mean by superb writing. The writer instills fear through action and looks, not words. No easy task, but they pull it off in a way that takes the viewer right where they want us.
I sometimes wonder if we’ve strayed too far from civility. I think that point is reinforced when I hear very young children using words that years ago wouldn’t have been uttered by the most hardened military person, or construction worker, or dock foreman. I’m not knocking those people, because most of them watched their language around young children and people like my mom. They reserved their “bad” language for work and not social interactions. Young children have no such filter.
Is cussing a sin? If you believe the teachings of the Bible, then yes, it is. Jesus wasn’t the only one who warned against it, but most of us are guilty of doing so. Luckily that won’t keep us from getting into Heaven, but I’m pretty sure there won’t be any cussing there. Thank goodness, because I plan on watching the Ice Age movies to my heart’s content when I get up there, and if Manny, Sid, or Diego start using the F word, I’m not going to be very happy. There should be some safe zone for our kids and for those of us who appreciate good writing and not good cuss words. What do you think? Have we gone too far?