If you’ve ever met me in person or followed me on Twitter then you know I’m a fan of the occasional expletive. Some days I salt my conversations more liberally than others, but I’m always guaranteed at least one nugget of joy.
I’ve never understood the societal aversion to cursing. Language is a rich experience and to limit yourself with arbitrary boundaries only dilutes the experience. There are those who think the words are naughty and should be forbidden to all. There are others who think it signifies a lack of intelligence.
Curse words are like any other tool and when used properly can achieve breathtaking results. Here are some examples of what I believe are solid executions of profanity which not only enrich the story they’re telling, but elevate it to a level it would never achieve without swearing.
Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
A modern masterpiece about flawed human beings scrambling to prove their own self worth. For a movie that’s purely driven by dialogue it’s more riveting than most modern day action films. The speech patterns have a beautiful cadence almost like a symphony orchestra effortlessly flowing from one movement to the next.
Al Pacino was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Ricky Roma and the play on which the movie was based on won the Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for four Tony awards. Does any of this sound lowbrow to you?
These characters are vividly brought to life in a manner which few other films have achieved and their language is an integral part of that accomplishment. Those who dismiss the film as vulgar because of its profanity are missing the world that these words weave together. Curse words are used to seduce and entice, they’re used to destroy your enemies, and most famously, they’re used to motivate.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die. Her ability, activated through simple touch, has alienated her from anyone with a pulse.
She’s human flotsam, trapped in the swiftly moving currents of our nation’s highways. Keeping off the grid and in the shadows, she sticks to the underbelly of society because that’s where she feels most comfortable. The warm embrace of foul mouthed, hard drinking, people who just want to make it through the day.
Blackbirds was one of those books which refused to let me go. I couldn’t help but glue my eyes to each page and absorb every delicious word. Miriam’s creative vulgarity isn’t an affectation, but the result of many hard years on the road. When you’re surrounded by bikers, truckers, late-night diner waitresses and noonday drinkers, some of their dialect is bound to rub off.
If someone were to do something as foolish as censor her swearing, you’d find yourself with a boring tale and a cardboard character. Her swearing isn’t an attempt at being cool, but a heady mixture flowing within her veins. Miriam without her cursing is like Romeo without his soliloquy, utterly pointless and painfully banal.
Again, you’ll find those who will dismiss this book solely because of its word choice. To be honest, who needs those boring bastards as readers anyway? My only concern with the suburban masses is when they plan to ban (or burn) a book in order to “save the children”. If it were up to them we’d all be trapped in a G-rated Disney hell.
I thank Chuck Wendig and his delectably vulgar mouth for making our world just a little bit more interesting.
Personally, I’m a fan of people with a little dirt on their hands. Those folks who have experienced the darker times in life and still choose to enjoy it. I avoid the teetotalers who think “damn” is a curse word and whose idea of letting loose is unbuttoning the top two buttons on their shirt. If you read this article and think I’m full of shit, so be it. For the rest of you, I’ll see you at the bar and the first round’s on me.
Do you know of any other examples of swearing elevated to an art form? Let us know in the comments or shoot me a tweet @gabrielnovo. If you enjoy these articles then feel free to have them delivered directly to your inbox or share them with a friend using the buttons below.