Saturday, October 11, 2008
why do I cuss like a sailor?
I was just perusing my last couple of posts and noticed that I use profanity in almost every one of them - a disturbing trend which I have now realized traces all the way back to the beginning of this blog (for example, the title of my third post is F*CKING F*CK.) At first I didn't think much of it, but it has slowly dawned on me that for most modern day, enlightened individuals, this isn't exactly standard procedure. How can I really expect to sound intelligent or be taken seriously if I talk like some kind of crude street urchin?
I've examined the vastly superior blogs of other like-minded, beer-bellied layabouts and I can't help but feel that sometimes, instead of coming across as entertaining or thought provoking I can be a bit vulgar and boorish. Or is it that my colourful vernacular is the product of a different sort of pop cultural landscape that just doesn't exist anymore? I thought I would try to examine the origins of my sailor-like speech patterns and see if I could come up with some kind of greater explanation for what it all means in a larger, social context. At this point it seems unlikely that I will be able to do that, but bear with me here, I feel like rambling. Let's see what I can come up with.
Seeing as how today I am a shameless, filthy internet addict, its difficult for me to think back of what life was like before we were all blessed with this wondrous, porn-filled miracle. But although I may have came of age with the internet, I was definitely a product of the VCR generation. In addition to some basic human interaction and moderate outdoor activity, one pastime I had when I was younger was to close myself in my room for hours on end and obsessively watch my favourite movies over and over again. In one of these films, I could derive hours and hours of entertainment, as I watched them repeatedly until the scripts and soundtracks were burned directly onto my brain. A few that I can think of off the top of my head are Aliens, Terminator 2, Predator, Predator 2, Total Recall, Hard to Kill, Under Siege, Die Hard, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Desperado. There is definitely a common thread to this random sampling of movies that the mid-nineties me obsessed over: each one of them was rated R, filled with foul language, and featured scenes of extreme violence (and in most cases, nudity, the most glorious of all the forbidden movie vices.)
This is one of the reasons that I get really frustrated in today's stifling, politically correct, artistic vacuum. There are politicians out there who seem to believe that playing Grand Theft Auto will cause the next generation of children to turn into a group of animal-torturing, psychotic serial killers. This same sort of backlash has been occuring in pop culture for decades, like the 80s and 90s, where spotlight-loving doomsayers like Tipper Gore denounced certain films and records that they deemed to be unacceptable. Or the 60s when a nation of parents recoiled in horror when their baby boom offspring were listening to music that encouraged free sex and drug use. Or the 50s when those same people listened to Elvis, and their parents were disgusted by the success of a sexually explicit, black music-imitating, southern pretty boy. I could go on. The only difference seems to be that today, the politicians are actually winning, and slowly but surely, our culture is being homogenized into a family-friendly, PC heck hole.
Of course, I am a shining example of someone who was constantly inundated with sex, violence, and foul language from the time I was very young, and for all intents and purposes, I think I turned out alright: to this day, I have never been in a real fight with anyone (and seeing as how I am a passive, socially-awkward nerd, let's hope this never changes.) I suppose one of the only tangible effects my childhood indulgences have had on me is in my somewhat vulgar speech patterns. The films of Quentin Tarantino probably had the biggest influence on me in this respect, as even as a youngster I loved the way that he used language, with crude threats of violence, colourful epiphets (that occasionally even ventured into blatant sexism, racism or homophobia,) and pop culture references that came together and became a sort of modern American poetry.
I rewatched Reservoir Dogs in my first year of University after not having seen it for several years, and I was actually pretty shocked at the level of violence and profanity in it, not to mention the fact that it was a much more bleak and nihilistic than I remembered. In fact, I distinctly remember feeling strange that I had watched it so much as a child without ever being negatively affected by some of the film's more visceral moments. But that's just what the reactionaries that like to denounce such things don't understand: even a small child recognizes the difference between fantasy and reality. The inability to do so is just as likely an indication of a mental illness and not proof positive that Satan-loving film makers and musicians are destroying minds with their perverse and shameful "art."
*Though just to clear things up, I'm not advocating showings of Reservoir Dogs to groups of small children, just suggesting that it is more a parent's responsibility to judge what is best for their child, and not leave it up to a movie studio or the government.
Today, both in an effort to market their films to the widest possible audience, and to pre-emptively disarm any potential controversy that could prevent them from making the largest amount of money possible, most mainstream movies are streamlined for a family audience, even if they might have the illusion that they are just the opposite. The ultimate example of this unfortunate practice is in Bruce Willis' limp 2007 sequel, Live Free or Die Hard. As I mentioned before, the original Die Hard is one of my favourite movies of all time, and part of the reason an entire generation of people loved and obsessed over this movie was because of the graphic violence and hilariously vulgar language spewed out by Willis' iconic John McClane character. This is why I was disappointed when I finally saw the film, which unlike any other in the franchise, had been rated PG-13, and saw an unrecognizable, Mr. Clean-resembling Willis, dispatching baddies with the Mac guy in tow, without a drop of blood or a cuss word to be found. He wasn't even allowed to fully utter the signature catchphrase of the series. I was not impressed, but I wish I could say that this travesty had an effect on critics or audiences, as it scored an impressive 81% on rottentomatoes.com and grossed 134 million dollars domestically.
So it seems the dreaded MPAA has won the culture war, and now the violent, vulgar films that I enjoyed when I was younger are quickly becoming the minority, replaced instead by soulless imitations that are more concerned with toy merchandising and fast-food chain endorsement than any type of artistic expression, to be sold en masse to an audience that is all too willing to shell out its hard-earned money no matter what the quality of the product they are purchasing. It is a depressing time to be a voracious consumer of pop culture, although there are definitely a few mavericks out there like Edgar Wright or Neil Marshall, as well as some major Hollywood players like Judd Apatow and of course, Tarantino, who realize that you can still make money without pandering to the widest possible audience or the lowest common denominator, and are attempting to bring back the type of movie that I loved so much when I was younger.
Which brings me back to my original point, if I ever actually had one, which was whether I swore too much, and the answer is: probably. But you know what, if that one simple question gives me a reason to go off on such a disjointed, nonsensical rant, then damnit, I'm going to relish the opportunity. As I mentioned, I was in the mood to ramble, and looks like it was mission accomplished on that particular front; special thanks to the three of you who stuck around for the finale. I guess I just feel passionate about some things. In the future, I will continue to rant about things that I feel are important, or bring you the random weirdness and quirky humour that you've come to expect from me, but in an effort to reach the widest possible audience, I will try not to say fuck quite so much. I've got to make a living somehow.