Sunday, August 21, 2005

On Not Falling to the Sticky Floor in Mirth

I read this review of "The 40 Year Old Virgin," and decided that I had to see a movie that is "that funny. . . Howl-aloud funny. Choke-on-your-popcorn funny. Convulse-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-in-the-Gummi-Bears-until-you-get stuck-and-dislocate-something funny."

Roger Ebert gave it "thumbs up" and a great review.

So, Saturday afternoon, when the thrill of garage-saling faded, I went to see what all the hoopla was about. I was prepared to shoot Diet Coke from my nose, choke on my popcorn and fall out of my seat onto the sticky floor.

No one mentioned that you must find the f-word hilarious to find this movie funny. My eardrums are still bleeding from the profane battering they endured. The humor often relied on the expectation that people will find obscene language uproariously funny. At least 68 times, they invoked the f-word.

Well, call me a prude, but I find the use of the f-word offensive and stupid and distracting. I expect it from fourteen year old boys who are proving how cool and grown-up they are (though, I reserve the right to wash out my boys' mouths with soap if I ever hear that coming from them) but to include foul language in every scene, coming from every character in the movie? I don't think so. What is the point?

I must be living in my own special bubble because while everyone else was laughing, I was thinking that this movie was not funny.

Oh, sure, there were funny moments, but I did not howl. I did not clutch my stomach. My face did not ache from laughter, nor did I spew any carbonated beverages from my nasal passages. While I did appreciate Steve Carell's portrayal of the 40-year old virgin--the hair-waxing scene had the potential to be a really classic laugh-out-loud funny moment--the language ruined it for me. I found his use of a string of profanity to be completely out of character for him.

I know. What did I expect from an R-rated movie? I expected to laugh a lot. I just didn't realize that what passes for humor these days is the frequent use of profane language. I really wanted to like this movie--I like the idea of this movie. I liked the end of this movie. I did not like the fact that I saw a 6-year old boy in the front row with his family. Call me judgmental, but children do not belong in movies intended for adults. Surely I'm not the only woman in America working actively to protect my children's innocence?

I find it irresponsible to use coarse words as a shortcut to a punchline. I think it devalues language and underestimates the audience. It's just offensive. Using the f-word like a common adjective is a lot like using a cannon to kill a fly. Ease up. A fucking fly-swatter will do.

Unless, of course, you're trying to make a point.

And my point? Quit using extreme words for ordinary circumstances. I shocked you when I said that word, didn't I? But when everyone says it routinely, no one is shocked anymore--except me, and maybe--hopefully--that 6-year old in the front row. If everyone uses the f-word all the time, the word itself becomes about as pungent as an old stale lavender sachet. Save it for when you really need the firepower.

Meanwhile, while everyone else is chortling, I'll be wondering why movies are written in the vocabulary of a fourteen year old boy (no offense to fourteen year old boys, of course) and thinking that I am a fuddy-duddy.

Now, I need to go wash my mouth out with soap and disinfect my keyboard.


Blogger Diddy-Win said...

Mel, remind me to tell you about the time one our pastors read a letter to the congregation that had many f-bombs in about a BOMB going off!!
...anyway, I want to recommend a website that I have found INCREDIBLY useful since my 5 teenagers have been in elementary school. It is: It will actually tell you HOW MANY of "those words" to expect. It also tells of each sexual situation. They do not judge - they let you judge for yourself. I have saved myself AND my kids from many movies by logging on to this site.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

You're right. I was shocked when you used THE WORD.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

In this day and age, I'm sure even that six year old was not shocked.

4:28 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

These movies are not aimed at us. They are aimed at (undisciplined) 17-18-year-old boys. Since I am not one, I will stick with oldies, like "Pippi Longstocking," which I bought yesterday. :-)

6:01 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

I checked out that review. An unmarried guy trying to lose his virginity? A torrent of projectile vomit?

6:05 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

The great majority of movies seem to pander to the pubescent group and to not the most discriminating of that group. And they wonder why movie attendance is declining. The last three or four times we have checked the listings in the hopes of going out for the night, we have, in fact, stayed home. You may have a tiny inkling that I don't agree with everything that you say, but I am with you on this language issue. So, what do you think of that? ;)

6:25 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

well said, Mel! and no, you're not the only mom out there trying to protect their kids. I'm seen as the "strict" mom because of so much that I won't let my kids see or experience. They're 5 and 8, for crying out loud!! Lots of my friends guard their kids' physical protection very closely, but not their minds, it seems.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Richard Pryor dropped the 'f' bomb around every other word in this sort of comic, street poetry that was so insanely funny and brilliant that asking him to take out one of those 'fucks' would have been like telling Mozart he uses too many notes and some needed to go.

It's not the amount of times the word is used, it's the creativity, or lack of, that surrounds it. To me, the word 'fuck' is slapstick. Some people like slapstick. Do you like the Three Stooges? Maybe you do but many people, especially woman, find the Three Stooges absolutely insipid. I think the Three Stooges are funny but that doesn?t mean I like all slapstick. I think ?fuck? can be funny or it can?t, it all depends on who is dropping it but it has nothing to do with the amount of times it?s dropped.

I personally find the use of ?you know? and ?I mean? and ?like? to be more annoying and damaging to the language than ?fuck.? Give me a well spoken person who peppers their sentences with ?fuck? over a half wit who injects, you know and I mean and like, I was saying, you know, it?s like, uh, like you know, like, I mean, uh, you know what I mean, it was just like, you know? Any day of the week.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

I agree with you, completely.

7:58 AM  
Blogger tab said...

well I guess I'm a prude too. I don't even like the language that they are getting by with on regular tv during normal daytime hours (don't get me started on the groping and undressing each other). They really could get their point across with other words and even be just as funny (if you find that language humerous to begin with).

9:30 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I don't mind some profanity in movies, as long as the words are not used every twenty seconds.

But, they are not for the ears of my son, and you are not the only mom out there protecting her children. Six is much too young for a movie containing the subject matter of losing virginity, much less an R rating. I will never know what some parents are thinking.

Hmmmmm, perhaps we need to make up some movie stickers for you? ;)

10:07 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Well, fuck, I guess I won't go see it if it didn't make you choke on your popcorn! ;)

12:48 PM  
Blogger Debra said...

Hi Mel... Before I go see movies, I always check out the reviews over at James Dobson's website: . The reviewer will always tell you how much profanity/sex/violence there will be. Tom and I watch many movies at home and since, we too, hate profanity, we bought a TV Guardian DVD player from Walmart for only $49. Best thing we ever bought!! It takes out all the language so we can sit back and enjoy the movie. God bless... Debra

2:48 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

I went back, re-read and tried to figure out if you had been hacked! lol.

I can't stand that word myself. Which is why I didn't enjoy Bridget Jones as much as I could have...

Did you know that hair waxing scene was reaL? That was his real hair they were jerking off. maybe he had to say those words. ;) (for that scene at least)

9:19 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I'm a prude and proud of it. We should all remain sensitive enough to find some things absolutely shocking. I also use before going to movies to protect my children's innocence and mine. (Actually, I'm just trying to recoup my innocence). I like it even better than Dobson's site because it doesn't make any judgments - it is "just the facts, m'am."

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Lord Voldemort said...

Don't be scared of a word.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Lord Voltemort (if that is your real name, ha ha ha), I'm not scared of a word. In fact, you missed the whole point. The power of that particular word is diluted by the overuse of it. I find the word offensive and the reasoning behind using it brainless and uncreative. Sixty-eight uses of it in a movie is ridiculous.

10:37 PM  

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