Has Cursing Become Too Commonplace?
In the context of a car commercial, it’s a brand promotion. In the context of the latest Disney/Pixar animation Planes: Fire & Rescue, it’s a swear word—or at least a substitute swear word. And it’s not the only iffy word to show up in this movie that is clearly aimed at the grade school crowd.
While it’s not exactly cursing, these mild replacements for expletives model the kind of language many parents want their children to avoid. The inclusion of those stand-in profanities also raises the question “Has cursing become so acceptable in society that even kids’ animations need a little foul language?”
Unfortunately according to the British Board of Film Classification swearing is so ‘commonplace’ that earlier this year they relaxed their efforts to protect children from bad language. The Board argues that their new guidelines on language reflect the public’s attitudes. In an accompanying report released by the BBFC, most people surveyed were concerned about the normalization of swearing in films. Parents of pre-school and primary aged children were the most uncomfortable with the relaxation of the rules—especially with language that could be imitated at home. But by the time children reached their teen years, many parents felt their kids had heard it all. Parents of children in these groups were more accepting of bad language in a film if it was used in a ‘naturalistic’ setting.
As a result, films rated for 12-year-olds allow for moderate language as well as the infrequent use of strong sexual language. Movies deemed suitable for 15-year-olds allow for frequent use of strong language and even the strongest terms may be included if the context is justified. Under these guideline changes, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which contains 506 F-words, could be classified for 15-year-olds based on the swearing.
On the other hand, films with foul language won’t be shown in Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a new law in May that bans obscene language at arts, cultural and entertainment events in the country. And individuals, officials and business caught using it can be fined. Maybe this is Putin’s version of a swear jar.
But with the film industry seemingly pushing the limits on language, it makes one wonder if “oh chevy” and “as—-ton martin” will count as cursing.