January 13, 2005


Oh. My. Lord. Michael Tucker reads my blog. Why anyone reads my blog I'll never understand, but this is huge.

Who the heck is Michael Tucker? Only the guy who filmed Gunner Palace. That's all, no big whoop.


Anyway, gathering self, Tucker is upset that his film will be given an R rating. Yep, soldiers cuss. Tucker humorously quotes General Patton: "You can't run an army without profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper bag." He also alluded to a recent editorial by Jack Valenti about how some ABC affiliates didn't show Saving Private Ryan because of the swear words.

But there are swear words and swear words, and never the twain shall meet.

One of my students and I had a long discussion over the summer as he was trying to gather ideas for his paper on the FCC. One of the things I brought up was how lots of naughty ideas can be expressed without using swear words. The examples I gave him were two songs: "What's Your Fantasy" by Ludacris and "The Bad Touch" by Bloodhound Gang. These songs get played all the time on the radio, but they allude to things far more explicit than the f-word alone would conjure. There are no swear words in "whips and chains, handcuffs / smack a little booty up with my belt" or "love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket / like the lost catacombs of Egypt only God knows where we stuck it", but they sure put some images into your mind! You don't need swear words to be explicit.

Conversely, you don't need to be explicit to have swear words. The swearing in Saving Private Ryan is a fact of life. Put 20 men in a life-threatening situation, and you're going to get some colorful language. But it's different than the swearing in a movie like Clerks -- which is also a fact of life but is there for humor -- or the movie Team America -- which I swear Parker and Stone use just to make people mad. The swearing in Gunner Palace is a reflection of reality; it's surely not meant to be titillating like scripted swearing.

When the WTC came crashing down, and the media was recording history in the making, we all heard swear words uttered in fright and horror. Do our children remember that day as a tragic moment in American history or the first day they heard the s-word on TV? Somehow I doubt that's the most important part of the story. The most important part of Gunner Palace or Saving Private Ryan is not that some GI used the f-bomb, but that some GI was there making history.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:49 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 Playing devil's advocate, the MPAA really doesn't have much wiggle room on how to apply ratings: "A film's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. _More than one such expletive MUST lead the Rating Board to issue a film an R rating,_ as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents." I think it's fairly safe to say that children watching this film might come to emulate what these American heroes do and say. That is precisely why we have the ratings system in place, so 13 year olds don't think it's OK to run around dropping f-bombs everywhere.

Posted by: Sean at January 13, 2005 04:12 PM (2c9qq)

2 Have you seen this film Sean? I have seen Gunner Palace at the Toronto Festival and I think every american kid should be allowed to see this before she/he meets a US Army recruiter at hightschool (which usually happens a before they're 17!!!).

Posted by: duke at January 13, 2005 09:26 PM (CvDLx)

3 Why do people read you? You are exotic. An English teacher who likes tanks. That is a whole movie right there..... M. Tucker take note.

Posted by: jd at January 13, 2005 10:40 PM (3ULfT)

4 No, I have not seen the film. Then again, I'm not quite sure what that has to do with the MPAA's ratings system.

Posted by: Sean at January 14, 2005 05:34 PM (2c9qq)

5 That's amazing, Sarah. I'm still looking forward to seeing Gunner Palace.

Posted by: cjstevens at January 15, 2005 04:32 PM (lz3SM)

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