Movie Mom

Movie Mom

More Bad Language Goes Mainstream

posted by Nell Minow

I have written before about the coarsening of language in the media, which continues to concern me. Two recent examples are in the titles of upcoming releases. While the movie and television series are not intended for children, I wonder whether it is appropriate for these titles to be advertised so widely as it is almost certain children will be exposed to them.
The first is “Dinner for Schmucks,” an American remake of the French film shown in the United States as “The Dinner Game.” It is a comedy about a cruel prank in which successful friends have a contest to see who can bring the biggest dork to dinner. The word “shmuck” is Yiddish slang often used to describe a hopeless loser or total idiot, but its literal meaning is the male genitalia.
The second is a just-announced television series from CBS called “$#*! My Dad Says,” based on the popular Twitter feed (yes, there is now a television show based on tweets) called S*** My Dad Says. CBS says the title is pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says.”
These quasi-euphemisms seem inadequate to me. And so does this response from CBS spokesman Phil Gonzales, who said. “Parents who choose to do so will find the show can easily be blocked using their V Chip.” How, Mr. Gonzales, do we block the advertising and news reports that will keep pushing this show’s title on our families?

  • Wendy

    The Shatner series’ title has been bothering me since it was announced. I don’t think anyone pronounces that title as “Bleep.” I didn’t know what to call it. I think they could come up with something better. And it’s going to be paired with the sweet “Big Bang Theory.”

  • Toupee

    Why not call the Shatner series Shat my dad says?

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Wendy and Toupee. I think they could call it “Stuff My Dad Says” and it would make its point. How they will make actual “stuff” the dad (played by Shatner) says TV-appropriate is another issue.

  • Vince

    I don’t think language should be such a big deal. It’s just words. It doesn’t hurt anything. The South Park movie is a brilliant satire about precisely this and ought to be required viewing for people who get hung up on it. As someone (George Carlin?) once said, it’s not the words, it’s how you use them.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Vince — I appreciate the comment but I don’t entirely agree. Words have meanings. Even words that mean the same thing have different implications. The significance of particular words changes over time, and I am both observing and expressing concern about that with regard to the words under discussion here. They are being used exactly for this purpose — to get a rise out of the audience, to be tantalizing and disturbing. And then they will lose their power and other “naughty” words will have to be used or more surprising people (older people like Betty White, children like the girl in “Kick Ass”) will use them. So let’s at least be honest with ourselves about what is going on here and how manipulative and de-sensitizing the process is.

  • Eli

    Oh Boy this one is a toughie! True, these words seem harmless but the youth and children of today will see such things and think, “hey! its ok for them to do it? why can’t I?”
    To bring up “South Park” as a “brilliant satire” really makes me wonder about the validity of your opinion Mr. Vince.
    Sure, south park makes fun of EVERYTHING but to what extent?
    “F your F’ing Face Uncle F’er” – is that really comical genius or blatant stupidity? They push the bill and that is a completely DIFFERENT story then the one Movie Mom has put to our attention.
    “Words don’t hurt anything” – Really? Have you heard of Cyber Bullying? How do you think it happens? People punch you through the screen? Well yea they do… but with words.
    As a society we are slowly becoming desensitized to the media and other influences around us. Can the line be drawn? Probably not, and this is why people find themselves isolating their beliefs to themselves because in the end, who really cares?
    South Park creators surely don’t, its what sells.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Eli. Words can be very painful and disturbing — and of course in these programs and movies that is a part of their appeal. But then they lose their power and we have to push further to feel anything.

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