Is Violence Less Violent If It's Bloodless?


This weekend, as I saw Guardians of the Galaxy for the third time, I suddenly noticed how much cussing there is in it. During interviews before hand, many asked director James Gunn if working outside of the hard R rating that his film's usually are given, due to their violence and creative swearing, was difficult. He claimed no, and I believed him because on the first two goes, I didn't really notice the lack of swearing. This time, I realized it was because there was no lack of swearing. Just the lack of one word in particular. Or, I guess, a class of words that exist above a certain tolerably. We'll call this the Carlin Line. But that does not make Guardians, a PG-13 rated film, clean in the language department. There are several "bastards," "bitches," "whores," "ass holes," "jackasses" and one beautifully positioned "turd-blossom" used through the film. A film that children are absolutely being taken to see, and considering that it has once again come in first place in the box office, and is on track to beat the original Iron Man's box office take, are being taken to see it again and again.

The first time I recall hearing what had previously been considered a "hard" swear word on the family side of the watershed was in That 70's Show. And it was "bitch," as in "son of a." Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude. I'm the opposite of that. I'm a... plump? Point is, like everyone, I swear, in direct proportion to audience and situation. If I stub my toe at work or in the presence of children, you would be likely to hear me spray a litany of the very best bowdlerized curse words from popular science fiction. Have a polite conversation among friends, and you might think me a dock hand from Victorian Cardiff. But even I have a hard time believing that the sliding rule of cultural acceptability has progressed to the point where "bastard" and "bitch" have fallen into the pre-school vernacular.

All of this was rather timely, as I found this recently posted video essay on the history of the PG-13 rating system, focusing on it's former and current use as a marketing tool. If you've got twenty minutes to spare, I suggest you give it a watch, because it's a solid reminder that ratings have very little to do with real content, and everything to do with how companies want to sell very specific kinds of content. And with the weird post-9/11 pseudo-puritan shift that American culture has underwent, it's an excellent reminder that when you over compensate hard and fast, you end up missing the point of the swerve entirely.

Via /Film.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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