Fuck (USA, 2006, Director: Steve Anderson, 93 minutes): The premise was promising. A film that would take a look at this most offensive of words, from both a liberal and conservative perspective. But despite the many talking heads, the film ultimately doesn’t say much. Except “fuck”. More than 600 times.
This was an entertaining film, but ultimately not an enlightening one, and that frustrated me. Despite the presence of both “liberals” (Hunter S. Thompson, Drew Carey, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Maher) and conservatives (Alan Keyes, Pat Boone, Michael Medved, “Miss Manners”), the film definitely skewed to the anti-censorship camp. And that’s too bad, because although I’m not pro-censorship, there were definitely issues that could have and should have been explored. Instead, all of the conservatives came across as a little bit loony. As well, the film takes a tangent into the area of pornography, with porn stars Ron Jeremy and Tera Patrick on board to remind us that fuck means “to have sex.” And then to show us. This seemed a bit gratuitous to me.
The truth is that people use the f-bomb because it is transgressive. And at the same time, it’s becoming less and less transgressive all the time as it permeates our culture. Despite the presence of several academics, nobody talked about why we use language this way, and what happens when it loses this sort of power. Pat Boone briefly talked about how rap lyrics debase women, but nobody responded to that. Since another film I saw this week (Beyond Beats) took that issue on without coming across as pro-censorship, this failure to address an important issue seemed glaring to me. Especially since the overwhelming majority of the portrayals we saw in this film were of men using the word to threaten or belittle or dismiss someone else. I’m not an uptight joyless conservative, but I do think the film could still have been fun while addressing some real language and cultural issues.
The most interesting thing in the film for me was when Janeane Garofalo admitted that the HBO program Deadwood had too many f-words for her, that she found it excessive. To me, that was something that needed further explanation, and I wanted to hear what the other “liberals” thought about it as well. After fighting for free speech, and winning, then what? Certainly the comedians would hit a dry patch. All of the comedy bits were from the 1960s to the 1980s, which I thought was telling. It’s just not as shocking anymore when everybody says it. Drew Carey joked at the end, “When’s the cunt movie coming out?” which tells you that he gets it.
The director himself said after the film that even he’s not necessarily promoting the idea that people should be able to say fuck on network television or radio, but that he thinks the discussion is important. It’s just too bad that that didn’t come across so well in the finished film.