FuckReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 02/23/06 06:27:01
SCREENING AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Good gosh golly – wouldn’t you love to know where the word “Fuck” came from? Gee willickers so would I. But in my anticipation that a new documentary by Steve Anderson would finally reveal the answer, I got sidetracked into forgetting about how much more there is to a four-letter word that has stirred up controversy for years. Now it’s Fuck’s turn for a little payback. What garnered giggles in our youth and became a part of many of our vocabulary (public or private) over the years gets its just due here to dissect a culture torn apart by such trivial attributes like letters and language. Brilliantly entertaining and so meticulously put together on every possible level, Anderson’s film should tour as part of an encapsulating trilogy with The Aristocrats and This Film Is Not Yet Rated into the heartland and beyond as an important statement of where we’ve come and the fuckstorm we’re headed for.The question of the word’s origin is dispelled pretty quickly as the recollections usually lead to the various acronyms (“Fornication Under Consent of the King”), some which go as far back as...1970!!! The truth is that no one knows where the word was first uttered. Maybe it was the first caveman to hit their thumb with a hammer or the unfortunate surname of a royal screw-up. Whatever the case is, some of our greatest writers have been credited with giving the word its print debut in poetry right up to 1945’s Catcher In The Rye, still banned by most schools because of the word’s appearance. Nowadays the word has a commonplace in all forms of media and where there’s a “fuck”, there’s someone to call it obscene.
On any block in Anytown USA you can throw a stone and probably find both a liberal and a prude (I mean, conservative.) To Anderson’s credit, while the film clearly leans its scale towards the left, he’s assembled a number of right-shifting talk show hosts, entertainers and moral crusaders to weigh their two cents. Representatives from the Concerned Women for America and Morality in Media, Inc. sound just like their titles suggest. Five-time political race loser, Alan Keyes (who once called Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter “a sinner” and a selfish hedonist, only to see his own daughter come out) continues to make little sense. Pat Boone (making no reference to his infamous heavy metal cover album) goes so far as to use his own name as a cuss instead of the more traditional variety. KABC radio host Dennis Prager comes off as the most extreme anti-filth advocate to the point that Michael Medved’s answers seem rational by comparison.
Those supporting the rights of free speech and open language outweigh the others by about 2-to-1, just as the audience actually seeing the film will likely be. Comedians (Drew Carey, Billy Connolly, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Maher), Musicians (Alanis Morrisette, Ice-T) and Porn Stars (Ron Jeremy, Tera Patrick) all have natural stakes in being able to say (or fuck) whatever they want when they need to say (or fuck) it. But its beyond just trying to be dirty for the sake of it. David Milch, responsible for two of the most language-intensive shows ever to air on television (including NYPD Blue), makes such a perfect case for HBO's Deadwood (which averages over 69 “Fucks” per episode) that it knocks the almost obligatory criticism about its profanity to pedantic nit-picking. The always-welcome Kevin Smith takes dubious pleasure in beating the swear count in the South Park movie by one “Fuck” for Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Newsmen Sam Donaldson and Ben Bradlee offer spirited debate; the latter of whom gets masterfully edited together with Jason Robards’ F-laden take on him in All The President’s Men. But most first amendment proponents are given one beautiful valentine with inclusion of the late Hunter S. Thompson (whom the film is dedicated to.)
It would have been so easy for Anderson to just string together a collection of “Fuck” scenes, but he goes into every territory that you have in the back of your mind. You wonder if he remembers to go….oh, and there it is. Perfect. One of the faults of Kirby Dick’s Sundance cut of This Film Is Not Yet Rated was interrupting the meat and potatoes of his argument with the unneeded garnish of his private investigators. Anderson sticks with his subject and then wheels out the dessert cart. Here’s Lenny Bruce and Howard Stern. There’s George Carlin. Seven dirty words down to one made federal cases out of when Bono and Janet Jackson slipped tongues and nips during “family hour” TV events where beer and shlong pills are hocked for profit. Even Dick Cheney uses it and is that the evangelical Bush father-son team flipping the bird? The statistic on the rise of FCC fines (an organization who only acts off of public complaints) since George W. Bush has taken office may be the most effective argument for the use of the phrases “Fuck you,” “Fuck off,” and “Get the fuck out of here” then any Constitutional amendment can spell out for you.Few documentaries will make you game enough to start them over and watch again immediately, but Fuck covers so much ground and does it with such a blazon sense of humor and irony in its 90 minutes that you wish it would just go on forever. Only missing are James Lipton's "what is your favorite swear word?", A Christmas Story's "Fuuuuuuudddddggggggeeeeeee" and Jonathan Lipnicki's "You said fuck" from Jerry Maguire. Maybe in future editions since you can imagine Anderson extending the doc by a half-hour every year (at least through 2008) until there’s a permanent record of the wasted expenditure of time and money put into someone else’s definition of what’s appropriate. We can all self-censor ourselves around children (a debate which gets the best sense of equality for both points) but at the end of the family or any other hour it’s more likely to make them giggle than to corrupt their sense of moral fortitude. Public manners are different than outright censorship and we’d probably all be living in a classier society if the thought police would not just lighten up but also recognize that opinions and morals also have two separate identities. Fuck has all sorts of definitions and just like the commandments handed down over the years, we have no definitive idea where it began - but that’s no reason we can’t love them all equally. After all, isn't that what this country was founded on?
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