Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bad Language in Reviews

Before we begin I want to take a moment to mention that this post started out as something completely different.  In fact, I wrote another blog post altogether where I publicly shamed someone on Facebook.  The argument got started over his using the f word to make a point and claiming he was more intelligent than everyone for using the word to drive home a point.  I made the argument that foul language didn't really mean that, and his response was to unfriend me and basically act like a spoiled prissy brat.  I scrapped that article because I am more mature than that at the end of the day, but it did get me thinking about a touchy subject in the profession today: Bad language in film reviews.

When film critics first became a thing, there was never any bad language in their writings.  This was mostly because the reviews were on TV (in a day before cable), printed in newspapers (are those still around?), and were geared for families because they made up for most of the ticket buyers (clearly not the case anymore).  These days it's a different ballgame now.  TV has expanded to cable and premium cable, which have more lax rules when it comes to what you can and can't say.  YouTube has become a huge way to express opinions, and those have no editorial control at all.  Newspapers are pretty much a thing of the past, and blogs and Twitter have overtaken them as the new place to get information.  Again, most of these sites are free from decency regulations (though more are gaining editorial control for quality sake).

Teenagers now make up a majority of the ticket buying, and they don't give a flying rat crap about quality written reviews.  If they read a review, it's because they find the review to be entertaining to read, not insightful.  All of these factors have made critics change their writing styles to adapt to the times, and one of the things they have adapted is foul language.  Foul language, for better or worse, is a big selling point for opinions and editorial these days.  You don't have to think of clever ways to say something is a piece of...well, you know.  You can feel more "adult" even if you are a ten year old kid writing on a Live Journal account.  And the f word is funny.  I mean, it's so funny that a video game nerd made a career out of saying it to bad Nintendo games.

So the question is brought up several times on why I don't curse in my reviews (or, should I say, very RARELY curse).  Why not jump on the band wagon and just do what everyone else is already doing and finding success in doing?  Well, the main reason I don't use foul language in my reviews is because foul language is also poor language.  Have you ever wondered why your grandparents said that cursing strongly suggested a poor vocabulary?  Let me tell you something: It's not because your grandparents were prude.  In fact, the real reason, believe it or not, is because your grandparents did know what those words actually mean.  Have you ever looked up the definitions of the curse words you put in your reviews (or use in real life)?  I mean, have you ever REALLY researched what they mean?!

More often than not, you are using those words incorrectly.  Words have power, but they also have meaning.  The dreaded f word, the one word that is so offensive and used more than most curse words, is almost always used incorrectly.  Take a moment to dust off your dictionary and look up what the word means.  Now, if you say this word, think of how you use it in a sentence.  I bet you aren't using the word correctly yourself.  It sounds good, yes, but you aren't using it correctly.  The thing about learning you are doing something incorrectly is that no matter how right it sounds, you now feel foolish for sounding uneducated.  It's like when Captain America thought that a fondue was a slang term for intimate relationships (when it really is the word people use for a cake you dip in chocolate).

Once he found out what it really meant, do you think he was going to use it in the way he thought it meant like he did before?  Of course not.  Yet in the world of film criticism, all these young critics use foul language in their reviews all the time without realizing they aren't using proper English.  It sounds good to them, so they say the words, but they don't comprehend what they mean.  That is the main reason I don't use bad language in my reviews.  I know what they mean, and I respect my readers too much to use them.  I want to strive to use proper sentence structure, descriptive words that mean what they are supposed to mean, and I want the review to read as good as it possibly can.  Now, once in a blue moon, I will use a well placed curse word to drive a point home.

I'm not saying curse words can't be used for great effect.  Used properly, any word can pack a punch.  What frustrates me is how liberally these words are used, how often they are used, and how they don't even mean the things the writers think they mean.  Also, using certain words over and over again doesn't read very well, yet most people will use the f word two or three times in the same sentence.  I mean, come on, isn't that a problem your teacher in third grade told you to avoid?  The point of this post is not to tell you how to write reviews or express your opinions, but rather to share my particular view on this topic, and hopefully give you some insight into why I feel the way I do about it.


  1. Of course, everything you say is absolutely true. The trouble is, in our topsy-turvy world, the f word is now considered "cool." Hence, it has become an everyday word for folks on a limited vocabulary, or looking for love in all the wrong places. Instead of WTH (What the heck?), its always WTF... There's a social, moral commentary in that if you think about it.

  2. How do you feel about the popularity of South Park?

    I know the trend has been a long time coming--see: George Carlin, et al--but the change in journalistic style is shocking and pervasive. I think it pretty closely mirrors the collapse of traditional journalism/rise or blogosphere, though, and in that sense nothing's changed: we're not reading a new form of journalism, we're just reading blog rants while traditional journalism goes extinct.