If you’re making a movie that’s ‘family-friendly’ with a PG rating, then you can forget about having any real swearing in the dialogue. This is generally not hard to do, but certain dramatic or funny moments (e.g. imminent death, huge tidal wave, just finished beating up bad guys) can call for dialogue that, if it doesn’t contain any swearing, at least has a little edge to it. The solution is to create a word that sounds like a curse, but actually isn’t.
Take Evan Almighty, which I caught on a recent flight. Steve Carrell’s building an ark, and he drops a heavy piece of wood on his foot. What does he exclaim?
Motherf… ather, sister and brother!
This is a perfect example of the ‘stealth swearing’ that I’m talking about. To be honest, I thought it was the funniest part of the entire movie (which tells you how good it was). Of course, Evan Almighty wasn’t by any means the first to make a joke out of the censors.
Take Spy Kids 1 and 2. They were surprisingly good kid-parent crossover movies, and the eponymous kids had a real fondness for talking about ‘shiitake mushrooms‘. Screen It’s Parental Reviews weren’t impressed by this, singling out the following lines as potentially causing ‘imitative behaviour’:
“Oh… shiitake mushrooms,” (with a pause in the word “shiitake” to make it sound like one is preparing to say just the “s” word)
“You’re so full of shiitake mushrooms,” (said with a slight pause in the middle of shiitake)
You might very well wonder what’s the point of avoiding swearing when you’re just going to say ‘shit’ anyway, and then turn it into another word by appending a few syllables – but what’s really happening (obviously) is that films are making fun of the notion that kids aren’t supposed to swear, and aren’t supposed to even know swear words. I suspect adults get a kick out of seeing kids pretending to swear, as well.
Do you know of any other ‘stealth swearing’ examples? Please post comments with them here!