August 7, 2017
news

Should Movie Characters Stop Swearing? F*ck No!

swearing
Unless your intended audience is Christian, Republican, or elderly, a new study finds that you should keep swearing.

It’s safe to assume that your grandma won’t be attending the next curse-laden Tarantino flick, but now there’s a study to back that up. And it’s not just the elderly who are turned off by an abundance of ‘fucks.’ A new study conducted by The Harris Poll, which conducts research on diverse American populations, found that the inclusion of certain swear words in your script can be a big turn-off to Republicans and Christians, as well. 

In fact, before even the oft-scripted F-word, it’s religiously oriented words that get the greatest opposition: “Jesus Christ,” when used as a profanity, would deter 33% of the general public from seeing the movie if they knew beforehand of its use. The next biggest offenders are “goddamn” at 32% and “fuck” at 31%.

45% of Republicans are thrown off by the occasional “fuck,” as opposed to only 25% of Democrats.

Interestingly, feelings vary along both political and gender lines, too. The study indicates that 37% of females are bothered by a scripted use of “fuck,” whereas the same applies to only 26% of males. The gap between traditionally conservative Republicans and more liberal Democrats is bigger, with 45% of Republicans being thrown off by the occasional “fuck,” as opposed to only 25% of Democrats.

By far the biggest pool of swear-offended viewers identify as Christian. 90% of Evangelical Christians (who comprise about 26% of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) say that they would likely avoid a movie that uses “Jesus Christ” as a swear word. Evangelicals also display a much larger distaste for less profane curses like “shit,” “damn,” and “hell” than non-religious audiences do, though none of those words scored above 50%, even among Evangelicals.

Would you consider cutting down on swearing in your films to attract certain audiences? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.      

Your Comment

10 Comments

I feel like cussing in film has lost its meaning.

In that it is way too common and is not used well enough to warrant it. Sure it is a quick and easy was to make you film look edgy. But in this day and age it is a crutch for bad script writing.

I go to too many film contests and people just really rely on it too much and I find people that work around it to use the meaning more effectively and with greater subtext.

I definitely would consider cutting it down as the worst time I was chewed out in life was a time when someone completely calm offended me and it was in a way I still remember to this day.

August 8, 2017 at 3:12AM, Edited August 8, 3:14AM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
418

Yes and no. Some movies have swearing that is so obviously gratuitous, that it really gets in the way. Other movies the swearing is much more part of the character and story.

August 8, 2017 at 7:41AM

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Regardless of studies, I think it would be an interesting exercise to try to create a passionate script that doesn't rely on any swearing whatsoever. I think use of curse words can be a crutch sometimes.

August 8, 2017 at 11:27AM

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Liz Nord
Editor-in-Chief & Lead Producer
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

There are tons of scripts out there (most written before 1965) that were swear-free. They were well written and many became classics and are still viewed today some 60-80 years later.

August 9, 2017 at 9:35AM, Edited August 9, 9:35AM

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Ronn Hague
Film Production instructor
74

The poll you reference, conducted by Harris Media, was commissioned by, and is the property of the filmmakers behind Generational Sins, a faith-based movie set to release on October 6, with 32 expletives that was recently rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
"Despite everything that's been coming out in the press about how profane and decidedly un-Christian the film is, we always knew we were making a PG-13 movie," director Spencer Folmar explained. "We didn't set out to be exploitative ... it isn't gratuitous."
The team behind Generational Sins launched the study in order to find out just how open Christians and non-Christians were to expletives in film. They insist the film is intended for both audiences. Generational Sins will deal with deep and complicated themes such as abuse, alcoholism, and redemption. The official trailer can be viewed at www.generationalsins.com

August 9, 2017 at 9:03PM, Edited August 9, 9:15PM

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Thurman Mason
Executive Producer
1

I agree it can be overused sometimes although I also wouldn't advocate for getting rid of it either just to appease an audience. I think it's about making the dialogue authentic to the situation and to the character who's saying it. If it doesn't feel real, the audience will be even more offended than if it feels right for the moment.

August 8, 2017 at 11:34AM

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Dale Raphael Goldberg
Director/Editor
268

I grew up around swearing, but sometimes it is a bit much on the screen. When every sentence has the "f" word, it becomes irritating, then annoying, then finally, repulsive and I either get up and leave or turn the movie off. Sometimes I think writers think that if they are not totally given to swear in every sentence, they cannot convey their character's true motivation or intent. Bull S#/+! My own supposition is when someone swears it is because of lack of sufficient vocabulary. Yes, sometimes a foul word or two conveys anger or lack of breeding, or being bad to the bone or some other type characteristic, but mostly it tells me the person writing (or rewriting) the script was at a loss as to how to convey the character's true inward feelings, or perhaps that the writer just has a dirty mind.

August 9, 2017 at 9:33AM

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Ronn Hague
Film Production instructor
74

The poll you reference, conducted by Harris Media, was commissioned by, and is the property of the filmmakers behind Generational Sins, a faith-based movie set to release on October 6, with 32 expletives that was recently rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
"Despite everything that's been coming out in the press about how profane and decidedly un-Christian the film is, we always knew we were making a PG-13 movie," director Spencer Folmar explained. "We didn't set out to be exploitative ... it isn't gratuitous."
The team behind Generational Sins launched the study in order to find out just how open Christians and non-Christians were to expletives in film. They insist the film is intended for both audiences. Generational Sins will deal with deep and complicated themes abuse, alcoholism, and redemption.

August 9, 2017 at 8:56PM

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Thurman Mason
Executive Producer
1

I recall one of the Dirty Harry films when they knock on the door of a flat and shout, "Open up !" The answer comes, "Fuck you !" and a shotgun fires from inside the door. Quite shocking for the time, and good stuff to this day. There is a lot more to this than just grabbing a DSLR and trying to mimick Tarantino with lots of swearing, a bit like the ratio of so many sh*t horror films to every good one.

I'm an ethnic Pakistani from the UK, born in the UK, but my mother is originally from a village in Pakistan. I think she would be offended by many F- words, but oddly enough, I once walked into the living room and she was watching a film on TV. She turned to me and calmly said, "He just beat up a man and urinated on him so I wanted to see what happened next". I guess it's a cultural acceptances thing...

August 10, 2017 at 10:17AM, Edited August 10, 10:34AM

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Saied M.
1174

For me, a few appropriately placed curse words here and there are okay and realistic, but what I find now is wall-to-wall foul language and to me it shows lack of creativity. You watch old films and rarely, if ever, any cursing. Just watched The Third Man and not one curse word. Yes, it was a different time, but I think people were more articulate back then. Now, it is just non-stop cursing and for me, it is pandering to the lowest denominator. If I hear an F-bomb in the first five minutes of a film, I usually suspect intellectual laziness and pandering.

August 12, 2017 at 6:29AM

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