A Brief History Of Profanity In Movies
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A Brief History Of Profanity In Movies

Calm down and stop swearing.

A Brief History Of Profanity In Movies
Movie Munchies

Have you ever caught yourself in the middle of your favorite show or movie thinking, "Gee, this scene doesn't have enough swearing in it?"

The other day, while watching a pivotal scene between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's characters in "Good Will Hunting," my mother entered the room and asked me this question: If the bad language was to be removed in this small exchange between two friends, would we have felt that something was missing?

That depends, I thought. In the context of this moment, the two people speaking are Boston natives, construction workers, and their breaks involve either smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer. I don't expect these people to be the most upstanding of citizens, so in this case, the language makes sense to who they are.

But it did get me thinking. How much has profanity infiltrated our entertainment? How much more accepting and tolerant have we become of it? How quickly has this happened?

Very quickly, if you look at it historically. In 1939, the Academy Award-winning epic "Gone With The Wind" was released, which tells the story of the daughter of a plantation owner caught up in a complicated love affair during the American Civil War. This movie was notable for its time because it was the first wide-released motion picture to feature a swear word since the MPAA's ban on profanity in 1934; this swear word was exclaimed through Clark Gables iconic phrase, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

Tame for our generation, I know. But back then, it was as shocking as hearing the F word.

Fast forward 77 years, younger than my grandparents' age. The average number of profanities in movies and television has quintupled. Our leniency on language has become so loose to the point where the harshest words no long have any effect on us. How many movies have you seen this year alone that had a plethora of F, S, C, D, and A words, not to mention blasphemies? Martin Scorsese's 2013 film "The Wolf of Wall Street," in fact, has the most swear words out of any other film in history, with over 528 F-words, 200 other profanities, and 70 uses of blasphemy, according to USA Today. With a runtime of three hours, that means the characters had to utter more than 2 F-words a minute.

Quite a leap from not giving a damn.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not the right wing conservative saying you're going to hell if you use the word "hell." I am also a proponent for language in a picture if it serves some sort of larger purpose to the narrative. But there are some disturbing patterns here that we need to recognize. In less than a century, we've allowed our entertainment to intensify in language. We're taking our kids to see these movies, if they're not already going themselves, with teen website FanLaLa reporting that 61 percent of American teens watch R rated movies before the appropriate age.

Both that number and the number of profanities are too high. Clark Gable doesn't give a damn, and Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't give an eff. We need to start giving one ourselves if decency is going to maintain itself.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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