Friday, June 14, 2024

“F—!” WTF? The F Word Comes Into the Mainstream


It didn’t start with Melissa Leo on the Oscars. But when she dropped the F bomb during her acceptance speech two weeks ago, everyone sat up and paid attention. But frankly, the F word has made a big leap into the mainstream recently. Cee Lo Green has had a big hit with “F— You.” Then Gywneth Paltrow jumped in and the song had to be cleaned up to the soccer mom-ish  “Forget You.” But the Cee Lo version is the one everyone wants whether or not radio plays it. Lily Allen has her song called “F— You,” not to be left out. I do think all of them got the idea from Aimee Mann who warbled “You f—ed it up” in one of her early songs.

Then we have Enrique Iglesias, eking out yet another nasal, tonally indifferent song with “Tonight I’m F–ing You.” Hate it, but it’s catchy as hell and not nearly as good when it’s “Tonight I’m Loving You.” F that! Soon comes a Broadway play, believe it or not, called “The Motherf–cker in the Hat.” The New York Times just puts an underscore in place of the offending word. And there’s more: Green Day‘s new live CD is called “Awesome as — ” you know what.

It’s nothing new, really. One of Harry Nilsson‘s best songs, from the early 70s, was called “You’re Breaking My Heart (So F– You).” Rappers and hiphoppers have long used the F word and lots worse in their material. Of course, most of us don’t hear that stuff, so we have no idea how bad it’s gotten on CDs with the “explicit language” labels. This is different. Now the F word is out in the open. Of course, newspapers and magazines and legit websites won’t print it. Gawker doesn’t mind; they’ve been obsessed with something called a “f—saw” for weeks. I’m pretty sure it’s just so they can use the word; it builds traffic, no doubt.

Is this turn of events a good thing? George Carlin must be smiling. Wikipedia has a fairly good entry on the word, and I’m sure the OED does, too. But it’s coarse, and vulgar. It’s meant to shock, although by this time how shocking can it be? Using ‘f–” is, I guess, the last taboo since thanks to talk shows and South Park there’s nothing left really. (Bestiality? Incest? Necrophilia? Old hat.) Shocking?  For Melissa Leo, it was an exultation. For the so-called songwriters, and maybe even the playwright, maybe a little lazy with a language that has so much more to offer. Better to keep it to the web standard: WTF?

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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