Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.


Unlike Kirby Dick's scatterbrained This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Steve Anderson's similar state-of-obscenity documentary Fuck gives both sides of the decency argument a fair hearing. In one corner: free-speech advocates and comedians like Billy Connolly, Janeane Garofalo, and Bill Maher, who shrug at the prevalence of the word "fuck" in modern society, claiming, "It's just a word." On the other side: professional prudes like Pat Boone, Alan Keyes, and Dennis Prager, who find myriad ways of saying "Think of the children." And though the deck is considerably stacked toward the side Anderson favors—here's a hint: check the movie's title—at least he acknowledges that there's a real debate here. He just fails to actually film one.


On a surface level, Fuck is pretty entertaining, as Anderson cuts together funny clips from obscenity-laced movies like Bad Santa and Team America, and uses them to illustrate a breezy history of vulgarity in the American mainstream, from Lenny Bruce to Dick Cheney. Anderson considers how the salty talk of World War II affected post-war America, and he covers the key obscenity trials of the last 40-odd years. But Fuck really only skims through all this, with some campy Bill Plympton animation, a little ironic music, and factoids galore. The core content of the movie comes from the interviewees, who talk about what the word "fuck" means to them, positively and negatively.

The problem is that all these interviewees talk to the camera, not each other, and while both camps make good points, they don't really lead anywhere, and the people making them don't have much authority. At one point, the movie ponders whether Jesus Christ would have a problem with profanity, which is the kind of question that might be answered fairly definitively by actual religious scholars, and not, say, Kevin Smith. Fuck is only legitimately challenging when a few of the pro-"fuck" commentators suggest that the word should remain taboo, so it'll keep its power. Beyond that, the movie doesn't add much to the culture wars, beyond histrionics from a lot of people who take their causes too fucking seriously.


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