Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Let us consider the subtle art of sneaking a "fuck" into a PG-13 movie

The worst thing you can do in a mainstream movie is swear so fucking much that the rating gets bumped to a hard R, thereby limiting your audience. Getting around these guidelines—ensuring that as many motherfuckers of all ages come out to the theater as possible—requires some real ingenuity on the part of Hollywood scriptwriters and directors who understand the potential, and the limitations, of the single, “non-sexual” fuck allotted to a PG-13 movie.


Patrick (H) Willems has devoted an entire episode of his YouTube show to the ways in which your favorite films work with these inane restrictions. He uses examples, ranging from comedies like Anchorman and The Wedding Singer to dramas like The Aviator and Minority Report to show how a lone, well-placed “fuck” can be used to create greater emphasis on a punchline, enhance the dramatic weight of a scene, or help us better understand what’s going on inside a character’s head.

Never mind the shootouts and fistfights that are totally cool with the MPAA censors, it’s the “f-bomb” that really rattles their cages. Regardless of this, Willems’ video makes a solid case for finding the gold lining in it all. His examples show that those Puritans at the MPAA might actually enhance the power of a properly considered, sparingly used curse in ways that the barrage of rated-R profanity, with all its free-flowing, numbingly commonplace swearing doesn’t fucking allow.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.