Two little semi-related items:
A few weeks back, we were watching our weekly Saturday night DVD–a Netflix blend of indies, mainstream (non-horror, low violence, broad-ranging otherwise), whatever local critics thought well of. I don’t remember the movie; I do remember that my wife felt that the characters used the F-word so casually as to be irritating and not particularly realistic.
Last night, the picture was Human Nature (a charming and very well made little movie that I’d recommend). The F-word was used a number of times. Neither of us found it at all objectionable–because it was always contextually appropriate and what you’d expect a real person to say under the circumstances. (By the way, that’s two unusual and very good movies in a row, with an actor who links them: The Station Attendant, which we saw a week ago, is also first-rate. Peter Dinklage, the dwarf who’s the star of the latter, has a small but pivotal role in Human Nature. As usual with Dinklage, he’s very good in both.)
The other item: Reading the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Book Review section today (almost entirely locally-written). Near the end was a review by Kenneth Baker, the Chron‘s principal art critic, of Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, the surprise best-seller from Princeton University Press. Good review.
Except for one thing: Throughout the review, buried near the bottom of the fifth page of a serious book review section, what you saw was “bull—” and “Bull—-”.
I must say, I never thought of San Francisco as so conservative that “bullshit” was too strong a word to be used in public, particularly when it’s part of the title of a serious work. (Which is indeed about bullshit, and the extent to which it’s worse than deliberate lying).
Note that I’m fairly conservative: I won’t use the F-word on this blog or elsewhere in print. But not use bullshit? Now, that’s bullshit!