The purity of childhood

This NYT article showcases — and, naturally, frets about — the young, female star of a violent movie. Not because she is violent, but because she uses naughty words.

the filmmakers are bracing for the reception that the movie and Ms. Moretz may receive. In Britain, where the movie was released at the end of March, David Cox of The Guardian assailed its creative team and Ms. Moretz’s mother for allowing that swear word spoken by Chloë to become “acceptable parlance for children in mainstream movies,” adding, “We’ll be the poorer for it.”

Now, I don’t know which bit of verbal raunch is being referenced here. Perhaps it’s garden variety (“shit,” “bitch”). Perhaps it’s what Kurt Vonnegut in Mother Night called “the most offensive compound word in the English language.”

(Speaking of Vonnegut, let’s hear what he has to say on the impact of salty talk:

There is the word “motherfucker” one time in my Slaughterhouse-Five, as in, “Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker.” Ever since that word was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows.)

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut. I hope that, when you got to Heaven, they gave you a perch with a good view of all the nonsense that goes on down here.

Regardless, is this really something to get all yelpy about? Me, I love “bad language.” The more creatively vulgar, the better. Cursing features prominently in some of my favorite movies. And what makes me particularly disappointed in stuffy old Mr. David Cox of the Guardian is that British profanity is even more gleeful and entertaining than the American kind.

When I was thirteen, the same age as this tender young actress, I could turn the air around me so blue you would think Cookie Monster had exploded. I turned out okay and so did my friends, who were occasionally shocked but usually on board. “A word after a word after a word is power,” says Margaret Atwood, who is one savvy lady, and who understands that for young girls especially saying what folks don’t expect them to is an excellent way to be not just looked at but seen.

The article goes on:

Mr. Vaughn said this kind of condemnation was hypocritical because it attacked the movie’s language while essentially forgiving its violence. “I was like, ‘Does it not bother you that she killed about 53 people in this film?’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Would you rather your daughter swore, or became a masked vigilante killer?’ They’re going, ‘Yeah, I don’t know.’”

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