Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sex, Violence and the F-Bombs.

My wife and I do not have kids. We have a cat. So whatever we read or watch on TV is really of little concern to Cosmo. If he wants to watch he does. We have no regulations for his TV viewing because although he REALLY does sit fascinated by certain shows (he loves Seinfeld) he would prefer to run and tumble with a stuffed mouse or pass out on our laps.

I have numerous friends who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted growing up. Horror, raunchy college films, off-color comedy–it was all cool with their parents and they seem to be normal and well adjusted humans (although perhaps a touch more jaded but I would need to do more research on that).

Me?  I was not even allowed to watch Saturday Night Live as a kid. R-rated movies? Hell - I mean - heck no!

I cannot say for certain how my own censoring would be if I were a parent although I think much of that decision would have to do with my own judgement of the maturity level of my kid. There are, for example, different types of violence. A film like Casino has some very disturbing moments I will even fast-forward through. I see no value in a ten year old watching a man have his eyes popped out as a vice squeezes his head. It's nightmarish. I am not an expert but it could have a lasting, negative impact on their psyches. Super Hero movies have a comic book level of violence that is usually done to monsters or fanciful beings that seem to me to have much less of a disturbing quotient. I am not sure if I am right about that, just my opinion.

I once sat in a film festival screening of a very violent film. A mother sat in front of me with her eight year old daughter. I watched with amusement as she covered her kid's eyes every time the male star appeared on screen in his underwear. No sex or nudity just his tighty-whiteys. Yet she let her daughter watch the bloody, human on human violence. This seems to happen often in our society. When I was a kid there was a much better chance I would be allowed to watch a violent film (like the original Roller Ball) if there was no sex in it. Our culture seems to deem sex as a much worse offense than violence and parents, especially of my parent's generation, feel the same. (I think it may have more to do with their discomfort of watching sex in front of their children and I can totally understand that.) I actually feel that most drawn out sex scenes are gratuitous and the longer they last the more likely it is padding in a mediocre film.  But is it damaging for a pre-pubescent child to watch sexual images? We all know that as soon as they reach a certain age this will become unavoidable as they begin to explore their own sexuality. Is there a cut-off age? I do not know.

Cursing is something that drives the adults of my parents age (those who were kids during World War II) crazy. They hate it. I think it has to do with the fact that they grew up with great films that were heavily censored (there were much stricter standards in the 40s than the 30s) so they seem to be extra sensitive to it.  After all, NOBODY actually cursed when the world was black and white! Right? I made a movie with my cousin called NO EXIT and I recall we were more concerned with our parents hearing the 300+ F words that filled the film than we were all the shootings and stabbings!

Folks from the baby boom era (and later) are much less offended by bad language. In fact, they tend to find great amusement in it. How can you not laugh when you hear Tony Soprano spray the F-Bomb with the finesse of a Renaissance artist? We all love to quote Goodfellas and find it ridiculous watching it on TNT or some other channel that replaces the classic F word with "freakin".

The overuse of cursing is sign of laziness. We all use them but it can get out of hand and become silly and ignorant. However, humans DO use them and to eliminate them from entertainment completely is just as silly. AS for their negative impact on kids? I think kids will emulate their parents and how THEY use the words. I really think they are harmless.

Like I said, I do not have kids of my own so I can only theorize how I would censor my own. But like anything else, it seems the example set by the parents themselves will have a greater impact and will make the kids much more impervious to any damage done by sex, violence and f-bomb shrapnel.

What do you parents think?

Mike DiCerto (  is a filmmaker and author of two books, including the first of a new series called THE ADVENTURES OF RUPERT STARBRIGHT: THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST. Available from Zumaya Thresholds. A book that has no sex, NO F-Bombs and only mild violence!


  1. My sons are grown with children of their own. When they were young, movies and Tv were not as graphic as they are today. The big event then was the Saturday morning cartoons. They didn't watch TV all week long. I don't know about the grandkids, but I agree that they're influenced by what their parents watch. That doesn't mean to say what they do when they visit their friends.
    To me, bad language seldom adds to a show (or book). And I can do without sex (a gentle hint is enough), and violence except for what is absolutely necessary.

  2. Interesting post. I review YA books and yeah, they do have swearing and other mature topics. That's why I feel it's the job of the parent to be aware of what's out there. It's not my job as a writer to 'censor' my writing as I might offend.

    I think it really depends on the book. If an author using profanity just to shock, then no, it doesn't work. I've put more than a few books aside that had the 'f' bomb mentioned in almost every other sentence. But on the other hand for a gritty, contemporary YA I do think it's realistic and believable if the character swears. In my own edgier YA, my one character does do that. It depends on the audience too and one good thing about YA/MG is there is a variety of books out there for everyone.

    With my 10 year old I wouldn't let him on computer games until he was in 2nd grade. He only got a DS last year. We monitor him on his online playing too. I feel this is our job as parents. So no, I don't take him to a PG-13 movie unless we look into what is in the movie. There's a number of family sites that do help parents make good choices on what's out there.