"Ignorance isn't only for deep things." -Dragon Lady
Question #2708 posted on 01/28/2004 midnight

Dear 100 Hour Board,

We all know that swearing is wrong, but what about quoting someone who swore or reading a swear word aloud? More specifically, what do you guys think about actors swearing in plays? Personally, I've always seen it as the character's viewpoint being expressed in a play, rather than the actor's. And when I do it, I don't tend to feel like I'm doing anything wrong, though it doesn't feel particularly right either. There seems to be a lot of difference of opinion regarding this issue, so I thought I'd bring it to the board: do you think it's wrong for actors to swear when playing a part in a show?

- Freshman Actor-To-Be

A: Dear FATB,

I think it's personal opinion. I know of some actors who won't swear in plays, or who will change it to be a Mormon swear word. Personally, I wouldn't even swear in a play. And if I was reading a book aloud and there was swearing, I would change the word to a Mormon swear word. But that's just me.

A: Dear Fat Be,

I have dealt with this dilemma myself. I doubt you'll be condemned if you do swear, but I sumbit that it is better that you do not.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you're LDS. In that case, read the first part of the new Heber J. Grant Priesthood/R.S. manual. There is a story in there about him washing out his daughter's mouth with soap when she swore. He later swore while he was quoting someone. When his daughter called him on the carpet about it, he didn't try to rationalize away the fact that he was quoting, that the word was not his own -- he volunteered to let her wash his mouth out as well. From then on, when he was quoting someone who swore, he'd substitute "with emphasis" in place of the word.

Now, I know that substituting the phrase "with emphasis" is not a realistic approach to theater. So, instead of saying the WORDS "with emphasis," you should just SAY the words with emphasis. In other words, just EMPHASIZE the phrase, instead of swearing.

A: Dear Froshy,

I'd say don't do it.

And, for the record, you should NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take the Lord's name in vain.

- Mighty Quinn
A: Dear Freshman,
I'm a big fan of mild, occasional swearing. I think if used in moderation, it can be a very effective tool. There are only two cases in which it's justified: 1. To make a joke funnier, and 2. To add extreme emphasis when needed. Nothing really vulgar, just the occasional D, or H. Allow me to illustrate my point. While growing up, my friends and I frequently passed those long summer evenings throwing water balloons at passing cars. We'd bombard a car, run through the alley, and hide in some nearby bushes. On one such night, a few of my friends waited in the alley as I jumped into the street to pound the windshield of an oncoming car. Just as the balloon left my fingers, I recognized the tell tale lights on top of the vehicle. My hand reached out to recapture my liquid projectile, but to no avail. It soared through the crisp night air in slow motion, and the cop's lights were on before it splattered against his car. I tore through the alley, and yelled to my colleagues to run like the wind. They stood there laughing, waiting to see if anyone would get out of the car I'd just hit. I realized the cop was about to turn the corner, and that we'd all be arrested, so I yelled again, "*DANGIT* RUN!" They took off like a couple of lightning bolts. They never even saw the officer, but when they heard me swear, they knew it was for real, because "A Mormon guy like you would never swear if it wasn't serious!" So the moral of the story is; If you're going to break the law, you'd better swear while doing it. Oh wait. I guess that means there is no moral. Oh Fudge!!! Forget everything I just said.
-Thor (only I didn't say fudge. I said it. The Queen Mother of dirty words, the F dash dash dash word)
A: Dear Freshman Actor-To-Be,
Snaps to Thor, sweet story. Along the same lines-- I had a teacher in high school who used to say that a well-placed obscenity (similarly, all he was talking about was D or H) can lend weight to any argument. You don't throw them around willy-nilly, but let's face it-- like the god of thunder said, "a mormon like [you] says 'damn' and it's serious!"
That being said, the beauty of language is that there's ALWAYS another way to say ANYTHING. I for one don't really care about swearing either way, but the fact of the matter is it's going to offend some, and there is a cultural taboo against the use of some words. So use that grey matter of yours and work your linguistic way around a word or phrase if you feel strangely about saying it. And mega-dittos to the Mighty Quinn-- never never take the Lord's name in vain.
::: Latro :::
A: Dear Actor-to-Be,

Yes, it's the playwright's (not the character's) opinion being expressed. But by saying the word, you're showing that you think that is an acceptable way to express that opinion.

Are there counterarguments to this? Yes, there are, among them the need for emphasis and the need for contrasts (how do we recognize good if we never see evil). It's your conscience. Do as seemeth you good.