"Ignorance isn't only for deep things." -Dragon Lady
Question #27561 posted on 08/04/2006 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,
So...I'm an actress and I've read a few scripts with bad language. During a read through(outloud with the rest of the cast) I will read the words because its fast paced and in the moment and you don't have time to edit. When I actually start memorizing lines I edit out the bad words and replace swearing with other more appropiate things. I don't personally think swearing and cussing helps in any way in real life. However, sometimes the line will not make sense or will not have the same impact it needs for the scene without the cussing. There have been times when I left in the words. Keep in mind that the actor(not just me, but most actors) rarely agree with what their character does or says. Is it wrong for me to leave in those few words? Am I sinning? I don't know.

- speechless actor

A: Dear speechless actor,

the actor rarely agrees with what their character does or says . . .

That's true, but if you play a character who's a murderer or a blackmailer, you don't actually have to murder or blackmail anyone - you just pretend to do those things. If you play a character who swears, you, yourself, actually have to swear. And while you may tell yourself that you don't really "mean" it, I think that the words we speak (and read and hear) do have an impact on us, spiritually and emotionally.

On the other hand, I think it would sound pretty silly and ruin the effect of many an intense scene if all the bad words were replaced with Mormon swear words, even if those are the words you use normally.

My advice is to talk to other Mormon actors, find out how they deal with the situation (and how directors are likely to react), make a thoughtful, prayerful decision about where you draw the line, and stick to that.

See also Board Question #2708.

- Katya
A: Dear speechless,

"...if there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." (Articles of Faith 1:13).

As a member of the church, that has been given as our standard to measure things. Many people have applied to that certain specific rules about church standards... but in actually, we are left to judge good and evil for ourselves.

In the pamphlet For the Strength of the Youth it says the following:
Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices. It will allow you to enjoy yourself without losing the Spirit of the Lord....

Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.
(36550, For the Strength of Youth, Entertainment and the Media, 17)

So, what does that mean?

In my personal opinion, some of the greatest and most uplifting literature on this planet has an occasional bout of bad language or inappropriate behavior. Is it possible to judge the effect of a great literary work by a character's inappropriate actions?

Now, I'm not trying to rationalize any position. Personally, I think actors and dancers who also claim to be members of the church walk a very thin line. Too many LDS people in the public light try to stretch their standards in the name of art.

My only advice is: if it makes you uncomfortable the first time, don't do it. Pay attention to how you feel (not just how you are "supposed" to feel... even actors are allowed to have normal emotions). You need to take a representation of the whole character and situation. Then ask, is this virtuous? Is this lovely? Is this of good report? Is this praiseworthy? Would someone watching me perform in this role be proud to find out that I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Can I be a disciple of Christ through this role I'm playing?

If the answer to the above questions is ever no, I think you are walking on thin ground. It is not meet that we be commanded in all things, but we need to remain close to the spirit so we know when we're getting close to a dangerous edge.

That is all.

Horatio the Bad Actor