it's the end of the world as i know it
insults, humor, cursing, and the giving away of a trade secret
by jeffrey d. walker
Eminem's movie 8 mile made almost $55 million in its first weekend.
His album, The Eminem Show, released earlier this year, has sold something like 30 million copies already.
Don't parents hate this guy? Weren't people protesting him? I mean what the fuck?
I know my mom reads this, and Mom, I'm not going to apologize for cursing. I know you've always gotten on my case about my filthy mouth, but apparently foul language is no hindrance to fame and fortune. This is contrary to what you always thought. I mean, I'm not going to start cursing all the time for no reason. I'm certainly not going to start cursing at work [picture, me in court: "Yo, judge, what the fuck?"]. But in pop settings, it seems cursing is just fine.
Don't infer that I'm belittling Eminem as a guy who does nothing but curse. I am not saying that. I think he's good. He has a really great way of stringing together lyrical patterns. And if he isn't a marketing genius, then he hangs around with some good ones. Overall, Eminem is all right with me.
Eminem's fame does, however, leave me perplexed. His fame is evidence of something, but is it:
(1) Parents don't know what their children are listening to? (cool)
(2) Parents DO know, but can't do anything to stop it? (cool)
(3) The people actually complaining about Eminem are only a small minority, and the majority of the country isn't very uptight? (WAY cool)
(4) Kids will buy anything that pisses their parents off? (funny to everyone but the parent = cool)
(5) Kids like to buy something just because everyone else does? (Not cool. But I'm hoping for the best)
(6) Rock is finally dead, and I shouldn't even keep gigging? (find razor blade, apply to wrists)
And maybe none of these reasons are true. I'd like to think #3 was the winner, but the recent election can't be completely reconciled with this supposition. I fear the reason is #5. And #6 is a joke. Rock will never die; it's just in hibernation right now for the most part. And in the meantime, I'd rather listen to Eminem than someone like Ryan Adams. Ryan Adams, whom I'm convinced got noticed solely because he happened to write a song called New York that also happened to have a video prominently featuring the World Trade Center Towers that was released in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks; Ryan Adams who wouldn't know rock if it hit him in the head, and has no sense of humor. I read about a month ago that he was doing a show, and someone in the audience made a reference to 80's rocker Bryan Adams. Ryan Adams then had the fan thrown out.
Whattssmattaa, Ryan? Can't take a joke?
You know, you shouldn't get so upset. Your songs sound like Bryan Adams on estrogen (not like Bryan's songs were really rock songs to begin with, anyway). Next time you're in New York, you just may meet a few more hecklers that can't be so easily thrown out. Maybe we'll throw you out, and then put on a rock show, you pansy!
Actually, I shouldn't say that Ryan rode to fame using only 9/11 connection. I also shouldn't say that at least half of the reason The Strokes are famous is because the lead singer Julian Casablancas' father is famous New York modeling agent John Casablancas.
Oops. Did I say that?
Look. I'm sorry to go on like this. I know that the way I go on offends other people from time to time (another piece of insight given to me by my mother that I try to pay closer attention to). Honestly, I'm much more evil than this in my mind; you're getting the cleaned up version, and then only what I thought people may be amused by.
In truth, this isn't what I wanted to do. I had written a more controlled piece about the war with Iraq. Rather, why we should invade Iraq. I'd been thinking about it for some time. I'd written it out, and thought about all the angles. And I was ready to get in a fight with all of you.
Here's where I reveal a trade secret: I sometimes write my columns in order to provoke arguments. Not every time, but when I get in the mood, I'll say something just to set someone else off. When they react and say what I anticipate they'll say, I'll leap on them with a counter-argument that (sometimes) I've thought out in advance. It's fun for me, and if I really think my arguments out, I can make them last a very long time by taking a position that I know will cause a commotion.
I like to write this way for two main reasons. The first is that I like to get in fights. I've been getting in fights my whole life. They labeled me as a "troublemaker" shortly before I was asked to leave my first high school. But that wasn't my fault, or, at most, it was only, like, 37% at fault.
The second reason I write this way is because, much like the aforementioned Eminem, I understand controversy. But also, much like I'd hope Eminem is doing, I try to use controversy to get people thinking about a topic from a different viewpoint. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The argumentative method is just as often a success as it is a failure. A lot of the time, people miss the hidden messages entirely because they're too busy seeing red.
Regardless of the effectiveness of argumentative writing, alas, just a week before my piece came out, the U.N. stepped boldly into the picture, telling Saddam Hussein that he has to, again, allow weapons inspectors into Iraq. This negated a key point in my argument, and the rest of it fell down like a house of cards. I tried to resurrect something, but it was a total loss. War has (seemingly) been averted. Now, I'll watch to see what happens next. And instead of arguments, you get some insults, some humor, some cursing, and the giving away of one of my trade secrets. I may live to regret it.
But, in regards to both the war and my revealing of secrets, I'm hoping for the best.
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
11.15.02 @ 2:24a
You're right about Ryan Adams. If that video hadn't been film on Sept. 10th, he would just be another wannabe.
11.15.02 @ 2:32a
I disagree about him not having a sense of humor though. I saw him in concert and someone yelled "Free Winona!" (he was dating her at the time) and he just started laughing on stage.
11.15.02 @ 10:22a
When I start using "fuck" as an adjective, then I know I need to calm down and pick up a thesaurus. "Fuck" as an exclamation is always good, especially when expressing extreme surprise, "Holy fuck!" or disbelief, "What the fuck?", or pain/anger, "FUCK!" But using it indiscriminately kind of wastes the effectiveness of the word.
I feel like a girl on the (now defunct) Dennis Miller show. "I got to say fuck on (intrepid discussion)TV!"
Sorry, Jeff's mom. I'm really much more polished and mannerly than this.
I'll never forget the George Carlin skit, post "7 Words" where he said, "What if we substitute the word 'kill' for the word 'fuck'?"
11.15.02 @ 11:13a
Tracey, don't feel bad about cursing. They're even doing it on t.v. some now.
Oddly enough, though, I was watching some movies from the mid-to-late 1970's. The curse words were quite varied back then: the "C" word in reference to female genitals, the "N" word for race - you rarely hear those as much anymore. I think, even if cursing occurs more often NOW, that the range of foul language back then was wider.
There was a great deal more violence towards women on film back then, too, I've noticed. Much more graphic and meaningless than what current women's groups complain about in today's rap lyrics!
11.15.02 @ 11:27a
That's because women today have wised up and there's less need to put them in their place.
No, I'm kidding. That was terrible. It's because people are more sensitive to that kind of thing these days.
11.15.02 @ 11:45a
Adam's not kidding - he loves beating his women. (laughing, but sort of crying) It reminds me of that joke: what do you tell a woman with two black eyes?
nothing she's already been told twice.
11.15.02 @ 12:11p
Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Eminem.
Someone once told me it was very unattractive to hear a woman use the word “fuck.” My response: “Are you fucking kidding me?”
11.15.02 @ 12:19p
Nice work! Someone called me a "foul-mouthed cynic" the other day, to whcih I responded: "I don't have a fucking foul mouth!"
11.15.02 @ 12:30p
Thank you for the paragraph about Ryan Adams. Couldn't agree more. As for The Strokes, however...
11.15.02 @ 12:37p
Thank you for the paragraph about Ryan Adams. Couldn't agree more. As for The Strokes, however...
a lot of people like them, so I can't totally discount your opinion. But, it's like a friend of mine told me at a show the two of us were playing in Manhattan last night:
"You can get signed if you know someone, or you're rich already. For the rest of us, we just have to find a way to make it."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
11.15.02 @ 12:38p
Hey, it's impossible to deny the benefits of connections, but sometimes those connections benefit talent. Sometimes they don't. I love The Strokes.
11.15.02 @ 12:55p
Did you see where VH1 voted Julian as one of Rock's sexiest bachelors?
Are you fucking kidding me? He looks like a homeless loser. I was laughing out loud when two editors from In Style Magazine (or whoever co-sponsored the list) were trying to explain his sexiness.
11.15.02 @ 1:51p
From Fish Called Wanda:
"You're quite the vulgarian, aren't you?"
"You're the vulgarian, you fuck."
11.15.02 @ 1:59p
11.15.02 @ 2:00p
11.15.02 @ 2:05p
So it's REALLY priceless.
Another favorite of mine... After telling our friend once that this guy wasn’t her type, that he liked very proper and dainty girls, her response (said completely in defense): “I’m fucking dainty.”
11.15.02 @ 5:55p
11.15.02 @ 6:46p
Ain't the word "fuck" beautiful? endless amounts of uses..........Fucking lovely!!!
11.15.02 @ 7:02p
Well, as much as I wish I could deny Castro's claim, it's true. The word rules. And everything's funnier with swears.
11.15.02 @ 7:29p
The word "fuck" is so great because it's the one word that can be used in any context and have a variety of meanings. Even the manner in which you say it can alter it's meaning.
It's more than an insult! It's a verb, an adjective, a noun... Well, it's just fucking fabulous!
11.15.02 @ 7:30p
Heather. Wow. Can we please meet?
11.15.02 @ 7:50p
Fuck, Mike. blush
Actually, you just so happen to live in one of the two cities that I can't fucking wait to visit. So, what the fuck?! Maybe sometime soon.
See? That word is just soooo dynamic.
11.15.02 @ 8:01p
Shut the fuck up. It's not my fucking fault I can't get all the way the fuck out there. I'm broke as fuck, fuckface. Fuck! Get off my fucking back!
11.15.02 @ 10:17p
Yeah, whenever I let off a stream of obscenities, Matt* laughs and says, "You're such a delicate flower."
11.15.02 @ 10:59p
What always got me about the word "fuck" was when someone would inject it into the middle of another word. IE. Fan-fucking-tastic! Not that it doesn't work in certain situations, but it just seems an over use of the word.
On the cursing on TV thing, Boston Public used the "N" word for the premise of one episode. It was about exploring the origins of the word, and just really used for the shock value during a sweeps week. Some of the cursing on TV slips by so subtly I usually don't realize it until a few seconds later when I wonder, did I really just hear that?
11.17.02 @ 12:02p
Which rather neatly brings me to a somewhat serious comment on this column - as a Mom type, I object to Eminem and other pottymouths for the ver reason that Robert pointed out. The profanity and vulgarity have become so commonplace that we fail to be shocked anymore. And in Eminem's case, the language is in with some fairly unpleasant commentary. I overheard a teenage boy listening to Eminem, and paid some attention to the lyrics - then I asked the boy what his reaction would be if someone spoke to or about his sister that way. When the words become just noise, the sentiments behind them can become too easily acceptable. Sorry, call me a fuddy-duddy, but I would much prefer that my child be offended than accepting of that.
And I love how everyone here is casually throwing the f-word around, but even the most hardcore cusser here won't say the n-word. And you think political correctness isn't alive and well......
11.17.02 @ 1:37p
As I mentioned, The David E. Kelley series Boston Public used the "N" word as a premise to explore bigotry and racism. One of the points made by the black teachers portrayed was the word shouldn't be used at all. Obviously in the power structure of words racial slurs have more power than mere obscenities. However, having power and using power are two different things. While David E. Kelley attempted to use the power of one word to highlight reasons it shouldn't be used, I don't get the feeling Eminem puts all that much thought into the power of his chosen words.
11.17.02 @ 2:57p
Re: the aforementioned Boston Public: Currently, those most frequently using the "N" word are black. Used to be whites using the word as a racial slur, but fear of public ridicule (and private ass kickings) have put a stop to that. Formerly a term used by whites to degrade blacks, now the "N" word is a term that only blacks may use publicly. And Kelley suggests not using it at all.
I say, because the "N" word is one that blacks can use freely while whites are socially forbidden to use it, it's a word that whites are now uncomfortable with. Therefore, it would be more comfortable for whites to eliminate this word from everyday lexicon. Interesting historical irony, don't you think?
11.17.02 @ 8:05p
It seems blacks of a certain generation use the word, while older generations don't like the word used. Of course being white I have no frame of reference for being a victim of racial bigotry. All I can equate the "N" word to is the "Q" word, which I have come to accept. Although I did take offense to that word for a long time. I can see why blacks can claim the word now, while still disliking non-blacks using it. I think it also depends on the inflection and purpose of using it. Some use these terms as signs of affection or acceptance for one another. If the tone is one of anger, or intentional slurring, then I have a problem with the use of any word.
11.17.02 @ 8:05p
Oops. Double posted. Must've clicked too many times.
11.17.02 @ 8:07p
Allow me to take the discussion a little further (and this is a statement I've given some thought to in the past): Racial slurs ARE the new profanity. Swearing in the workplace, in public and/or in mixed company (over here in "blue" America anyway; I don't know about out in the heartland) might be seen as gauche, but is generally not unacceptable behavior; using a racial slur is a fireable offense. "Fuck" isn't a swear word anymore - it's just an all-purpose syllable, and it's been replaced on the offensive list by the "N" word and company. Those words have actual hurtful MEANING to specific people; old-fashioned cuss words all have either sexual or scatological origins, and it's getting pretty hard these days to offend someone with either of those topics.
11.17.02 @ 8:15p
Donna makes a good point. Actually, it wasn't until I got involved in the business world that I began to use the "f" word. I was raised not to use it. In fact my parents didn't use those words very often. Although I'm told my first curse words were gawddammitjesuschristsonuvabitch! That was how my mother used to say it. Crunch it all together as one word. I don't know if my mother used the "f" word much before I started working as a realtor. Prior to that the word was something I wasn't comfortable using. Now, well, for a while it was almost every other word out of my mouth. Usually when talking about my ex-lover or any of my customers. Now I'm moving on to a new level of calm, and pretty much don't lose my temper all that much. Except for today when someone took a parking space for which I was waiting. They were lucky all I did was curse them out. (It was raining today.)
11.17.02 @ 8:22p
I overheard a teenage boy listening to Eminem, and paid some attention to the lyrics - then I asked the boy what his reaction would be if someone spoke to or about his sister that way.
Oh Juli, you weren't one of those people were you?
This has always been an issue. People though Mozart's operas were scandalous. People thought Elvis was too sexual. The Beatles were ruining the youth of America! Blah...blah...blah.
You know why people use this language or rap about about uncouth subjects? Because it makes people pay attention. If no one paid any attention to it, no one would sing about it. That's why you don't hear people rapping about buying groceries - no one would care. And to anyone looking for a reaction, that's the worst thing that can happen.
11.17.02 @ 10:03p
I see your point, Matt, but in a way you're making my point for me. The fact is that which was once scandalous is now commonplace - and it no longer shocks us. And you cannot deny that it has affected us. While I am in favor of freedom of expression, I remain personally offended by some things, and I never want to become so jaded that I am unshockable.
Where do you draw the line?
11.18.02 @ 1:02a
No, I'm just saying that it's a constantly evolving thing. "Damn" used to be a bad word, as did things like "Hell." But we've moved past that. So while now words like "Fuck" seem terrible, eventually it won't.
11.18.02 @ 2:31a
So will we evolve new swear words? (Watch "Firefly" on Fox and laugh as they attempt to do so.) It can be a difficult thing to integrate "proper" words into the vernacular -- how do you create a "forbidden" word, and then get it universally accepted and used? Unless you have an easily-indignant percentage of the population to take offense, chances are, your new word won't mean...uh...shit.
11.18.02 @ 3:00a
New words are created though. I bet "Motherfucker" or "Punk-ass bitch" weren't around 50 years ago.
Seriously though, what I think will happen is someday there won't be any "bad" words.
11.18.02 @ 10:07a
I disagree. People always need some sort of language to emphasize their emotions. No one's going to slam their finger in a door and yell, "Gosh by golly!" If 'fuck" becomes commonplace, something just as emotionally imbued, as emphatic is likely to spring up. It's human nature.
11.18.02 @ 2:34p
But new pseudo-curse terms occur all the time, and with at least some effect. While calling someone a "dick" may not shock any longer, when Sipowitz calls a perp a "dick-fist", there is a reaction. Why? Maybe only b/c it seems odd and we aren't used to it.
Is a curse term only really a "curse" because it shocks the listener, and therefore conveys a highened sense of "shock" by the speaker? In this way, Matt's prediction of using up all the curse words is void b/c what shocks changes over time. The cursing party must always stay one step ahead of what is offensive in order to convey this extra-emphasis to the listener.
In this way, emphasising your emotions is more complex than what comes up by slamming a finger in a door (like Adam mentioned). It is a careful selection of a term to convey a shocking sentiment. And, in order to do that effectively, perhaps choosing the proper curse term shifts over time.
Might this help explain why curse terms and racial slurs are so different from one generation to the next? - not because we're maturing as citizens, but because a curing person must keep the shock value up?