As some of you Bitey-ites (Y’all know I’m just thrilled to discover who’s joined the Oldbitey wagon train o’ readership and bumped up the OB fanbase from two to four) are aware, I have a fascination with swearing. It says a lot about a culture. Swearing in Italian, for instance, comes in two forms. First, there’s the type most native speakers of English know, the stuff that’s associated with body parts and poo-poo. It is not uncommon to hear a 80 year old little nonnina tell someone to vaffanculo, which roughly translates to go and stick it in your ass.
Then, there’s the stuff that considered especially nasty, the stuff that has a basis in blaspheming, like calling The Blessed Virgin a prostitute.
I love language and words, while I also have an interest how they are used, specifically in how they are used in books, films, and television shows. It’s not so much cussing that makes something stand out as fascinating to me, it’s the subversion of a norm that does this.
When it comes to society, femaleness and all things girly, like a 007 Martini, subversion shakes things and people up a little bit. Take the new feature film Kick Ass. It stands out for subversion for two reasons. First, it’s a great twist on the comic book–sorry–graphic novel film genre. Second, Kick Ass has kids swearing in it. And by swearing I mean there’s a little more than The Goonie’s tame shit or a well-placed damn! This is full on, salty-sailor-speak, uttered by an 11 or 12 year old girl.
And as you know, girls don’t use bad words.
Granted, most 12 year old girls don’t have a mouth on them like a Stevedore down on the docks. Neither do most 12 year old boys. Or 46 year old boys. Yet people have noticed, and commented, on Kick Ass because some really choice naughty words spew from the lips of…a girl.
Yes, yes, the movie is violent in a cartoony Superbad-meets-Tarantino kind of way, but Kick Ass is not a movie for kids to see the same way Resident Evil 4 is not a game for kids. However, this is not a discussion about violence. It’s about using words that led your mama to wash your mouth out with soap.
So tell me. Would it be different, would it be as subversive if it had been a boy uttering the c-word instead of a girl? Why are people ready to take up arms when a girl says (Take a deep breath because here it comes in print) cunt, but less inclined to grumble and moan about a boy with a gutter-mouth? Why is it not nice, not accetable if a woman spews out a few fargin icehole bastidges, but just fine when a man does? How come it’s fine when sweet little Italian Nonna tells Luigi to vaffanculo, but horrible when she calls Luigi a porca madonna? Like swearing in different cultures, it’s a curious thing when it comes to what’s acceptable, what’s real swearing, what’s subversive, and what’s not.
Daring to be different, to set something on its ear, to fly in the face of the usual can be…intoxicating. And since I don’t drink I get pretty plastered on a couple of shots of subversion, especially when it comes to a romance novel. I think subversion is the key to making romance fiction, the most lucrative as well as the most denigrated form of popular fiction there is, into something that is accepted as a valued form of literature. But that’s another day’s post.