More on swearing in films and on TV

In a previous post, I mused about the incessant swearing in the premier episode in the new HBO comedy Veep and wondered how normal it was. The comments from people familiar with that world suggested that it was quite common for people in high levels of government to swear all the time.

It turns out that the creator of Veep is Armando Iannucci and he seems like the British counterpart of Quentin Tarantino in the swearing department, even more so in fact. The idea for the TV show came from Iannucci’s 2009 film In The Loop, a comedy that deals with how the governments of the UK and the US conspire to start a war by manufacturing a bogus case for invasion by manipulating evidence and riding roughshod over those who think the evidence is weak. Sound familiar?

The plot is, of course, a thinly veiled satire of the events that led up the invasion of Iraq, seen more from the UK side, with the evidence provided by an informant of doubtful credibility named ‘Iceman’ (Curveball in real life) is used create a pretext for war against un unnamed country (Iraq in real life), with the careful analyses that discounts the evidence being doctored by the British (‘sexed up’ in real life) to eliminate doubts, and then used to win UN Security Council approval for action.

The film is fast-paced, oscillating between London and Washington, and is quite funny but the swearing is extreme and unrelenting. If true to reality, it suggests that high levels of the British government indulge in it even more than their US counterparts. I found that after awhile, I did not even notice the swearing, it becoming just a blue background blur.

Here’s the trailer for In The Loop.


  1. Sunny says

    I find swearing a big turn-off. One reason I cannot abide Chris Rock and his stand-up routines.

  2. sithrazer says

    Usually I think people complaining about swearing is just much ado about nothing, but an excess of swearing can drag down any piece of art/entertainment as can any words being used too often lead to fatigue.

    Some artists/comedians/writers can buck that fatigue by using it in a stylistic manner, but eventually it will turn into background noise (but hey, maybe background noise is what they’re going for. I know, I probably give too much credit.)

    Unless the swearing is all obscure British slang, I didn’t catch any swears at all in that trailer.

  3. Mano Singham says

    They need to clean up the trailers for a general audience so they cut out all the swearing.

  4. says

    I really can’t give a shit about swearing. Any list of “bad words” is completely arbitrary. I can say “shoot” but not “shit”? What the fuck? They mean exactly the same thing when used as exclamations. It is the meaning of words that matter. Do they convey the message effectively is the question that should be asked. In the case of a TV show, an even more important question is: is it entertaining? Just like any word, “fuck”, for example, can be so overused as to become irritating and thereby detract from the message…but so can the word “paradigm” or “essentially” or “very”.
    Sure, if the show is trying to reflect reality, the characters should talk the way real people in those situations would talk. The discussion of “swear” words, specifically, is a red herring.
    No words should ever be taboo.

  5. sithrazer says

    For broadcast TV, sure. I just assumed you linked the trailer as it provided a good example for the topic.

  6. Ian Cooper says

    I don’t know about politics, but in terms of working in an office environment, as a person who has lived and worked for twenty years in both England and the USA, my experience is that, if anything, “In the Loop” plays down the swearing compared to what goes on in the average office in the UK. The US office environment tends to be a lot less sweary and a lot more politically correct, but if people are finding “In the Loop” to be over the top, maybe they need to work in a British office building for a few years, so that they can get an idea of the reality.
    The only difference between “In the Loop” and what real British office banter is like, is that real office swearing is nowhere near as clever. What In the Loop” does is bring the genius-level and extravagant swearing ability of a particularly profanity-adept British Army sergeant major into an office environment.

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