F U C K
A documentary by Steve Anderson
With Drew Carey, Billy Connolly, Janeane Garofalo, Sam Donaldson, Ron Jeremy, Bill Maher, Tera Patrick, Alanis Morissette, Kevin Smith, Hunter S. Thompson, Ice-T, Pat Boone, Alan Keyes, Benjamin Bradlee. 93 minutes. Released by THINKFilm in 2006.
Visit the Official Website
Support Flickhead—Buy this item from Amazon!
In 2005, THINKFilm
released The Aristocrats
, an exploration of an archaic but potentially effective blue joke. It was received as either engaging hilarity or repetitious vulgarity depending on one’s view. The company now offers what must be a publicist’s worst nightmare, a provocative and funny documentary titled Fuck
. Yes, Fuck
, pure and simple, and already it goes by several alternates: F*ck
, and F**k
, with ****
plastered across the most cautious marquees—imagine the unsuspecting viewer who thinks that’s a star rating instead of a title. Whether by design or not, both of these films hold a mirror up to evolving trends in entertainment and our varying interpretations of humor.
producer/director Steve Anderson interviews a cross section of scholars, journalists, entertainers and people on the street to survey what Bill Maher calls “the ultimate bad word.” A noun, verb and part-time adjective, fuck has survived the ages, though nobody seems to know when or where it began. (“Brooklyn!” claims musician/porn star Evan Seinfeld.) Anderson tiptoes down that long and winding path, with the help of historians who trace it back to Robert Burns’s poem, “Merry Muses” (written in the late 1700s, “You can f--k where’er you please”), and the anonymous verse “Flen Flyys” (dating back to 1475 it reads, “They are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely”). Comedian Billy Connolly simply points to the beginning of time: was fuck the first word grunted at the dawn of civilization?
There’s a lot of water under the bridge from Robert Burns to George W. Bush, and Fuck
is chiefly concerned with the reactions and definitions of a country sharply divided in a Civil War over words, ethics and morality. It broaches the principles of the political right, whose stringent fear tactics have often been based on a jaundiced perception of cleanliness and Christianity. Interviewed in the film shortly before his death, Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson notes that George W. Bush makes Richard Nixon appear like a liberal by comparison, and part of the new right’s rigid conformity is an intolerance for fuck and other verbal no-nos. This, despite the President himself gleefully flipping the bird to television cameras, or Vice President Dick Cheney telling Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself
” right on the Senate floor.
Would you buy a used car from this man?
Such things make it easy to ridicule the right’s pompous and self-serving ambiguity, if not the sanitized idealism they preach in a world riddled with corruption and violence—a lot of it of their own making. Conservative extremists Dennis Prager and Alan Keyes are here to justify fuck as it rolls off the tongues of their preferred leaders (bullying role models for the young and impressionable), but otherwise remain opposed to it in public or the home. Is fuck only appropriate for the arrogant and moneyed elite? Prager reflects back on a time when the person who “cursed publicly was considered a lowlife,” opening the floor for a discussion on America’s insidious class problem (a topic kept carefully at bay by a corporate-funded media), the upper, the lower and the systematic division of the middle. Anderson doesn’t delve too deeply into this arena, as it’s a broad subject worthy of its own movie.
He does, however, take a glimpse at the conditions levied on freedom of speech, and the efforts made over the years to suppress and ban offensive language, primarily on radio and television—back to Lenny Bruce, who was incarcerated for exercising his First Amendment rights in a nightclub act. Of course, what constitutes ‘offensive’ is in the mind of the beholder. It’s only been within the last twenty years that the safety of “the children” has been a nagging, overbearing concern for dubious associations such as the Parents Television Council
, one of several “faith-based” organizations of fascists who’ve challenged networks, record labels and film studios. Prior to the mid-1980s, one rarely heard a peep from such groups, and Fuck
reports the fines issued by the Federal Communications Commission who willingly kowtow to their whims, in dollar amounts that have taken an unprecedented rise throughout the Bu$h Administration.