RARA-AVIS: Re: Something Nasty

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 09 Sep 2000

Some of you seem to be under the misguided impression that I'm calling for censorship. Far from it, in fact. And political correctness doesn't even come into it.

I'm just saying the use of offensive words in fiction, be it a racial slur or other vulgarity, is too often reduced to a misused cliché ¯r a pathetic, hollow attempt to make characters appear tougher than their actions warrant. The kid in the schoolyard approach.

Go ahead, use the words. But try to use them well.

The use of these terms, in fiction or even real-life, doesn't automatically make characters hard-boiled. It does, however, often suggest they're desperately trying to be, or that their vocabulary isn't very big. So I don't really care what a bunch of inarticulate Navy Seals do with their mamas, or whether some guy calls his friend
"nigger" to his face.

The fact is that the words are still offensive, even if "everybody" uses them. So maybe it isn't the words that have become devalued, it's society itself.

And isn't that what Chandler was saying, that a man should go down those mean streets, neither tarnished nor afraid, a man who is not himself mean?

Now, that takes real courage.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/
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