Re: RARA-AVIS: @$%$!!! (was Surprise Endings)

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 14 Nov 2005

-----Original Message----- From: Kevin Burton Smith <> Sent: Nov 14, 2005 6:40 AM To: Subject: RARA-AVIS: @$%$!!! (was Surprise Endings)

Terrill wrote:

> I understand where you're coming from here, Mark, but it brings up an
> interesting writing problem. If a writer decided to place their story
> in less "enlightened" times, how would they handle this issue without
> being offensive to our more tender sensibilities while still being
> authentic to the way many people used to speak? Especially - but
> certainly not exclusively - bad people?

I think a key point is that Mark says "contemporary writers who set their books in the past and use it as an excuse to REVEL in racial, ethnic and homophobic slurs." (emphasis mine)

What's he's complaining about -- and I'm sure he'll tell you so himself in far better terms -- is overkill.

As I said, in the very statement you quoted, I UNDERSTAND what he's talking about and where he's coming from. But I think this boils down to an argument similar to that age old one about pornography. When has the writer crossed the line? And I think the line will be in a very different place for each reader. It's incredibly subjective.

Then Keven wrote:

DEADWOOD, much as I love it, suffers from the same fate. I have no doubt cowboys sat around their blazing saddles farting and calling each other cocksucker, but a little goes a long way, and I think sometimes on DEADWOOD they're cursing just to remind us we're not watching network television. It doesn't make the dialogue seem particularly real or tough -- it just makes the writers seem to be trying too hard, and rather self-consciously at that, to be "real" and "tough."

It reduces what is often powerful and muscular writing to the level of grade four boys in the schoolyard trying out "bad words" to impress each other.

The key is to use words (or any other part of language, I suppose) to set the tone of the times; not beat the reader to death with them. Real life, as always, is a poor justification for poor writing.

Which is a perfect example of what I am saying. I don't consider most of the profanity on DEADWOOD an attempt to make the characters sound tough (or even real). It appears to be punctuation of some sort. And as such, is often very funny. There are times when the profanity actually reveals various levels of weakness or cowardice in the characters, not toughness.

And I'm not sure the writers on DEADWOOD would want anyone thinking they were trying to present a quasi-documentary about "real life." The profanity is highly stylized, not realistic. As is everything else about the show.

But see, the line is in a different place for you and me.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 Nov 2005 EST