LANGUAGE IS A HOUSE OF CARDS
RadioTMI - July 31, 2014
I do not like the C-Word. I'm not referring to “cancer”, I'm referring to the very British invective “cunt”. I'm not offended by it, except that its use in shows like Netflix's HOUSE OF CARDS is a sign of lazy, uncreative writing, and glaring in a show so frequently sharply written. No doubt the original British version that the US show is an adaptation of (yes, it's one of those!) used it, but in Britain its less often a sexist word, mostly it's the gutterspeak, trenchword for “Idiot” or “Bitchy” but less in the gender way and more the disagreeable manner.
And that's the problem with it's use in an American show.
It's a word that like most requires the proper context, and on American TV it has none.
And unlike Nigger it's not a power word, it's not a word that was once in overuse, it has no socio-political history, no period in time it represents, it's not a word anyone here ever struggled against, it was NEVER in the US vernacular. It has no place here.
It's particularly jarring when a character, an older than middle aged man, a senior editor, a survivor of the Politically Correct 90's, and most importantly a man who up to that moment has been a disciplined man of words, goes to it, not as the nuclear option it should be, not because he's at a loss for words that adequately explain his hatred of the upstart young Journo Zoe Barnes, not because he's expressed quiet misogyny throughout and now, in the heat of anger, is letting that out, but because he's on a show being made by a content provider that isn't bound by broadcast restrictions and can therefore say the C-word without sanction. And because of that it's jarring, not because it's offensive but because it might as well be Latin for all the relevance to the scene and character it has.
It has as much place coming out of a character's mouth as “Bloody Hell”, “Crumpet”, “God Save the Queen” or “Bangers and Mash” does.
How critical is cultural context in writing? Consider that sufferers of Tourettes' Syndrome in Britain are prone to yelling, “Willie” because over there it's an extremely rude word.
So I do not like the “C-Word”. It's not a word that will impress, it's not even a word that will shock for long. It will extremely rapidly fade from use because it's a fad, a marker of the second decade of the 21st Century, that moment in history when writers, desperate to seem edgy and relevant, rushed through their dictionary of offensive epitaphs looking for the “next big thing” only to find a word that never was and never will be, because it isn't a power word.
It's lazy, it's boring, and worst of all without context, it's… obtuse.