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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Chris Hicks: Movies that attract kids, like 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' should strive to be less profane

By Chris Hicks, For the Deseret News

Published: Wed, Aug. 6 11:00 a.m. MDT

 Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt star in \

Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt star in "Guardians of the Galaxy," one of several movies aimed at young audiences that uses coarse language as a punch line.

(Marvel/Disney)

When you've been at this as long as I have — writing about movies, that is — you occasionally find yourself on a treadmill of repetition. This is one of those times.

Last week I went to “Guardians of the Galaxy” and something about the movie really bugged me (if I may lapse into the jargon of my youth).

Let me say first that although I enjoyed “Guardians” — and the second Captain America movie a few months ago — I am growing weary of all things Marvel. All things superheroes. All things comic books.

There is what is referred to as “the Marvel universe,” the fictional time and space occupied by characters that spring from Marvel comic books.

But I fear that in the near future, “the Marvel universe” will simply mean “the movies.” That’s all we’ll have in every auditorium of every multiplex: “Ant-Man 5,” “Doctor Strange 13,” “Iron Man 23,” “X-Men 137,” etc.

I know the geeks have inherited the Earth, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts will be out of work.

Anyway, back to “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Like everyone else, I enjoyed it. It’s funny, and that makes up for a lot. Even if there are a few too many verbal and visual cues that bring to mind a lot of other movies, everything from “Star Wars” to “Star Trek,” “Guardians” is witty enough to work as both a spoof and yet another super cog in the Marvel wheel.

But here’s my complaint, and it’s one I’ve made before, and it goes beyond the Marvel universe to movies at large, but especially movies that are aimed at kids — and however broad the audience for Marvel movies may be, teens and tweens are responsible for a large swath of the ticket sales:

Simply put, “Guardians of the Galaxy” has too much coarse language.

First, profanity in and of itself is not funny. Swear words are also not funny simply because they come out of the mouth of a respected older star (in this case, Glenn Close). And they are certainly not funny the second or third time around in the same film when they haven’t been funny the first time.

Movies have been cussing with regularity since the late 1960s. The shock value has worn off. Profanities as punch lines just come from lazy writing.

I also thought about this during “Hercules,” when the f-word is uttered. I know that Hollywood has passed some kind of ordinance that says all PG-13 movies must use that word at least once, but “Hercules”? Ancient Greece? Mythical ancient Greece?

And I’ve written before about how the Transformers movies (four and counting) are filled with offensive language (and sexual material).

How can any of these movies seriously argue that they aren’t aimed at kids?

Filmmakers still contend that foul language is necessary for dramatic impact, but I would suggest that it’s become so commonplace, that it’s used with such frequency, that any impact has been muted by its overuse.

Moviemakers also suggest that since that is how kids talk today, it’s not a big deal to put such language into movies kids will see. Now there’s a cynical viewpoint. Maybe that’s a reason to NOT put in such language.

And they also say that foul language helps keep movies rooted and realistic. Really? Realistic?

Are we still talking about Marvel movies and “Hercules” and “Transformers”? Save those arguments for adult pictures like “Schindler’s List” and “The Godfather.”

There are a lot of movie clichés that filmmakers strive to avoid and which are ridiculed with regularity by critics, by Web surfers — by other movies.

Perhaps they should add foul language to the list, since its usage has become just another crutch for the vocabulary impaired.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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1. Reflectere
Utah, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

My thoughts exactly

2. Kearns Dad
Kearns, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

I agree with this article. I hear children as young as five and six using profane language and their parents excuse it by saying they learned it from a movie. Like that makes it okay?

3. MaxPower
Eagle Mountain, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

The movie is rated PG-13. That should make any parent pause and think before taking their kids.

My wife and I will watch the movie first, and if we feel it kid appropriate we will take them.

4. netsrik
Draper, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

Comic books and animation are not just for kids. This movie is pg-13. Doesn't that give a tiny red flag for parents?

5. SigmaBlue
Centerville, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

I just want to thank Chris Hicks for challenging the status quo in Hollywood regarding vulgarity and profanity. It's offensive to adults and to children and the movie ceases to be funny or entertaining when swearing is used. Profanity and vulgarity is never necessary to uphold a story line. Please remember what Frank Capra, one of Hollywood's greatest directors, once said: "Only people with moral courage should tell stories to people in the dark for two hours." Amen.