Using it just once could bump a movie’s MPAA rating up to PG-13. Voicing it in the media could incite a fine from the FCC. Depending on its context, it could denote unparalleled intimacy or violent hatred. And it’s the only word in the English language that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, or interjection. If you haven’t guessed it yet, you don’t have to look much further than the title of this documentary.
Directed and produced by Steve Anderson, “F**k” explores the issues that surround this most infamous of profanities. Featuring interviews with Pat Boone, Alanis Morisette, Alan Keyes, Jeanine Garofalo, Ron Jeremy and many, many others, “F**k” combines both liberal and conservative viewpoints to create a discussion of the impact the word has had on everything from art to politics. Together with archival footage from movies and news stories, the elements of the film are organized into sections that examine the expletive’s myriad circles of influence, each headed by original animations by Bill Plymton.
The film examines the controversial epithet from its much-disputed origins (the etymology of “f**k” is unclear at best) right up to the present-day debates that surround it. At the forefront of the discussion is the question of freedom of speech. At a time when the FCC crackdown on profanity in the media is at an unprecedented high, this documentary questions whether censorship in defense of mere manners is worth the toll it threatens to take on our basic rights. Woven throughout the discussion of this major issue are peripheral examples of the way that profanity – or rather, our own reactions to it – affects people in more ways than you would think. The film examines the influence of f**k in politics (with a collection of presidential quotes containing the word); f**k in history (Neil Armstrong said it on the moon); and f**k in the law, recalling the case of Timothy Boomer. Otherwise known as the “cussing canoer,” Boomer faced fines and jail time for breaking a hundred-year-old law that prohibits swearing in front of children.
Without delving into any of these issues in great depth, “F**k” provides a highly provocative and humorous overview of a word that, love it or hate it, undoubtedly holds more power than its measly four letters might suggest.
All in all, I’d have to say that this film was entertaining as f**k.