Americans and Cursing

Watching quite a few American movies it seems that the use of ‘Jesus Christ’ as a cuss word is quite common. As a non American, i find that very strange.

Is that usage of ‘Jesus Christ’ actually part of the American culture, or is it mainly a media idea?

Sadly, it is indeed a widespread part of the culture. I hear it frequently, unfortunately. I even hear it from otherwise devout Christians, and I really believe that there is a very big disconnect there. I think it has become so ingrained in some areas that people don't really think about what it is they are saying.

Very sadly, it is possible to go for days (or longer) and never hear "God" or "Jesus Christ" spoken reverently, only as curses. In our culture, you can offend Christians, but you can't sound like one.:mad:

[quote="abucs, post:1, topic:229882"]
Watching quite a few American movies it seems that the use of 'Jesus Christ' as a cuss word is quite common. As a non American, i find that very strange.

Is that usage of 'Jesus Christ' actually part of the American culture, or is it mainly a media idea?

[/quote]

I am grateful you opened a thread on this subject. It is one that has weighed heavily on my mind always but especially the last 18 months.

My comments are based upon personal experience while traveling extensively and living throughout the US during the past 30 years. After spending weeks to months on assignment at a particular location and/or living on both coasts, the mid-west, rust belt and bible belt along with a tour of duty in the army, I have been around the block a few times.

  1. I recall very little or no swearing at all in movies from the 40's, 50's and early 60's. The 60's brought about a new way of life for many. I think this is around the time movie ratings started along with protests to movie quality, nudity, violence and language. Remember George Carlin and the 7 words you can't say on TV??? As far as the movies today, I believe they directly mirror US society.

  2. From the 60's forward swearing and using God's Name in vain is very much part of our culture. Both young and old spew vulgarity just as fast as it can come out of the mouth.

When I was swearing it seemed to add impact to what was being said. I personally know people that unless you use vulgarity, your point doesn't contain weight. I know of several people that use the J.C. expression so much that they don't even realize they are using it.

There is no excuse for using our Lord's name in vain. I have told individuals how offensive that usage is and have received many excuses -- I can't help it, I didn't mean it that way, The Lord understands I'm not swearing, I was just so surprised it slipped out, etc. These same people are often Catholics and also go to communion without going to confession. I know that because they are close relatives. They also don't believe in confession (to a priest) in several of the specific cases I refer to but that is conversation for another thread.

What I have done is to remove myself from their company. It has been painful but I just couldn't take it anymore. They made little to no effort to change. I understand we are to love the sinner and hate the sin. I tried that but over time (and reminding them and turning my cheek) I lost respect for that person because they lacked any self-constraint and respect for God. After months of hearing the swearing over and over I either refused to be in their company or significantly limit being near to them. A few have made the effort not to swear when I am around and I appreciate that.

I felt I had to take a stand on this or I was just as guilty of swearing myself. I now try to surround myself with as many God loving Catholics as I can find. Anymore that really makes the playing field smaller. I am shocked how many Catholics do not subscribe to everything the Church teaches. We have work to do to pull these people back into alignment with Mother Church.

God Bless.

As someone who works in the media, I can say that movies and TV programs do not mirror American society. The trend toward more skin, more cursing and more dysfunctional behavior was gradually added, starting in the 1970s.

Studio heads, producers and writers sit down and plan it all out. TV shows like Mary Hartman which featured the first gay character on TV were no accident. The same with All in the Family.

Today, self-proclaimed comedians tell their audiences, "There's no such thing as bad language." Wow. Who put them in charge?

We gradually transitioned from trusting the media to tolerating a little bit of bad, a little more and a little more. We got used to coming home and turning on the TV and going out to the movies. Too bad that we get movies about couples living together and having sex, and it's all presented as average or normal. It's not.

We need to spend our time with culture that does not cause us to lose touch with what's right and what's wrong. One reason movies in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were lacking in all those bad things was because we had a Catholic Legion of Decency.

There were laws on the books about cursing in public and using bad language. In 1961, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity. In 2003, he was pardoned by the Governor of New York.

Peace,
Ed

[quote="edwest2, post:5, topic:229882"]
The trend toward more skin, more cursing and more dysfunctional behavior was gradually added, starting in the 1970s.

[/quote]

Yes, and as I recall it was regarded a breath of realism. Finally movies, and eventually television (although it took the advent of HBO first) began to reflect American society.

[quote="edwest2, post:5, topic:229882"]
Today, self-proclaimed comedians tell their audiences, "There's no such thing as bad language."

[/quote]

Well, no. As someone previously mentioned George Carlin said that in the 1970s, in what is now regarded as a classic monologue. And, as you mentioned, Lenny Bruce was saying much the same back in the early 1960s.

However, I agree that a major shift in US media began around 1970. Finally, a toilet flush (All in the Family) could be heard on television. Finally, we had husband and wife sleeping in the same bed (instead of in twin beds.)

I think the success of movies (or television) with salty language is testimony that the US public was eager to hear dialogue which reflected reality.

I saw an edited action film where the exclamation "Jesus Christ" was replaced with "Judas Priest!" or "Cheese and Crackers!". The "cheese and crackers" substitution is hilariously bad.

Thanks for the good points. Occassionally i might say Jeeez, (perhaps that is a part Americanism we've picked up) but i would definately stop short of saying 'Jesus Christ' as it wouldn't sound right. Perhaps in America the remedy is just as people have said, setting a good example and being surrounded by like minded people.

We seem to pick up a lot of the habits from American media. I've even heard that in America (in a post Christian culture) a boy asked why Jesus Christ was named after a swear word !!!!! :confused:

[quote="Dale_M, post:6, topic:229882"]

I think the success of movies (or television) with salty language is testimony that the US public was eager to hear dialogue which reflected reality.

[/quote]

Hi Dale.
I think what is challenging is that we should look beyond that "reality" and try to improve it. I think that TV and movies only reinforce what is an already ugly situation: namely, that society has a crassness and vulgarity that seemingly allows little space for faith and goodness. If people wish to have their "entertainment" as rough as daily life it is only because they do not see that there is a good and beautiful alternative. That alternative is Catholicism. It is love of one's neighbour and thereby of all humanity.
God Bless,
Colmcille.

Whatever you hear in America or in England it is of NOTHING compared to the blasphemy that goes on in so-called "Catholic Spain". Not an day goes by when I hear the word "host" being used. And of course there are far far worse which I cant even mention here, which have a specifically catholic context.

Most disturbingly of all, was back in 2004, probably when Zapatero's PSOE came in, there was a national ad encouraging Spanish children not to take up Americanisms and to speak(curse) like Spanish. The Spanish see the Americans as being somewhat wimpish in this regard, so the scene was a young Spanish boy playing baseball and saying "caracoles" (snails or sugar" as a curse, to which a famous Spanish actor loses the rags and sort of says "is this what we have become" and then proceeds to give the religiously flavored explicative s currently favored in anti-clerical circles.

[quote="edwest2, post:5, topic:229882"]
As someone who works in the media, I can say that movies and TV programs do not mirror American society. The trend toward more skin, more cursing and more dysfunctional behavior was gradually added, starting in the 1970s.

This truly marked the beginning of TV losing its more decent programming. HBO is where I saw women's breasts while channel surfing around 1973. I was watching Johnny Carson with my mom and just wanted to see what else was on. I was still in high school. This was the beginning of non-Catholic material and what people wanted to see. HBO is the largest with 29 million US subscribers and also offered in 150 other countries. Now add in all of the other cable channels that offer non-Catholic shows to watch.

Studio heads, producers and writers sit down and plan it all out. TV shows like Mary Hartman which featured the first gay character on TV were no accident. The same with All in the Family.

They plan based upon what they think people will watch don't they???These were highly rated shows from what I remember. For us middle class families, most of our Dad's could have been Archie Bunker. While these people went to Church (mine didn't) they still hated ethnic groups and us kids grew up in that environment. The Church was teaching "no salvation outside the Catholic Church" and I don't recall seing these ethnic groups at Mass where I lived. So I grew up with those same feelings. It took many years to get my thinking straight and in line with what the Church was really teaching. Catholic teaching was also poor from what I remember.

Today, self-proclaimed comedians tell their audiences, "There's no such thing as bad language." Wow. Who put them in charge?

I don't know who was in charge but Andrew Dice Clay made a ton of money in the 90's before he angered Johnny Carson. Carson had him "listed as bad news" and then nobody wanted him. Others took his place at the top. And before Dice Clay there was Richard Pryor who was mild when considering what Dice Clay was saying.

We gradually transitioned from trusting the media to tolerating a little bit of bad, a little more and a little more. We got used to coming home and turning on the TV and going out to the movies. Too bad that we get movies about couples living together and having sex, and it's all presented as average or normal. It's not.

We need to spend our time with culture that does not cause us to lose touch with what's right and what's wrong. One reason movies in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were lacking in all those bad things was because we had a Catholic Legion of Decency.

There were laws on the books about cursing in public and using bad language. In 1961, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity. In 2003, he was pardoned by the Governor of New York.

**Pardoned means to me that what he did was OK. I was speaking about my experience and the Catholics/Christians surrounding me that all enjoyed this new, perverted programming. I wasn't going to Mass at the time but many friends were and still watched this junk on TV. Everybody I worked with and hung around with acted in that manner. I didn't know "decent" Catholics/Christians at the time and probably wouldn't have listened anyway. The interesting thing was back then I wasn't aware of any atheists either (probably just not vocal). Everybody claimed to be Christian but yet enjoyed watching this programming.

When I decided to live my life first as a Christian -- my journey back included spending a couple of years interacting with the Baptist faith (no baptism) -- I realized that to be true to the faith would mean not tollerating current friends actions including swearing and watching junk.

Long story short, since coming back to the Catholic Church I couldn't accept the behavior of many so called friends and be faithful to the Church teaching. This is my perception, growing up in a middle class background, on what is going on around us. Using God's name in vain is just touching the surface of the problems presented by society today.

We, faithful Catholics/Christians are literally inundated with severely wrong messages and actions daily. Our job is to try and change that with the best means available. Just with TV alone, I can't watch 75% of the stuff I used to watch regularly. I basically watch EWTN and Science and History channels along with what I know will be decent. It must have been my world that was so messed up. I hope the rest of you aren't seeing it as I did**.

God Bless and no disrespect intended in any way.

[/quote]

I've always wondered why people who aren't religious say 'God' and 'Christ'.

I remember one time I was eating with some friends and a "friend". Someone said 'Christ' and the "friend" said, "Jesus doesn't exist". This offended me but I didn't say anything.

Why isn't it seen as disrespectful to offend Christians?

Just some other thoughts on this thread including -- how do we fight this????

I have no doubt that the quality of TV and internet access to questionable material is one way to begin the destruction of a society.

This is almost as bad as the Romans and the "games" offered in the Coliseum. Think about it for a minute -- we just sit at home watching the games now. Almost any perversion you want can now be found on TV (pay per view) or over the internet for free most of the time. Keep giving people what they want to see and you have a huge, loyal fan base. Porn makes up a significant %% of the entire internet. Just look at how many free "R" rated movies are on TV not even considering what you can purchase. I'm not saying all R rated are bad but let's face it many have some steamy stuff which can lead to other inappropriate behavior.

Anyone wanting to remain faithful to Christ must channel surf with one eye closed and a fast finger on the next channel. It is rediculous but this is what most people want to see or it wouldn't be there. I have no doubt that satan has his hooks into all of this and is using it to destroy souls.

If anyone has some resources they can share with me on how to help fight this please do so. I have spent the past few years learning my faith and fighting some personal health issues. I volunteer at my parish but we have little focus on the big issues except maybe signing up for the bus ride to DC to march against abortion. I can't march right now.

If anyone has some resources they can share with me on how to help fight this please do so. I have a good mind but mobility has been a factor right now (2 back operations in the past 5 months and recovering).

Thanks and God Bless.

[quote="PAboy57, post:13, topic:229882"]
Just some other thoughts on this thread including -- how do we fight this????.

[/quote]

It would be wonderful if enough people did this, but I can't see it happening unfortunately. Maybe the humanists will do it for us lol.

[quote="Dale_M, post:6, topic:229882"]
Yes, and as I recall it was regarded a breath of realism. Finally movies, and eventually television (although it took the advent of HBO first) began to reflect American society.

Well, no. As someone previously mentioned George Carlin said that in the 1970s, in what is now regarded as a classic monologue. And, as you mentioned, Lenny Bruce was saying much the same back in the early 1960s.

However, I agree that a major shift in US media began around 1970. Finally, a toilet flush (All in the Family) could be heard on television. Finally, we had husband and wife sleeping in the same bed (instead of in twin beds.)

I think the success of movies (or television) with salty language is testimony that the US public was eager to hear dialogue which reflected reality.

[/quote]

It only reflected the reality of a small percentage of the population. I didn't need to hear a toilet flush or see a husband and wife in the same bed. I think people need to ask themselves why such things were prohibited in the past. I'm sure movie and TV producers did not consult the public when they changed things either.

Creatives in Hollywood in the 1960s would actually get on the phone with studio censors and TV network censors to get more skin: "Can I get 30 seconds? 20 seconds? Come on! I need this scence!"

When graphic pornography being sold in Adult Bookstores appeared everywhere in the 1970s - flash forward to the present and you've got porn on cable, and soft porn in grocery stores. Nope. This was all built on the addiction model. Get men hooked on porn.

Pick up a copy of The Creation of the Media by Paul Starr. Catholics need to ignore the bulk of contemporary culture. We need to understand that it is obscence, pornographic and dysfunctional. We don't need to have actors portraying dysfunctional people for us. That is not entertainment.

Peace,
Ed

[quote="m8g8, post:14, topic:229882"]
It would be wonderful if enough people did this, but I can't see it happening unfortunately. Maybe the humanists will do it for us lol.

[/quote]

We can fight this by A) Turning it off.

B) Contacting www.fcc.gov and politely complaining.

Remember, no one is forcing you to go to the movies or watch TV. Make a choice to do good.

God bless,
Ed

[quote="edwest2, post:16, topic:229882"]
We can fight this by A) Turning it off.

B) Contacting www.fcc.gov and politely complaining.

[/quote]

I would also add the need to support media which does reflect the values desired. Due to the proliferation of cable, satellite and online video feeds, the market will respond if people vote with their money.

[quote="abucs, post:1, topic:229882"]
Watching quite a few American movies it seems that the use of 'Jesus Christ' as a cuss word is quite common. As a non American, i find that very strange.

Is that usage of 'Jesus Christ' actually part of the American culture, or is it mainly a media idea?

[/quote]

Guilty.

I've tried very hard to refrain from this since my decision to convert and honestly anymore, when it does happen it's out of pure habit so it's just a matter of catching myself before it slips out.

Now (when appropriate) I use more acceptable cuss words consisting of four letters that I will get in trouble for if I use them here :)

One additional thing that might help any issues regarding television choices is allowing consumers to pick and choose only the channels they want. This bundling scheme by cable/satellite operators is a scam. A channel should be able to sell itself.

I'm told that as Internet access improves, this will kind of be a moot point because people will simply choose individual programs online and skip everything else. In effect, bundling and the middleman will get cut. We'll see.

I don't look to the FCC for moral guidance.

Sadly this has become so much a part of modern culture that it is nearly impossible to go into the workplace or the supermarket, or whereever else, and not hear a couple of cuss bombs, as well as the gratuitous taking the Lord's name in vain, etc.

I have a very bright colleague that uses foul language consistently. I've never heard this man complete a sentence without a cuss word. And trust me, I'm perfectly capable of using foul language myself, but continue to try to be more aware of what I'm about to say, and it's a struggle (and a recurrent theme when I go to confession.)

One day when I was working with this man, the stream of invective and creative blasphemy got a little too much to listen to in the background. I looked up from my keyboard, fixed him with a glare, and inquired, "Tell me, do you EAT with that mouth?!"

The reaction of pure silence I got, I don't think the guy has a clue as to how much he cusses!

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