September 11, 1999

Swear Words In Movies On Television

When it comes to swear words in movies shown on TV, you can either dub in a inoffensive word or just leave the swear word out. Some movies have very few swear words, and it's easy to leave the word out, not replace it, and the meaning of the dialog is preserved. Sometimes, however, this can lead to odd results. For example, one time The Sixth Sense was broadcast on primetime ABC television. The blue text is what they changed for television:
Malcolm: Hey... you are not a freak. Don't you believe anybody that tells you that. It's bull**** (a split second of silence between 'bull' and 'and') and you don't have to grow up believing that. You hear me?
Cole: You said the "s" word.
Malcolm: Yeah... sorry.
I guess it would have been even more odd to change 'bullshit' to something else, and preserve Cole's response?

Then there are movies where the swearing is an integral part of the dialog, and a major part of the humor. Watching the film Midnight Run on television is painful. What's the point of watching a scene like this on TV? Just imagine all the changes they made to this dialog- I can't remember them all:

De Niro: I never took a payoff in my life and I'm not gonna start with someone like you.
Grodin: Why not?
De Niro: Because you're a f*cking criminal and you deserve to go where you're going and I'm gonna take you there and if hear any more sh*t outta you: I'm gonna f*cking bust your head and I'll put you back in that f*cking hole [train lavatory] and I'm gonna stick your head in the f*cking toilet bowl and I'm gonna make it stay there.
The following substitution is clever, but I would prefer the "split second of silence" technique instead:
Jimmy (Dennis Farina): You and that other dummy better start getting more personally involved in your work, or I'm gonna stab you through the heart with a broken pencil. Do you understand me?