The Vulgarity And Violence On TV And At The Movies

Herbie J Pilato
5 min readOct 11, 2022

A few decades ago, in 1997, I was perplexed when the script for the movie Good Will Hunting won the Academy Award for best screenplay.

I was like, “Really? They won an Oscar?! For THAT script?!”

Actually, the film won 2 Academy Awards and was nominated for 9 in various categories.

And that just got me scratchin’ my head even more.

That script was littered with the ignorant overuse of vulgarities and profanity. For some, Good Will Hunting is considered an artistic masterpiece. But not in my book.

Back in the day, 1939 to be exact, it was a big deal when Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, spoke those immortal words, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” to Vivienne Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara in the now cinematic-classic Gone with the Wind.

[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

And those words stood out. It meant something that he said such a thing. Those words had a dramatic effect, and they were effective in their delivery. It was as a stand-alone moment in the fictional world of that film, and in the off-screen history of cinema.

But what if Rance had said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” every two seconds, like those characters who say “f-this” and “f-that” every two seconds in Good Will Hunting? The drama would lose its effect, that’s what would happen. It would be an overuse of a very effective word like any word that has the ability for drama, or comedy when properly placed and not over-used.

I have a similar issue with Saturday Night Fever, the 1977 feature film that transformed TV-pop-icon John Travolta into a bonafide international motion picture superstar.

I loved disco (and yep, I still do!), and Saturday Night Fever remains one of my favorite movies of all time (I still cry when I watch it, even more so, today, for nostalgic reasons, along with engrossed-in-the-plot reasons).

But Fever was filled with “F-this” and “F-that” dialogue. And yes, it was cool that a cleaner, more PG-related edition of the movie…

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Herbie J Pilato

Herbie J Pilato is a writer, producer, and TV personality whose books about life and pop culture include THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS.