Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Morbid Fascination

I was reading this work published by an author, an acquaintance of mine.
Shy, polite, bashful and restrained as he is, I was disappointed and surprised at certain gross descriptions he had filled (unnecessarily) into a few pages.

There was some attempt at double entendre and below the belt kind of humour.
Though it was not in his nature, he had attempted such writing, probably because at least half the humour has its source in such matters.

And the use of the four lettered F word in dialogues was profuse. Perhaps it helps the present generation readers relate to the book better, degenerate and debauched as their own vocabulary is.

This vocabulary has made its way into theatre as well. Actors on stage send out a stream of ‘F this’ and ‘F that’ and ‘F u’ and all other kinds of unspeakable profanity, while spectators, young and old, men and women, married and single, even children watch them without batting an eyelid. If the same profanities were translated into regional languages, say Kannada or Tamil or Hindi and thrown at people, they would grimace. You would hear them whispering ’third class’. Don’t know why people’s reaction to the same becomes one of eager welcome when the language is changed to English!, I mean, American!

There is the argument of ‘we give people what they want’ coming from writers, poets, movie makers, editors of newspapers and magazines and playwrights. Whether it is ‘we give people what they want’ or ‘people take what you give them’ is the eternal, irresolvable question of “who came first - hen or egg?” and the moral police can go on beating their foreheads.
Meanwhile, in the name of presenting ‘contemporary art’ or presenting ‘reality’, isn’t it a smart thing to do to make some money, even though at the expense of legitimizing the dissolute and giving sanction to the decadent?
Yes, you effectively give your sanction. If one artist has done it, many will join soon and then it will become the norm.

While the above(dilution of standards in art) is still understandable (though not pardonable), what I don’t understand(and this was what I was referring to in the opening sentences of this article ) is the morbid fascination that writers, artists all over the place seem to have developed for another four lettered F word; the one people use to refer to intestinal wind.

The very first time I came across the use of this word in literary field was, I think, when I read a work of Khushwant Singh. He had dedicated one whole chapter to intestinal wind and like a true subject matter expert, he had expounded on various aspects such as, the attitude of different cultures towards wind, and then… oh, forget it.
I had, diligently written in my review of the work that, ‘this author has an incredible capacity for distasteful writing’.
While I wondered what sort of a person writes such things and how he faces friends, family and the world, having written such things (I said he, not she; women will take some time before they equal men), while I grimaced at the tip, the rest of the iceberg started looming before me even as I winced.

People were using the word shamelessly.
This guy, who was introduced to me by a friend who was trying to solve my single status, greeted me with flowers (hmmm… gentleman) and within a few minutes of settling down in a restaurant where a play was just about to begin, having heard some sound in that pin drop silence, whispered in my ear that someone behind him had ‘F @#$%^’ aloud!
(disguised as a gentleman….). Sorry friend. You will have to find me a better one.

Before I knew, fellow bloggers had started using the word in their articles.

And then authors. They have been using it generously too.

I fail to understand why this morbid fascination for the distasteful.
The popularity of the rest of those profanities can be explained.
The F word that I first mentioned makes you look ‘cool’, modern and all…(or so the perception is). All the other below the belt talk and double meaning jokes give you some titillation.
But this F word? Just how does it appeal to people? It does not titillate, and it’s just not cool. It’s plain disgusting and loathsome.

If you observe the pattern, right from naming of certain rock bands, like ‘Witches Sabbath‘, ‘Bhayanak Mauth’, to writing lyrics of rock music, to turning our film heroes to negative characters - in one of the movies, both heroes are shown debauching with a dozen women, now smoking, now drinking, now playing Tabla on the posteriors of those dozen women, to using coarse slang in our speech, to projecting ourselves as ‘I am not a Gandhi’ type of a person, to making a mockery of the sober, innocent, honest, decent ones by calling them ‘Gandhi-like”, we display such fascination for the morbid, for the evil and a repulsion towards the good!

One of my friends had left her laptop on the table for sometime and the screensaver appeared - a phrase floating against a black background, moving all over and seesawing. You remember those screensavers?
I looked at it. It read ‘Sexy Naughty Bitchy’.
That was her office laptop. When I asked her if she would change the screen saver when in office, she replied in the negative, to my shock.

Wasn’t it embarrassing, I thought.
Oh! I got it later. It was meant for all to see. And take notice of.
That was the image she wanted to project of herself. Sexy naughty bitchy!
‘I am not a boring conservative good girl. Make no mistake’!, the three words were supposed to convey. And sure, they did.

Coming back to my author friend, I was disappointed when I saw that he had made a mention of that other loathesome F word, quite needlessly in his book and without relevance (he was predicting how a certain character in his story would react if he broke wind in public. My advice to the author - try astrology, but people would want to know about more important events in life.)

When I saw that this morbidity had gripped even my gentlemanly, soft spoken, well mannered, strong willed friend, who is not easily influenced by ‘social trends‘, I knew, we had made the U turn in civilization.


notgogol said...

So I can expect to not see a comment from you on my blog for a while.
Fair enough I guess.

Sowmya said...

I was about to leave a comment yesterday when my system got hung. Will try agin...dont worry ;) Its you who has abandoned my blog.. :(

Using profanity in speech once in a way is something even I do. But I am not addicted to using using one in every sentence.
I am sorry to tell you that I will have to delete your comment for the blatant and rather coarse use of profanity.

notgogol said...

Aiyyo I was talking about how I am so profane.

What rubbish! Abandonment it seems. Too much theatre you're watching ma :)

CS said...

Sowmya, I think it depends on the society to which the author belongs and who the target audience are. Here, the F word has been common for ages, so no judgement.
But its usage here is genuine..LOL..I mean no one uses that word just to sound cool.
Its sad if someone is using it in India where at least as far as I know, the usage of these swear words is still not so common. Or is your author friend on a mission to popularize it in India and make it a routine thing ?

Sowmya said...

Hey Sirisha,

The less said about the US, the better.

It is becoming common here too... but its entry into art forms is most disturbing...

ranj said...

And am extremely disappointed u deleted my rather long comment just because u saw the words minus the starred version...

Profanity is defined as a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something

When u used "S&^&*", it took a form of expression and amazement when u were on top of those waves and enjoying a river rafting experience...What am trying to say is "S*&^" and "F*&^%" have become a way of expression...

Its definitely not to sound cool...people just dont have a good vocabulary... If someone says :Dude...this is F%^&^%&$% awesome S*&^ of an article...or Sachin Tendulkar is f*&&*%$ awesome...there is no disrespect...

Am not advocating it but a lot of good movies/art are getting censored for wrong reasons...A rain dance/action oriented Salman starrer gets a PG rating while a good "no one killed Jessica" of social relevance gets a A certificate

I hope the starred version makes it less coarse and less blatant...


Ravi 拉维 said...

I learnt couple more .. and I feel a little better ;) using them

. Piffle
. Pain in the Neck
. Holy cow
. Awesome
. Good lord
. Freaking
. Shoot
. Gosh

That's what "I try" using ...
I would apprecaite if everyone add their own (GOOD) words and try using it...

But surely no comments on anything you have written Sowmya..

Sowmya said...

Thanks a lot Ranjana for putting the stars there...

Ravi, thanks for the comment. The words you have mentioned arent profanity or something. They, by themselves are not objectionable, but people start using them as fillers and 'crutch words' instead of making an effort to speak meticulously/economically. Thats the problem.

MotoRama said...

They say "what you eliminate is more important than what we add"...random,irrelevant,unnecessary usage actually dilutes the point while when used sparingly and appropriately has a great theatrical the way George Carlin uses....

Pramshanks said...

When a word steps out of its intended function (say, to describe a biological activity) and lends itself to becoming a vehicle for numerous expressions, it's not profane. It's versatile.

The F word was shocking many decades ago. But now it's lost its taboo, and has become so evolved that it can become any part of speech, and can convey emotions ranging from respect to amazement to disgust to dismissal (please listen to Osho's talk on the F-word).

Every seemingly profane word (or person, or place, or object) has its own mystery, beauty and divinity. When we say "God is everywhere", do we exclude Him from the dark corners?