Itís going to be a little hard to talk about the new documentary from Steve Anderson, but letís give it a go. Anderson has chosen as his subject and title a single four letter word. It begins with f and ends with k. You probably know it as the f-word. And you probably hear it or use it everyday. In any number of forms, as it is a linguistic wonderword, a noun, adjective and verb capable of pretty much any meaning the utterer chooses. The fact that we still have to play coy with this word is perhaps the reason Anderson decided to talk openly about it. Although apparently the distributors have been instructed to simply put four asterisks on any marquee or advertisement promoting the film.
That a single word, four letter or otherwise, can be as ubiquitous and divisive as the F-word says a lot about a culture, and Anderson has collected a lot of people to talk about that. The etymologists have little to say. They donít know for sure when the f-word began, simply noting itís been a slang word for copulation for a few hundred years, that itís Germanic in origin and suggestive of a violent act, and that the real fun and creative uses of the f-world were yet another cultural revolution of the 20th Century.
Basically Anderson just lets himself have a good old-fashioned f-word rodeo. We hear from fans of the word, including such usual suspects as Deadwood creator David Milch, rapper Ice-T, Billy Connolly, Ron Jeremy, Kevin Smtih, Bill Maher and the late Hunter S. Thompson. This camp simply canít believe we still have to dance around this word anymore. Anderson also gives voice to the good people who believe we must continue to dance around this word if we are to survive as a culture. These folks include Pat Boone, Miss Manners, Michael Medved and radio host Dennis Prager. We are also treated to famous f-word utterances from Country Joe to Dick Cheney. But pretty soon the documentary is sliding away from the f-word and into the larger issue of obscenity, and a crash course in the lessons of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Howard Stern and Janet Jacksonís nipple.
We look like a pretty silly country. Hypocritical at best, tragically repressed at worst. Then again, thatís a pretty easy picture to paint, and Anderson has used a broad brush. The documentary is preaching to the choirÖif you can imagine a choir singing to the glory of the F-WordÖ.and I almost felt sorry for the Booneís, Manners and Pragerís who made pleasant and sincere cases for decency, but often found themselves edited into the butt of a joke. In the end, the documentary fails to explore the more profound possibility that we need the F-Word to stay exactly as it is. A single word with the power to incite any emotion can come in pretty handy for everybody.
Glib and entertaining to a fault, The F-Word is 90 effiní minutes of good freakiní fun. Look for the asterisks at a theater near you.
© 2006 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 11/15/06
U.S. - 2005