‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ breaks record with most fucks said in film
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan 14,2014
How did it happen that we now live in a world where the movie with the highest number of F-bombs dropped is not in a gangster movie, serial killer flick, or even a buddy comedy, but rather a film about stockbrokers?
There is no argument around Martin Scorsese’s prowess as a filmmaker, and that any key choices made in the film were well-calculated and thought-out. I’m certain he knew he was going to break some record. After all, he has shown affection for characters with dirty mouths in his other movies with high “fuck” counts: Casino with 422, Goodfellas with 300, and The Departed with 237.
When profanity is used appropriately in film, it has the same effect as a nicely timed edit or a tension-building film score. You don’t even notice it, because you’re so enthralled by the film itself. Odds are, while sitting through The Wolf of Wall Street, you weren’t tallying the number of “fucks”—instead, the fast-paced movie probably kept your attention for most of the three hours. But hey, I’m not writing a review; I’m just wondering what 506 fucks in 180 minutes would do to me. Turns out, nothing, because I’m used to it.
Swear words are so common these days that it feels a little ridiculous to even call attention to them. You hear them at sporting events and on the streets, you read them on the Internet and social media, and of course, they fill the airwaves every time the television is turned on. Shit happens and apparently, so does fuck.
I hope there will soon be actors mimicking Matthew McConaughey’s beautiful yet brutish monologue, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s fuck-filled narration—it really is a shame that The Wolf of Wall Street, pending Academy Awards, will be remembered for another fuckin’ accolade.
It’s not a contest or anything and a movie’s objective is not to reach arbitrary milestones such as the one The Wolf of Wall Street has achieved. A movie is entertainment, and the only way to entertain is to get the audience engaged in the story. How do you keep an audience engaged? The writer must be honest when writing the script, creating truth in the situations and the characters; and the filmmaker must have courage to follow through. Would the movie be any less if it only had 435 fucks like in Spike Lee’s 1999 New York serial killer movie, Summer of Sam? Probably not—not any significant difference at least—but I know a censored version of both those movies would be unwatchable.
Which leads me to the next question: how long will it be until we get to see the next cuss-filled movie to overtake The Wolf of Wall Street? It’s hard to say, there is no particular trend. Since the early ‘90s, filmmakers have been taking more chances by incorporating risky language, while being governed by the motion picture rating system that limits their audience. Because swearing is such a common part of modern life, I can’t imagine it taking too long.