We’ve been catching up on season 2 of Mayor of Kingstown, the bleak drama about the interactions of police, prison guards, gang members, and other criminals in the hellish, apocalyptically awful, and fortunately fictional town of Kingstown, Michigan. We liked the grittiness of season 1, and so far season 2 has upped the ante considerably, with even more hyperviolence and angry confrontations as the town deals with the aftermath of the ugly, deadly prison riot that ended the first season.

The show has also upped the ante on obscenities. The characters drop f-bombs like Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs in order to find their way out of the enchanted forest. In fact, so many f-bombs are dropped that you might call the dialogue carpet f-bombing. I thought Deadwood would never be surpassed in the constantly cussing category, but I think Mayor of Kingstown has accomplished that seemingly impossible feat. In a standard scene like the one shown above, the Jeremy Renner character, Mike McLusky, and his cop friends all will use the Queen Mother of Curses multiple times, then McLusky will stride angrily away to his car, toss in a few different obscenities for a change of pace, and then flip off the police for good measure. And when he’s driving away in his car–which he does a lot–he’ll inevitably get a call that requires him to add a few additional f words to the mix.

I’m no prude, and recognize that obscenities are part of life. But I feel like sometimes the barrage of blue language in TV shows has become a kind of crutch for both screenwriters and actors. For screenwriters, f-bombs are a shortcut way to convey that the world of the show is a harsh, disturbing place, and actors might lean on the dialogue to carry the weight of showing anger–rather than using physical and emotional acting to do so. But, as with anything, overuse of obscenities dissipates the impact and can become a distraction.

If you played a drinking game where you had to take a swig of an adult beverage whenever a character on Mayor of Kingstown hurls an f-bomb, you’d be chugging constantly and passed out halfway through the show. When you’ve gotten to that point, you might want to dial back the f-bomb barrage, and make the screenwriters and actors work a bit.

Goodbye to 2020

Bidding a properly heartfelt farewell to 2020 requires the use of language that isn’t suitable for a family blog. This sign on one of the Greenhead Lobster Company buildings in Stonington, Maine admirably captures the sentiment, however.

Trying to usher 2020 out the door without adding a choice obscenity (or 20) is like trying to take a snapshot of an invisible object, or sneeze with your eyes open. So go ahead and give your potty mouth free rein for a few minutes, and let those epithets fly. You’ll feel better — and really, 2020 deserves it.

Cussing Care

For some of us, at least, it’s standard operating procedure to launch an obscenity when we stub our toes, bump our heads, cut our fingers while chopping food, or experience some other unexpected moment of physical pain.

Setting aside the morality or propriety of our bad habits, the practical question is:  does cussing a blue streak actually help to relieve the pain?

323541e1e64f03e581310e505382de0eOne recent study, conducted by Keele University in England, concludes that it definitely does.  In fact, the study determined that spewing crude language has measurable, therapeutic, physical effects.  When study participants were saying dirty words their heart rates increased, their perception of pain decreased, and they were able to endure pain much longer than was the case if they were saying neutral words.  (And if you read the article linked above and see how the researchers set up the study to test their hypothesis, you’ll conclude that you should never, ever volunteer to participate in a psychological experiment at Keele University.)

The study determined that foul-mouthed participants were able to endure pain longer because there is a significant psychological component to experiencing pain, and a person’s mood and other circumstances can have a clear impact.  Swearing triggers an aggressiveness response, and an aggressive mental attitude helps a person deal with pain much more effectively.  (This may be why football players, for example, seem to be able to endure pain during games that many of us would find disabling.)  And the study also found that the pain endurance levels were directly related to the perceived filthiness of the obscenity being used.  “Sanitized” curse words, like the British “bum,” were much less effective than actual obscenities, and the most effective pain relief of all came from using the “queen mother of curses.”

The “F Word” is ubiquitous and, as I’ve noted before, has broad utility in many different settings — but who knew that it was like aspirin in its pain relief capabilities?  So the next time you’ve got a bad headache or hit your thumb with a hammer, go ahead and let the f bombs fly!  Chances are you’ll feel a lot better.