Some readers might remember - and if you are like me, prefer to forget - Four Weddings and a Funeral. This film was a comedy, and it began with a four-fold repeat of a four letter word beginning with F. Some in the audience when I saw this film found this funny, but not everyone.
In almost any other situation, to approach someone out of the blue and utter those words, not necessarily at them but in their presence, would be considered unacceptable or, at least, "out of order". But should putting it into the context of a "comedy" film and doing that to a gathered audience in a cinema convert it into something that is acceptable?
My own take on this particular instance was to feel a distate that the makers of the film expected me to find this opening funny.
Now, a film currently on release is The Guard. If you look at the trailer here you will find examples of a profoundly racist attitude being expressed. This racism is directly expressed towards the character of the American detective; but it has a kind of mirrored expression directed towards the Irish. The trailer gives the impression that this racism is repeated at least twice in the film. Thanks to the review in The Times, and to a confirmation of that from someone who has spoken to a couple who have seen it, I also know that the film is liberally sprinkled with swearing. [There is an interesting question about the silence in this regard of Francine Stock's review in The Tablet ... She might not have seen it as a reason for comment herself, but writing for a Catholic publication one might think that she would realise it is a piece of information about the film that some readers might like to know about before going to see the film themselves.]
The same couple who confirmed the language of the film described it as being a "very funny" film, and being themselves of Irish heritage, probably appreciated aspects of the film that would pass me by. It might just be that they have a very different sense of humour than me.
But does the presence of this language and this racism in a comedy film, rather than in the ordinary life of people, make it thereby acceptable that it should be shown on screens up and down the country? Does that word "comedy" permit the translation of the otherwise unacceptable into acceptability?
Should we not exercise our consciences in deciding whether or not to see this film?
Fr John Abberton has a post raising a similar question with regard to Frank Skinner, with an interesting follow up discussion among the comments.