When my miniature obsession with Wayne White emerged two weeks ago, it was because I had loved his work my whole life -- without ever knowing who he was. The visual aids White had provided for my childhood -- from the puppets on Pee-wee's Playhouse to shorts for Liquid Television -- shaped the way I appreciated the comforting and creepy kitsch of my American life (along with the work of John Waters, of course). Somehow, I hadn't heard White's name before his film, Beauty Is Embarrassing, was set to show in Denver. But as I dove headfirst into Wayne's world, I found something else that resonated with me: his use of the F-word.
See also: - Ten pieces of pop culture you didn't know Wayne White created - Artist Wayne White talks about Pee Wee's Playhouse and using the F-word in fine art - Breeality Bites: What did you just say to me?: How to deal with adults with poor social skills
Oh, my God, do I love the fuckin' F-word. I use it every day, all day. I say it to my mom, my grandma, my editors, my co-workers, my car. Sometimes I use it for things that are great. Sometimes because the world is just too stupid to be real. Whatever the need, "fuck" fills it. I don't think enough people understand its power and beauty.
But Wayne White does. Throughout the film, the dialogue is nuanced with "fuckin" and "goddammit." There's "this shit" and "that shit" and "fuckin' pieces of shit" everywhere, whether Wayne is talking about (and sometimes to) his puppets or talking to other people (though he stays polite in front of his very Southern parents). Whoa, I thought. Wayne fuckin' rules for even more reasons than just his awesome art!
When I got Wayne on the phone to talk about the movie, I asked him for his feelings on profanity, because to me, his sharp words colored the film in a way that made it deeply endearing. White said that those F-bombs were more or less singled out by director Neil Berkeley and nicely played up for humor, but not representational of everyday life. I suppose when you film people for hundreds of hours, the way they are presented post-edit has to be a distillation of their lives, and cannot always be the broad coverage we might wish for.
It's not that our lives on this planet are inherently more boring than we think they are, but there's often a pattern to what we do -- and even more so, what we say. This pattern effect in my own life was brought to my attention last week, when some friends made this video. Of their interpretation of me.
My roommate Piper -- seen in the video in a pair of fake glasses, exaggerated yet startlingly resembling mine -- stars as me, a shouting, swearing, obnoxious freelancer who spends her time at home in front of her computer, yelling at everyone. This is accurate.
When someone does an impression of you, much like a documentary, it is a condensed version of your personality. From this video -- which I was unaware was even made until it showed up in my inbox -- I can see the power of profanity. Who would I be without the F-word? I would just be the same annoying and loud asshole, minus the gorgeous swear words.
When White was in the theater last Friday taking questions from the audience after the opening screening of Beauty Is Embarrassing, it was clear that he still liked to use the F-word, at least a little. And I appreciated that. He apologized to the kids in the crowd each time he realized that an F-bomb had been dropped. But it was clear that if their parents were cool enough to bring them to see Wayne White in person, they were cool with the "fuck"s and "shit"s anyway.
As a writer, I am lucky to spend the majority of my work day writing for a publication that not only lets me use the word "fuck" in a story like this, but sometimes allows me to use it in print. I like to think of cuss words as the spice of speaking; they have emotive qualities and, more important, they get people's attention. Life seems boring without them.
So, in honor of all the "shit"s, "asshole"s, "goddamnit"s and "fuck"s in the world that still need to be said, here's one of the greatest uses of profanity in popular culture of all time: