TL;DR – I found the show engaging, confronting, juvenile, overblown, and interesting, sometimes all at the same time.
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this series.
History of Swear Words Review –
Whether you call them ‘Swear Words’, ‘Curse Words’, or Profanity, every single person on the planet has used them at least once, some on a daily basis. But one of the things that I have always wondered was where the words came from because there are many stories, but they usually smell of the words they are describing. This is the series that looks six of the more popular terms of ill repute.
This series’ framing device is sitting down with a full suited actor Nicolas Cage in front of a fire with a drink globe nearby. It is the epitome of class, clearly positioned as a juxtaposition between the framing and the content. We then cut to a selection of experts and comedians as we explain the many different words.
In most of the episodes, we chart the course the word has taken across the centuries, even millenniums. How did Richard become the modern Dick? Because it took a more extended trip than I thought. To give this context, the series uses a lot of clips from Hollywood films and shows, from The Big Lebowski to American Pie to Gone With the Wind. All of this is important because of how film censors (or does not censor) words affect general culture.
There is an interesting mix of episodes because some of the episodes deal with some of the fun words we can use without issue. However, not all terms are the same. Some have edges with them that can be used against people. One of the critical questions that the episode on Bitch is ‘Can we reclaim a slur?’ because that is one of the words that the most varied applications. There is a crucial discussion of this word and its use, and it was good to see the show take that responsibility seriously. A good reminder that context is all.
That being said, this is not a perfect series. While this is presented as a global series, this is very American-centric with a dash of England. This is very common for Netflix series, which given this is where their leading production houses are. It does a better job of incorporating less-mainstream views than other series I have seen, but that focus is still there. Also, I don’t think they got the balance between the experts and the comedians during the runtime. You could feel at times a need to ratchet up the jokes for fear of losing the audience but at the expense of the discourse.
In the end, do we recommend History of Swear Words? Look I think you already know if a show titled like this will interest or offend you, and your first gut reaction will be correct. I found the show to be engaging, confronting, juvenile, overblown, and interesting, sometimes all at the same time. It was good to see Nicholas Cage chew every piece of scenery there was, but I’ll be interested to see if this show makes an impact or goes the way of Damn.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of History of Swear Words
Written by – Joe Randazzo, Joel Boyd & Sara Schaefer
Production/Distribution Companies – Funny or Die & Netflix
Starring – Nicolas Cage with Jim Jefferies, Zainab Johnson, Nikki Glaser, Kory Stamper, Benjamin Bergan, London Hughes, Melissa Mohr, Joel Kim Booster, DeRay Davis, Nick Offerman, Elvis Mitchell, Open Mike Eagle, Alicia Castile, Sarah Silverman, Patti Harrison, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Mireille Miller-Young & Baron Vaughn
Episodes Covered – F**k, Sh*t, Bitch, D**k, Pu**y & Damn