Tag Archives: art

Yea or Nay: Profanity in Textual/Graphic Art

Lately it seems like all the design world is flippin’ me a big old bird, and I can’t quite decide how I feel about  it.

(cred: via Design Sponge)

(cred: Kimberly Genevieve for The Everygirl)

(cred: Winnie Au for Refinery 29)

Which is why I’m throwing the question out there: would you have this art in your home?

Before you answer, though, let me explain where I’m coming from. The #1 thing to convey here is that I’m not asking this in a CENSORSHIP kind of way. So not, “Is this ‘okay’? or “Should it be ‘allowed’?” or any other stupid question that might fall into that line of reasoning.

No, I see this more as an issue of language and of preserving the force and integrity of words. If you don’t already know this about me, I spent six years in university English departments (I have an MA in Literature–I didn’t just fail a lot), and one of the things you come to appreciate when you spend that much time in university English departments (aside from the fact that they are, sadly, institutions in crisis, though that’s a bedtime story for another night, kids) is that language really is one of the primary ways–even the primary  way–we human folk understand and make sense of the world.

So, even though I believe BIG TIME in humor and irreverence and individuality in design and decor, I’m also kind of left to wonder–if we put the F-word on a book case with a small, funny dinosaur or prop it up next to a nauseatingly adorable ukulele or a sublime brass fan, what word do we have left to express outrage, shock, disgust?

I’m not pretending like one plaque or poster is the reason that profanity has lost its punch in our culture. The process of deflating so-called “cuss words” has been ongoing for years now, and I myself am for sure guilty of dropping certain bombs more carelessly than I should. Still, I can’t help but think back to my childhood in the glorious, nostalgic ’90s, when your parents would legit wash your mouth out with soap or your gym teacher might give you detention for saying some of that stuff. Whereas in the two years I taught high school (up until last May), I heard more swearing than literally any other human who is not also a teacher or has not crewed a Tarantino film.

I guess my concern is that profanity in textual art will usher in the next phase in our desensitization toward strong language. We no longer flinch to hear the F-word, and maybe we will no longer flinch to see it, either–even on a mantelpiece with some tchotchkes or a picture of somebody’s cute baby.

What do you guys think? Will you dash out to buy a(nother) F-word poster?

Yea — This stuff is edgy and funny and does not at all contribute to cultural decline.
Nay — You’ve convinced me with your awesome points and/or this simply isn’t my taste.