Moral barometer: Language usage dictates decline in societal standards

It’s a classic stereotype for the oldest generation to talk about how things were in the “good old days” and how recent years have taken a turn for the worse. Though this is in many ways over-exaggerated, there is one point I definitely agree with them on: the decline of morality.

The most recent instance that stood out to me occurred while watching Incredibles 2 in which the characters casually cursed twice. I know that in other Pixar movies, such as the first Incredibles, God’s name was used in vain multiple times. This one tends to be overlooked since to non-Christians, his name’s misuse does not matter to them. However, this was the first Pixar movie that used language that is considered swearing by everyone.

The director of the movie said that just because Incredibles 2 was animated did not make it a kid’s movie. This is hollow, pointless reasoning that dead ends on itself. It’s true many adults went to see Incredibles 2, but marketing was obviously targeted towards kids. With countless toys, costumes, and other merchandise for kids along with commercials drenching channels kids watch, it was clearly known many thousands of them would go watch this movie. It does not matter whether or not Incredibles 2 was meant to be a kids movie. What mattered was that Pixar knew kids would go watch it, yet they put the language in anyway.

Another example of this is the Star Wars saga. The original trilogy doesn’t really have any language, and neither did the second. But the new trilogy…I love Star Wars, but if the first six movies got by without swearing, why is it necessary in the new ones? It added nothing to them. Disney also knew full-well that kids would watch it. Stores had shelves full of Star Wars-themed toys, even before the release of the movie.

It’s a very common belief to say that swearing is not bad, even helpful. Studies have been done in which they have discovered that cursing helps release chemicals in the brain that help with handling a situation.

However, let me put this another way: if going on a violent rampage and stabbing everyone in sight is what helps release those chemicals and makes someone calmer, does that mean it is the right thing to do?

I think most people would agree, no.

So why do we think the same applies to swearing?

Some may say it’s totally different because swearing does not actually harm anyone. However, if we are talking about not hurting anyone as being the only criteria for morality, then other common morals have to be nullified. There are plenty of immoral acts that can be committed that do not have to harm anyone, such as lying or stealing. Besides, swearing is often directed at people in the form of insults, which is harmful to others emotionally and could potentially lead to self-harm or suicide.

Many say that swearing is a social construct and that the words have no meaning in a different language, which is true. If I were to swear in some obscure language, no one would have a clue what I said. However, it is because language is a social construct that makes this reasoning wrong. As a society, we have assigned meaning to words and have specifically pointed out that some words are bad. Even with popular culture’s degrading morality, it still acknowledges that some language is not fit for kids, which means it also acknowledges that swearing is wrong.

Swearing is definitely a problem, but there are other issues, such as violence and sexuality, as well. While morality is individualized, there are certain ethical standards a society should adhere to in everyday life.

There will be a part two to this article coming out in the next edition of the Norseman.