Marty, the F-Bomber

According to Variety online, Martin Scorsese’s recent mega-hit, Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street, has more instances of “the F-word” than any film in history. With 506 utterances in three hours, it easily tops the previous record-holder, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (with 435). Variety also describes The Wolf as being “all about excess,” including sex and drug abuse scenarios which I won’t go into here.

What Jesus said matters far more than any commentary I could write about the state of the “Hollyweird” movie industry and more than any academic perspective I could tell my blog readers and my mass communication students. If I but compare the set of values presented in The Wolf of Wall Street to the values Jesus presented from His world to ours daily, always living faithfully what He preached, I could efficiently end this blog with the following quote from the Lord, point supremely being made:

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it inthe day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37, NASB)

Writing through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul also warns against using bad language in his letter to the Ephesians (e.g., Ephesians 4:29 ).

What’s the academic perspective?

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. And a plethora of mass communication research on everything from sitcoms to movies to TV ads and even the so-called reality of news violence has bolstered our understanding over the decades that there is something inherently attractive and, unfortunately, more memorable about negative portrayals than positive ones (be it strong/suggestive dialogue, anti-social behavior, immoral lifestyles, physical conflict/injury, and even damage to property).

Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV’s] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Our students need to OWN the task soon to be set before them. Some of the most intelligent writing for film and television has been provocative, not because it body slams our libidos or cattle prods our visceral instincts, but because it makes us think–think about the noble, the possible, the enriching. It takes little imagination or skill to ambush the senses by flinging expletives like hand grenades.

Our students MUST do better when they enter the industry than continue to “slop the hogs” in feeding hungry audiences.

Our students simply MUST do better.

Again, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians makes it clear as to what lifestyle is pleasing to God and what is not, the latter including coarse speech, greed, and immorality (Ephesians 5:1-12). Scorsese’s latest box office success is rife with everything loved by the world, but not by the Almighty. Read what the Spirit inspired James to write also on this very subject! (James 4:1-10, NASB)

And He [Jesus] was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.” (Mark 4:24, NASB)

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.