Director: Christopher D’Elia
Author: Bellamie Blackstone
Solid: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Silverman, Nick Offerman, Jim Jefferies, Nikki Glaser
Streaming on: Netflix
Might anybody else however Nicolas Cage have hosted Netflix’s Historical past of Swear Phrases? The actor’s unhinged, manic vitality units the tone for this anything-goes six-episode romp into the historical past, etymology, tradition and common makes use of of the phrases ‘fuck’, ‘shit’, ‘bitch’, ‘dick’, ‘pussy’ and ‘rattling’. He seesaws between utter sincerity, playful flirtatiousness and a full-bodied descent into madness as he roars out a chronic “fuuuuuck”, proclaims he has “BNE” (Huge Nick Power) and adopts goofy accents, typically a number of in the identical sentence. Sadly, the remainder of the present can’t match his dedication to the fabric, its tonal shifts extra jarring than anticipated.
The broad nature of its subject is each a energy and a weak spot. Whereas it makes for a number of attention-grabbing tangents, from the Movement Image Affiliation of America’s absurd score system to the speculation that politician Dick Swett’s 1990 Congressional run was profitable owing to his (unintentionally) hilarious identify, the top result’s an odd mishmash of the educational and the juvenile, with visitors representing either side. The 2 ends of the spectrum typically intersect, like when a lexicographer explains why ‘Cecily Bumtrinket’ was an old-timey slang for a vagina, however the present doesn’t totally lean into both side, making for a collection that feels a bit of too unfocused.
The presence of comedians equivalent to Sarah Silverman, Jim Jefferies, London Hughes and Nikki Glaser add little to the present, aside from banal observations equivalent to, “We use the phrase ‘fuck’ on a regular basis.” An excessive amount of time is dedicated to them utilizing the swears in quite a lot of sentences and contexts. If the present’s intent is to normalize them, the result’s extra a sense of being browbeaten into acceptance as an alternative, that’s how repetitive and tiring the train is. It’s unlikely that the viewers watching this present wouldn’t know or use a few of these phrases already, and so these recurring segments make every 20-minute-long episode really feel for much longer.
Extra real laughs come from the academicians who illustrate the spectacular variety of careers to be discovered within the area of swearing — one has authored a ebook about cursing, one other’s written definitions for swear phrases within the Merriam-Webster dictionary and a 3rd is a cognitive scientist who talks about swearing’s neurological hyperlinks. Their context and perception give the present its finest and most attention-grabbing moments, like a proof of the cultural affect of NWA’s ‘Fuck The Police’ and a visible depiction of how utilization of the phrase ‘bitch’ spiked through the Suffrage Motion and second-wave feminism.
Different connections are frustratingly by no means defined, like how the deal with of using crops got here to be generally known as ‘dicks’ through the 1860s. “In the course of the sexually repressed, tightly corseted Victorian period, individuals should’ve been clamouring for issues to name penises,” Cage deadpans. Whereas the present makes use of him sparsely in order that his shtick stays contemporary, the identical can’t be mentioned for the visitors, who most of the time, find yourself making the identical factors phrased in another way. A few of their anecdotes, like Joel Kim Booster recounting his expertise of the phrase ‘bitch’ as a homophobic slur, add heft and perspective to the dialog. Others, like Patti Harrison’s objection to the ‘pussy hats’ worn by girls marching towards President Trump, are left imprecise, with the episode swiftly slicing away.
Regardless of its shiny spots, Historical past of Swear Phrases doesn’t actually stay as much as the potential of its premise. At one level, the visitors check out the speculation that swearing makes you’re feeling higher. Which could clarify why seeing them do it for us as an alternative feels so unsatisfying.