Opinion: Russian humor

POSTED: 05/9/14 10:36 AM

Vladimir Putin has signed a law that prohibits swearing in mass media and in cultural expressions like books, theater productions and movies. The maximum fine for breaking that law could go up to roughly $1,400. Swearing in public apparently does not fall under the new legislation probably because there is no way to enforce it.

A panel of Russian experts is going to compile a list of forbidden swear words. This esteemed panel must know a thing or two about swearing; otherwise they would not be experts. Right?

Critics of the measure see the law as a return to the Soviet era when the communist party prohibited modern “decadent” western ideas. Actors and writers had to stick to Russian values.

This way, Putin has created his own big brother system. Films, books and music that contain swear words will not be approved and will not be allowed to be published in Russia anymore.

The sixth letter of the alphabet comes to mind, in rapid tempo followed by the twenty first, the third and the eleventh letter. Exclamation marks explode in our head. This is Russian humor at its best. What’s wrong with that word anyway? It says everything on four letters. Very efficient.

It is okay to shoot people in the Ukraine, but using swear words in the creative arts is now a crime.

Now we have to admit that we’ve about had it with gangsta rap music, and with so-called standup comedians who think it is funny to use twenty-seven swear words per sentence and to throw in a couple of other words to make their point.

In a way, Putin, and whoever came up with the idea for this ridiculous law, has a point. But it does not sit well with the concept of freedom of expression – not that they ever had much of that in Russia to begin with. The Russian dictator will soon find out that his law is a paper tiger, because creativity knows no borders and he will not be able to shape his country according to his wishes.

Sure, the aficionados of four-letter words could tone it down a bit – it’s getting old and has lost about 200 percent of its shock value – but like the attempt by the French to keep English words out of their language, so will Putin’s attempt fail to eradicate swear words out of the Russian arts.

It will all work out, but for now, everybody will want to be a bit careful in Putin-land. Recently a number of cinemas got into hot water after they showed The Wolf of Wall Street. That came down to promoting the use of narcotics, according to the Moscow Times. The cinemas were fined more than $110,000. Our Megaplex will be happy to be located in Simpson Bay and not in Moscow.

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