Friday, August 25, 2006

Thoughts on Rhetoric and S.L. Jackson

ADVISORY: This post contains language and/or content which may be objectionable to some readers. I do not intend or wish to offend anyone, but rather to spark inquiry on a fairly silly subject.

Samuel L. Jackson has started some sort of religion and I want to sign up. The Muthufunkin' Church of the Muthufukin' Immaculate Mother, or whatever he would call it*, His Church already has tens of thousands of devotees, eagerly anticipating the reverend's next rhetorical miracle.

No, Jackson has not turned water into wine, but he has transformed a B movie, into a muthufuckin' B movie! and that might be an equal or greater feat. He has a charisma and confidence which rings of religious power. He seems to have divine inspiration of cultural needs, and then proceeds to precipitate trends with his inspired rhetoric.

Like most religious movements however, there are far more devotees than worshipers. I was convinced that this movie would shut down all other movies at the box office last weekend. With its fervent blogo-roots it would shame previous ticket sales. It came in at #2 behind Will Farrell. It grossed only $15 million, not that hot for the media hype of the Rev. S.L.J. In truth, I, like a hypocritical sinner have not seen the movie, I am waiting for later, for a better time. It just goes to show that hype and buzz often fall short.

On to the second part of my post: what does muthufuck mean? It is a very peculiar word as it rarely appears in the basic form (although the OED does find evidence for it as early as 1964), rather in the form muthufucka (which can also be used as an adjective, as in, "He's one bad muthafucka.") or in its adjectival form muthufuckin'. [see Note #2] While the word was initially two separate words, mother and fuck, it quickly progressed to become a compound word and then to a single term. It would be quite difficult to fully unpack the subtleties of the word fuck in this short blog entry, suffice it to say that the term conveys very broad range of meaning. Much the same way the word monster is related to demonstrate, muthufuck is only loosely related to mother or fuck. Fuck, conventionally though to be the most crass single word that one can utter is then intensified by the antecedent mother; not only does one lack shame of coitus, but one would be willing to fall pray to incest as well. It is, in my opinion, an example of tacking on an intensifier to an absolute, like saying the very best, which although common is in some respect nonsense (not that language needs to make sense). In this muthafucka way conveys a sense of absurd intensity, particularly when out of place. It is thus used so casually (e.g. "I'm going to kick your muthufuckin' ass.") because the quality of the term almost stipulates that it cannot assume significance or meaning.

When S.L.J. used the fateful phrase, Snakes on a Muthafuckin' Plane, he was unleashing the raw religious power of his machismo and rhetoric on an object far too feeble to receive this force. The asymmetry, the very same absurdity of the intensified absolute, is what makes this movie so great. Recognize, however, that SoaP is no longer a movie directed by so-and-so and produced by so-and-so. That movie has been destroyed by S.L.J.'s awesome zeal. Rather, a new thing as been created, Muthafunckin' Snakes on a Muthafuckin' Plane, which is qualitatively distinct from its progenitor.

I'm done.

Note #1: The orthographic disunity is as a result of the dynamic properties of the term in question.

* I "deleted" the above phrase because I think it may be too offensive. That being said, I feel it is also instructive to my point about the terms use and definition. You cannot have a fucking virgin (yes, immaculate conception and virgin birth are distinct, I recognize that), although everyone will know what you are talking about. One could never have a Church of the Muthufunkin' anything, because the term is self-destructive, it would instantly obliterate the movement it sought to create.

Note #2: The OED has four basic entries for the word Fuck; fuck v (1503), fuck n (1680), fucker n (1598), fucking adj., adv., & int. (1948). According to the hoaried tomb the word can mean a great number of things including: one who copulates, one who blunders, the act of copulation, various other casual, intensive, etc., uses. (e.g. How in the fuck should I know?), as an intensifier, to mess around, a person (often a woman), as an affirmation (e.g. WALTER: That rug really tied the room together, did it not? DUDE: Fuckin' A. DONNY: And this guy peed on it.) --among other things. As evidenced by this expansive set of meanings, this monosyllabic item must obviously be very linguistically potent.


miriam said...

zev -
"It is a very peculiar word as it rarely appears in the noun form, but most often in its verb form muthufucka (which can also be used as an adjective, as in, 'He's one bad muthafucka.') or in its adjectival form muthufuckin'."

actually, i have never heard the compound word used as a verb. what you call a verb, as well a the first word you call an adjective, are nouns. the last word you call an adjective is one. i don't think the word has an adverb form, but i am willing to be corrected.

thanks for feeding my pedantic side...

Zev said...

Duly noted. I should have been more careful.

Reel Fanatic said...

Sam the man is indeed worthy of worship .. Without him and the changes he demanded (at the fans' urging), SoaP would have been a lot less fun than it turned out to be .. I can't believe it did so poorly at the box office in week one!

Sam said...

Zev, your ironic tone is making my head hurt. Also, I hope you don't think 'fuck' is the crassest word around. I can think of a few worse ones.