In one of the scripts for the show I originally had a character use the word “hell.” That isn’t so strange for Christian film, since we talk about the very real place called hell sometimes. But in this instance, the word “hell” was preceeded by two other words: “What the…” I later changed that line.
Why would I write it? The use of that word in that scene accomplished two things:
It showed the emotional state of the character. He was angry. He was not in control of himself, and even though he normally would not use this phrase, it came out. He was not emotionally mature enough to handle the situation without resorting to use of this word. This guy was hacked off.
It showed the spiritual maturity of the character. He’s a kid. Grew up in the church, but didn’t have the maturity to respond in a more Christ-like manner. This line gave clues to later events in the script.
So, it had a purpose. It wasn’t just for shock value, but it illuminated the character.
A friend who is in the show called me on it. At first I was resistant to changing the line. But I relented. It wasn’t necessary to make the point.
But it brings up a good question: Can Christian media have characters who swear? Is there ever a time when using crass language would be acceptable. I’m not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. And I’m not talking about showing profanity in a positive light. There are plenty of passages talking about proper speech, and avoiding obscenity.
But in the course of story telling, is it sometimes more efficient and effective to place a curse word in the mouth of a character rather than try to show that same thing in another manner?
Frankly, I don’t know.