This quote from the musical Anything Goes shows a sad truth: four letter words are now the norm for entertainment. Even a PG-13 rating allows for one use of the ol' F word. This desensitization has destroyed the quaint comfort of movies, plays or novels of old.
But wait, says the admittedly theoretical intelligent modernist, aren't you forgetting something? If today's audiences are indeed "desensitized" to swear words, then any media that uses them rests within the certain level of "comfort" that you claim has been lost.
Alright, we try to say, but the modernist goes on, eager to prove his point: This exposes your hypocrisy! Today's culture merely demonstrates an evolved version of the yesterday's comfort, and you all have failed to appreciate it due to your bias against progress!
After calming our young dissenter, we attempt to reason with him. Sure, we gently explain, this desensitization has given us comfort with obscene or blasphemous phrases in today's world, but there is another issue at stake here. The impact that such evil words could carry in the past has all but petered out. Now that any children's show can use "oh my God" or "damn", it's hard to gain as much emotional impact when a serious Broadway drama uses an F-bomb. The comfort of the norm still exists, but since shock is the new comfort, there is nothing left to be the new shock. Our world of plays and books is now missing a color from its emotional palette, irreplaceably lost to the sands of time.
This shuts the modernist up for a moment. But, still unaware that his intellect is of a size highly uncommon to those holding to his modernist views in real life, he strokes his artsy-goatee-studded chin and comes up with another objection.
This shock incited by dirty words of the past, he says, you imply that it's a necessary part of the olden literature. But I believe your original argument was that such dirty words were never found back then. Are you changing your opinion?
He sits back with a smug look which is difficult to make out, as the expression is indigenous to his type. He knows he has us now. We must either admit that we are wrong or else adopt a compromising view that swear words were not uncommon in the past. His thumbs are itching with the desire to update his Facebook status, via mobile phone, concerning his triumph over the fuddy-duddies of the past.
But we are far from defeated.
The point of the element of shock is to exist without actually appearing, we explain. The feeling of comfort is even more secure when we know that swear words could be used, but are not. This seems like a bit of a stretch to our modernist until we point out that a similar principle applies to his right to vote. At this point, he has little to do but fold.
Author's Note: I came up with that on a whim last night, and haven't edited it, so excuse any errors. I probably misused the term 'modernist' for one. Also, I apparently have an inner intelligent modernist.