The strange case of The Martian and its two f-bombs

The strange case of The Martian and its two f-bombs

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There is a scene early in The Martian where stranded astronaut Mark Watney has to perform surgery on himself, pulling a chunk of metal from his own body. It’s a tense, sober scene that’s hard to watch, but does a great job of showing just how precarious Watney’s situation is while establishing his will and competence.

After the surgery is performed successfully Watney leans back and says a single word: “Fuck.” It’s a wonderful moment, a breath of air for the audience and the character. The first crisis is over, and he survived. Now comes the hard point.

That’s important

The use of that word is important, because later in the film Watney says it again: “Fuck Mars.” The two uses of the word “fuck” are audible, but those aren’t the only times the word is used in the film, although director Ridley Scott shoots around them. During one scene the camera is pulled away from Watney’s point of view into the environment of Mars. We see him through a window, and he clearly says “fuck,” although we don’t hear it. In another scene it’s part of a text exchange, and it’s spelled out as ‘f—‘”

This is a sticking point because a film’s rating has much to do with its ability to make money: You don’t need parents to see a movie rated PG-13, which means more people can see it, and those films tend to make more money. Wider audiences equals more bodies in seats, meaning more revenue.

If you’ve ever wondered why action films are edited down to PG-13 for the theater while the R-rated cut that makes it onto home video seems more like the version the director intended, that is the answer.

And you can only say “fuck” once in a PG-13 rated film. Say it twice? You’re slapped with an R-rating.

In fact, screenwriter Drew Goddard only intended one use of the word. He explains the situation in an interview with HitFix:

We only thought we’d have one, ’cause that’s usually what the rule is. Continue reading “The strange case of The Martian and its two f-bombs”

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