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Cursing in Avengers 2 and other shows kids watch is no joke
Chris Evans as Captain America is teased about not liking profanity in the opening battle sequence of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." - photo by Chris Hicks
The first scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron drop the audience into the middle of a chaotic battle, and that is where most of the films witty quips are frontloaded a highlight being a gag about goody two-shoes Captain America being offended when Iron Man curses.

Cap admonishes Iron Man over their communications system, saying, Language!

As a result, for the rest of the movie Cap is the butt of jokes about cuss words until, at the end, he finally lets go with a profane phrase of his own.

Wow. Isnt that a great lesson for young people in the audience? If you are ridiculed for taking the moral high ground, by all means just let down your guard, violate your principles and join the crowd.

This brought to mind a moment in the 1997 true-story thriller Donnie Brasco, a film replete with R-rated language. At one point, Donnie (Johnny Depp) shouts a few F-bombs at his FBI director, prompting this response: Im a Mormon, mister, now clean it up! Then a few moments later, the director uses the same language to disparage Donnie.

Apparently, hypocrisy is also better than being perceived as someone with integrity. According to Hollywood, anyway.

At least Donnie Brasco was rated R, so young, easily influenced minds didnt get the message.

But Avengers: Age of Ultron has been or will be seen by most every kid in America (and around the world), and probably for who-knows-how-many repeat viewings. Did this particular running gag really have to end on that note?

Some of you may be thinking that this is nothing compared to the films violence. And youre right.

As with most superhero movies, the Avengers sequel features lots of death and mayhem, including the usual collateral damage (hundreds or thousands of implied deaths off camera), though there is a throwaway line addressing that.

And the nihilistic motives of the chief villain are also disturbing. The artificially intelligent Ultron, programmed to save the planet, reasons that to do so, humans need to be eradicated.

The villain in Kingsman: The Secret Service has similar motives. Come to think of it, thats also the conclusion that was drawn by Noah last year. (Hollywoods Noah, not the Bibles Noah.)

Of course, in those three movies and most others, the destroy-humanity themes are defeated in more optimistic finales.

In these movies, superhero violence is in the interest of the greater good, and usually a last resort. And its not likely that kids who see these movies will knock down buildings all around them during a fight or try to annihilate the human race.

But language is something else. Kids who hear certain words over and over just naturally integrate them into their vocabulary.

Ive written before about how certain words creep into movies and TV programs as if one show using a particular word gives permission to every other show.

There are certain words spoken with amazing frequency on network television (ABC, CBS, NBC), words that a couple of decades ago would never have been allowed. And there are even stronger words used in programs on basic cable (TNT, TBS, FX). And still harsher profanity is nearly constant on pay-cable networks (HBO, Showtime) and streaming services (Netflix).

And on the Internet, of course, anything goes.

And most of those who write and perform comedy today seem to feel that a gag isnt a gag unless it concludes with a crass punchline.

In real life, people do swear, of course especially when they get riled up about something. But most parents tend to curb their language around the kids.

Couldnt Captain America have done something else that might have earned a laugh instead of swearing at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron? There are several alternative punchline possibilities.

But since audiences seem to laugh loudest and hardest at the most puerile, crude and vulgar things that are uttered in movies today, maybe having Cap cuss really is the road to the biggest laugh.

Mores the pity.