(Man-crush??? Your words, not mine!)
The language on the show, you know, the profanity, was quite controversial, but what I was trying to do with that was sort of break down the conventions of language, and show the way language regenerates a meaning which is dependent upon its particular environment.Ah! One other thing: In reviewing Season Two alongside the new Season Three episodes, I've noticed that the burgeoning threat of the Hearst Mining Company's designs on the town of Deadwood has been repeatedly referred to "Leviathan" -- to the point where last week's episode, in which the plutocratic shit truly starts to hit the fan, was titled "Leviathan Smiled."
The reason people in Deadwood spoke the way they did was they were sending a sort of signal about -- this was a lawless environment, and that they would obey no laws even in terms of the conventions of language, as a way of saying I am equal to this environment. Like if you meet somebody in a bar after work, you know, and you haven't seen him before, you're trying to be polite, you'd say "Hey, where are you from?" And the guy says "Oh, I'm from Topeka, Kansas." In Deadwood, if you see someone you don't know, in a bar, you say "Where are you from?" the're liable to kill you -- because these are all people who have, you know, complicated backgrounds, they don't know if you've got a warrant, so... In Deadwood, you say "Where are you from?" they'll say "What the fuck is that to you?" As a way of saying every word is important in an environment like that.
So the first obligation was to sort of break down the viewer's conventional ideas of what words meant, and so I sorta wanted an unrelenting stream of obscenity at the beginning of the show. That first speech of Ellsworth's, you know: The elements of that scene were, first you saw the gold, Swearengen is weighing the gold, then he pours a drink, establishing the nature of this environment, and then once the alcohol is in him then the language changes. He says, "I might have fucked my life up flatter than hammered shit, but I stand before you today beholden to no human cocksucker!" And then he begins to eliminate the elements of the ordering forces in society: "And not the US Government, or the savage fuckin' Red Man, or George Custer himself, had better try and take it away from me!" And Swearengen, by way of affirming the environment, says, "They better not try it in here." Then they address, even the subject of accents. He says, "What's that Limey damned accent of yours, Swearengen? Are those rumors true you're descended from English royalty?" Swearengen says, "I'm descended from all them cocksuckers," which is a way of saying that the invoked content of language, the logic of language, is gone. People are going to lie all the time, and finally when you've obliterated any expectation that the prior meanings you've affixed to language will obtain, then you start to regenerate meaning.
That's why a guy like Wu, for me, is an interesting character, because what I try to do with Wu is, there's a guy who knows like one word of English -- cocksucker -- and yet the viewer, as a result of protracted exposure, is able to understand everything....
Which is to say language generates meaning from context. What begins as what seems like an unremittingly and unrelievedly profane environment in fact is just just finding a new way to organize itself. At the level of language, I was trying to prefigure the theme of the improvisation of society.
There's more than you ever wanted to know about dirty words!
Yes, of course it's referring to the Biblical whale -- but last night, poking around on Wikipedia on an unrelated matter, it smacked me in the face: Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan!
"Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," anyone? Where you at, Nash? By Banquo's beard, these are some smart cocksuckers.