The Meaning of Brandon’s Profanity

Brandon: Bailey’s a fucking dope fiend, I’m telling you. Them fucking people ain’t to be relied on.
Omar: Yo, why you always gotta talk like that, man?
Brandon: What?
Omar: “F” this and “f” that.
Brandon: If I give it up, I’ll lose half of what I mean to say.

There is an interesting connection between two seemingly-unrelated scenes near the end of “The Pager.” The first scene is a short one between Brandon and Omar as they prepare for another heist. They are in their house, putting on kevlar vests, loading guns and packing duffel bags with ammo. The scene begins with Brandon trying on the gaudy dollar-sign necklace that they took in the previous rip. He curses as he complains about Bailey being late (we, of course, know that he has been gunned down). Omar chides Brandon, revealing his hatred of profanity. It is funny to hear the hardened stickup boy using the terms “f-” as a replacement for “fuck.” He has no problem shooting out somebody’s knee, but he is squeamish about language.

Brandon protests the censorship, saying “I’ll lose half of what I mean to say.” This is a profound expression of his powerlessness, both in his relationship with Omar and the world of the street. So far, Brandon has had little to say on the show–he remains silent during the parlay with Kima and McNulty and he gets harshly silenced by Omar during the raid on the Pit. Maybe Brandon’s reliance on cursing is an act of rebellion. Omar disapproves, so Brandon does it to avoid losing his identity.

The line is also a broader comment on the limitations of communication in the projects. Brandon lives in a cruel, unforgiving world dominated by violence. It makes sense that a significant percentage of what Brandon wants to say can only be expressed through the linguistic weapon of profanity. Profanity is one of the most powerful forms of language, which is why it has achieved forbidden status. It is beeped off of network airwaves, asterisked out of print and washed out of the mouths of children with soap. But the fact that it conveys half of Brandon’s intended meaning suggests that certain emotions can only be expressed with words like “fuck” and “shit” (this is also an interesting call back to the scene where McNulty and Bunk communicate so effectively using only the word “fuck.”). Brandon fears that if he had to stop cursing, he will lose his voice.

In the very next scene, we see the opposite pattern of communication. Prez proudly explains how he cracked the pager code with the ingenious “jump the 5” cypher. As he reveals the solution, he says “I like word search puzzles. You know, where you gotta find the hidden words?” Prez has the ability to uncover meaning that has been hidden, which in turn gives him meaning and purpose within the detail.

Taken together, these two scenes show just how powerful communication is in defining identity, whether it reveals it or obscures it. To seal the connection between the scenes, they both end with a man being kissed by another man (Omar kisses Brandon passionately, McNulty kisses Prez playfully), a physical communication that has the power to convey what can’t be put into words, be they coded or profane.

One thought on “The Meaning of Brandon’s Profanity

  1. It’s interesting to contrast Omar’s disapproval of the F-word, with the earlier scene when McNulty and Bunk reconstruct the Kresson killing using only the word Fuck (or minor variations thereof).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.