Like all neurological conditions, Tourette's Syndrome is a complicated and variable disorder that can manifest itself in many different ways. And like most neurological conditions, this is not the case on TV.
In real life, Tourette's Syndrome is characterized by involuntary "tics" that the person feels compelled to perform fairly regularly; depending on the severity, this can range from an easily-suppressed thought to actions so uncontrollable that it makes Adrian Monk seem perfectly normal. To be categorized by a psychiatrist as Tourette's (instead of a related disorder), the sufferer must have multiple physical tics or at least one Verbal Tic. These tics can range from something small like uncontrollable breathing patterns or involuntarily pulling a face to hand movements and gestures to specific words. Around 10% of people with Tourette's also display something called "coprolalia" (derived from Greek, literally meaning shit-talking), which is the involuntary uttering of socially unacceptable things.
In TV land, though, Tourette's Syndrome is coprolalia. In most people's minds, Tourette's is a condition where people fire Cluster F Bombs upon Cluster F Bombs and nothing more. It makes sense that this is how it would be treated — it gives the writers the chance for a Very Special Episode about accepting others even if they are different... and the chance to Cross The Line Twice with really, really dirty language.
The kind of things people "with Tourette's" say on TV and in movies varies significantly depending on the medium and culture. American TV tends to avoid f-bombs and really strong profanity, though cable can be a little stronger. "Ass" is more common, as are other naughty parts of the body. Obscene words for women are usually out so as to avoid being accused of sexism, but milder words are usually cool.
Ethnic and racial slurs are usually out to avoid being racist (except when a person accidentally blurts out the n-word in a room full of black people, and Hilarity theoretically Ensues). Slurs like "queer" have traditionally been fair game, but more recently this has been on the down slide to avoid homophobia. Foreign swears have always been very popular, as they enable a person to use much stronger language, as the audience (and the censors) won't be as likely to understand their severity.
Very mild swears like "damn" and "hell" are usually not used, unless to signify how lame the person with Tourette's is. Compound swears generally fall under the rules for the worst swear making up the compound. The exception to this being compounds that alter the nature of the swear. Of course, this varies.
And occasionally, a show might just even feature a person with Tourette's who doesn't swear. (An episode of 20/20 profiled a real-life sufferer who said things like "Help! My underwear's on fire!")
Note that coprolalia does not occur in writing (or typing). Most moderators of major chatrooms are in fact aware of this.
- Doc the bartender in The Boondock Saints is affectionately referred to as "Fuckass" by his regular patrons, the reason being his exclamations of "Fuck! Ass!" that occur fairly frequently. While nobody ever mentions the words Tourette's Syndrome, the two heroes do end up trying to explain the behavior to a little girl who overhears some of the foul language in a Catholic hospital. There is some attempt at realism here, with Doc usually only shouting his signature curse after a difficult bout of stuttering... which he suffers once or twice a sentence. He also has the motor "tics" that an actual Tourette's sufferer might have, acting very much like someone who's never been treated for the illness. As an "Old Irish Publican" hard ass, he's probably not seen the inside of a doctor's office since his last barfight... it fits.
- Not Another Teen Movie has cheerleader Sandy Sue, who has Tourette's Syndrome. She becomes very popular and even gets a boyfriend.
Sandy: Give my a W!Crowd: W!Sandy: Give my a Y!Crowd: Y!Sandy: Give me a LICKMYPUSSYASSCOCKSHIT!Crowd: (pause) Lick my pussy ass cock shit!(everyone cheers)
- In The Invention of Lying, almost everyone in the society has a form of Tourette's where they always speak with complete, unfiltered honesty. Early in the film, the man (played by Ricky Gervais) is waiting for a woman. She says, in effect "I'm just going out with you because I'm bored and my mom keeps bugging me about grandchildren. I'm way out of your league. I'll be down in 15 minutes after I finish masturbating."
- In The Green Mile, one character lapses into swearing fits in the last stages of a brain tumor. In the book, one of the other characters comments that it sounds like Tourette's Syndrome.
- In Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Deuce is ordered to take a woman with Tourette's Syndrome on a date at one point. He takes her to a baseball game, whereupon everything she shouts seems appropriate (as everyone else in the stands is cursing, too). Incidentally, she was played by a pre-fame Amy Poehler.
- In What About Bob?, the title character talks about his fear of the disorder right before a profane outburst. He then explains, "If I can fake it, I don't have it."
- Better than that is the scene where the psychiatrist's son reveals to Bob that he is afraid of dying. Bob tells him not to be afraid of death; he can be afraid of something else instead—like Tourette's. The boy asks him what Tourette's is, and Bob starts to smile...
- In The Big White, Molly Hunter's character claims to have Tourette's, and swears like a sailor. However, one of her kidnappers notices that she swears less when she's shocked, and while he's making her breakfast (it's that kind of movie) theorizes that she just heard about the condition, and decided to use it as an excuse for some cathartic vocabulary.
- Which is funny, because in the real world, people with Tourette's sometimes have fewer tics (or none at all) when they're surprised, or when they're preoccupied with certain activities. (It can also go the opposite way.)
- The male and female lead in Wish You Were Dead are married by a character (played by Robert Englund) who has an implied case of this. "We are gathered here to celebrate the joining of these two assholes!"
- In Jumping Jack Flash, Whoopi Goldberg's character is about to be arrested for disorderly conduct for losing her temper and calling a police officer a motherfucker (among other things) when a co-worker of hers tries to pass it off as Tourettes.
- The main characters in (500) Days of Summer, Tom and Summer, play a game in the park where they dare each other to yell "Penis!" in public. When Tom's given dirty looks, this happens:
Tom: Sorry, Tourette's, you know how it is.
Tom: She has it too. PENIS!
- Crank: Averted in the second movie. Venus has "full body Tourettes", which causes him to go into full-body spasmodic convulsions (consistent with a very severe motor tic), but actually swears significantly less than Chelios, who's just a jerk.
- Maze: The titular character has this along with Super OCD.
- One example is that he would occasionally slap himself, saying wake up and other times would awkwardly shake his head, which makes it difficult for him to communicate with other people.
- In Son of a Gun, Jerkass Josh claims to suffer from Tourettes, and he does twitch a lot. It's not clear if he really does suffer from the condition, or if he is just using it as an excuse to randomly shot "FAGGOT!" at people.
- Meroka from Alastair Reynolds' novel Terminal World has this due to her constantly moving between different technology zones, which has extreme effects on the nervous system. Meroka swears constantly, while another character instead has constant Parkinson's-like shakes from years of moving between zones.
- The Confusion, the second volume of Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, features Jeronimo el Desamparado, a Mexican-born Spanish nobleman afflicted with what is clearly Tourette's-with-extreme-coprolalia. (Though never so called, the story taking place long before any mental illnesses were given names more technical or specific than "madness", but at one point he compares his situation with that of the fictional St Ettienne de la Tourette.)
- In Jonathan Lethem's novel Motherless Brooklyn, the main character Lionel Essrog has a more realistic Tourette's Syndrome: he never swears during his verbal tics.
- Martin Silenus in Hyperion gets this for a while after being brain damaged.
- Lampshaded in My Godawful Life, a parody of "misery lit" memoirs. After suffering every misfortune and indignity imaginable, the hero finally adopts a young girl with Tourette's Syndrome. When he tells her he thought Tourette's was to do with involuntary tics, not "a fluent outpouring of casual but well-crafted abuse," she replies "It can be. Fuckshaft."
- Spider Robinson's short story "Involuntary Man's Laughter" in the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon collection Callahan's Secret centers around a young man with a severe case of Tourette's. Averts the usual treatment in that his symptoms are primarily physical, and include no dirty words; his vocal tics are described as "grunting and barking". Underlined, however, by the fact that Robinson's portrait of Tourette's is, even more than most in entertainment media, exaggerated well past the point of caricature: his character's syndrome is so extreme ("He had a twitch that might have been produced by the greatest comedian in the world going flat-out for a laugh, and his grunts sounded precisely like a gorilla making love") that he cannot be in a room with another person without that other person bursting into literally uncontrollable laughter.
- However, the character is portrayed sympathetically, becomes a (remotely present) regular, and the real point of the story is that electronic (and by implication, other alternative) forms of socialization and communication are not simply acceptable, but in some cases essential. Obvious in 2013; less evident in 1983.
- Diana from Generation A is described as having Tourette's but it really seems more like she just lacks a mental filter to separate thoughts from words. For example, when she confesses her feelings to the man she's in love with, she can't help but add "fuck me, please fuck me" right after.
- One of the earliest examples on TV was on LA Law. "Bitch Whore Slut"...
- Averted in the case of Reuben Zeus from the Australian crime show Good Guys Bad Guys. His Tourette's occasionally took the form of TV-friendly swearing, but was usually the sort of verbal and physical tics associated with actual Tourette's.
- On the 7th season of the UK version of Big Brother, the producers placed Pete Bennett in the house. His most significant tic was the word "wanker" and the producers thought he'd be hilarious - "wacky", and "well good telly". Instead, the housemates discovered he was an extremely kind, sensitive young man with a great sense of wit once he got over his initial shyness. At one point, every single girl in the house had a crush on him, which he did not seem to notice. The entire house loved him. With the winner as a foregone conclusion, there was no cruel, tactical voting and it's considered one of the best series ever. He won the last week with 61% of the vote out of 6 people.
- Pete had other tics, like his neck-flick, a quick whistle, and tapping his chest with his fist.
- In Ally McBeal, John dated a blond woman with Tourette's Syndrome, who paired up oddly with him, as he flinched every time he thought he was being insulted.
- The Daily Show presented the disorder slightly more realistically by claiming that Rudy Giuliani had "9/11 Tourette's Syndrome", which caused him to mention that fateful date seemingly at random and often inappropriately.
- One of 7th Heaven's many very special episodes deals with a boy with Tourette's whose verbal symptom is echolalia (repeating what others say). His parents, of course, have never heard of the condition until a parishoner tells them about it and assume he's "doing it on purpose." The father reluctantly admitted that he thought it was hereditary, though, since he had a cousin who did the same thing.
- An episode of Dexter used coprolalia as a punchline. Deb, up all night and wired on coffee, jabbers away almost incoherently, complete with cussing that would make a sailor blush. The problem with the joke is that Deb uses loads of foul language already, and not due in any way to Tourette's Syndrome. It could, of course, simply be teasing from a friend.
- Oddly enough, on Angel, Angelus seems to know what Tourette's Syndrome actually is. When a demon in a bar mutters an insult in his general direction, he draws Angelus's attention. Angelus decides to take out some aggression. The demon asks if he knows what it is, claiming he has it in an effort to divert his attention away. Angelus says he does:
"Yeah, a condition that causes uncontrollable tics and outbursts."
"[...]like yanking out throats."
- The Fast Show has an example in the Bob Fleming's Country Matters segment, where one of the recurring guests (don't ask his name, that's a complicated matter) has a tic for saying "arse".
- Most notably is that he always ends up saying "arse" in situation where it fits into the context. For example, on one occasion, he was singing "All Around My Hat":
Annd alllll around my ARSE! I will wear the green willow...
- Most notably is that he always ends up saying "arse" in situation where it fits into the context. For example, on one occasion, he was singing "All Around My Hat":
- Averted in a TV movie titled Front of the Class, a true story about a man with TS, Brad Cohen. His tics include barking and other vocalizations. It's a good thing he doesn't have coprolalia, since he's an elementary school teacher.
- Used in Mental, in addition to compulsive germ-phobia.
- Shameless has Marty the pyromaniac, the brother of the next door neighbor to the main family, at one point Debbie tries to retrain him to say cake and biscuits instead in preparation for a job interview, he also has a range of other tics.
- One season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm has Larry at the fancy pants opening of a friend's restaurant when the chef lets out a string of Tourette's-generated profanity. Everything stops... and then Larry saves the day by offering his own string of profanity. Soon enough, everyone is swearing at everyone.
- A recurring character on Snuff Box walks around, occasionally saying "Fuck!" with a characteristic cane-wave. He eventually meets a group of similar individuals, and a Mysterious Ticking Noise-esque song starts.
- One of Dewey's friends in the "special" class in Malcolm in the Middle has Tourette's. He once tried to use it to deliberately throw a school election, only to have everyone vote for him because they thought his constant (bleeped-out) swearing was cool. His Tourette's, incidentally, seems to be brought on by nervousness, as well as lack of sleep and staring into a strobe light for long periods of time. (The last two he did on purpose.)
- On Being Human, George's attempts to suppress the werewolf in him result in temporary Tourettes. Unfortunately, he learns this after he's got a job teaching English as a Foreign Language, leading to extremely ill-timed usage of the phrase "Repeat After Me".
- A teenager in a Very Special Episode of Quincy, M.E. had this. It was played more correctly, with plenty of non-swear words and lots of tics.
- In an episode of TV Funhouse, Chicky's New Years resolution is to start spending more time with his brother, who suffers from Tourette's.
- Nurse Jackie has Dr. Cooper ("Coop" to his friends), who suffers from a physical tic when he is stressed or nervous, fairly realistic. However, this tic is grabbing women's breasts. Some people think he's making it up, but he honestly can't help it.
- Discussed in the second episode of Episodes, with Beverly arguing pretty much exactly the same points as this article re: Tourette's not simply being blurting out curse words, only to arrive at the following after a very long day:
Beverly: Open the motherfucking bloody bastard pain in the arse dickcheese stinking dirty shitty wanking fucking bloody fucking bastard fucking stupid cunt of a fucking gate!
Sean (Apologetically): ...Tourette's.
- Averted in Boston Legal. The vocal tics are non-verbal.
- Also used in Touched by an Angel, with a pre-teen boy who has verbal and non-verbal tics. An older boy starts bullying him, and the kid's dad pushes him away roughly. Then the boy falls on his back, hits his head and dies. The father is sent to jail afterwards and the poor little lonely boy is hated by almost everyone, at least until Monica and Co. step in.
- Discussed in an episode of QI. In that episode, one of the panelists had actually seen a series of people with Tourette's. Many had vocal tics, but only one of those people actually had a tic involving foul language (and that one involved a very specific phrase).
- Discussed in several episodes of Barter Kings, as Antonio Palazzoa was diagnosed with Tourette's when he was seven years old. Not only does he clarify that it doesn't necessarily mean excessive swearing, he and his business partner Steve McHugh will point out his verbal and physical tics in voiceovers when they happen. In at least one instance, it ends up becoming humorous.
Antonio: *repeating in a high voice* Nippon gakki!
Steve: *cracks up*
- Mentioned, but not actually seen in The Nanny. Fran hires her cousin Sheila who's a decorator (played by Roseanne Barr), to help redecorate their kitchen. Sheila was recently dumped by her boyfriend Mitch, and was rather devastated. In between her hysterical lamenting, she would shout out random bursts of design ideas like "Clock!" or "Cabinets!" Fran, getting a little frustrated with this bi-polar girl talk, finally asks, "What have you got? Decorator's Tourettes?"
- One episode of Chicago Hope guest-starred René Auberjonois as a Tourettes-afflicted surgeon who was called in on a tricky case. He lamented that the only times he was free from the tics were when he was performing surgery or having sex (in both cases, because of intense concentration), and that while he had tried medication to subdue them, they left him in a mental fog. He was also worried because his condition was getting more unmanageable.
Dr. Kerry: My compulsions are getting worse, I have to — *stops and taps doorknob three times* do things in threes now.
- Played for Laughs (just like everything else in the series) in Le Cur a ses Raisons when Ridge delivers this line while rambling about how he deserves a promotion:
Ridge: [cites many other qualities] "...and I adroitely control my Tourette Syndrom. *suddenly screams like a madman* KILL THE FATSOS WAAHAHARGHHH!"
- In the Garfunkel and Oates song "Weed Card", a satire on the use of medicinal marijuana, one of the conditions listed that entitles the singer to use medicinal marijuana is "motherfucking Tourette's".
- Alestorm's Fucked With An Anchor is all about a pirate who suffered the curse of a Witch Doctor that gave him this. The very chorus of the song goes as such.
"Fuck! You! You're a fucking wanker! We're gonna punch you right in the balls!
Fuck! You! With a fucking anchor! You're all cunts so fuck you all!"
- Tourette's Funk Syndrome's 2010 album Cunt Pussy Fuck Shit. Even the song titles look like Hollywood Tourette's: "Rape Your Nigger", "Your Mother's a Cunt Whore", "Lick Them Titties"...
- Comedian Joel Kopischke's novelty Christmas song, "A Merry Tourette's Christmas".
- Goldust had this problem for a while, electrocuted by being thrown into a fusebox. Once the joke started getting old, though, they cut back on how much Goldust actually did it. In his current run with WWE, he's made callbacks to it, but with WWE shooting for TV-PG, these callbacks are rare and usually nowhere near as dirty as his Attitude Era shenanigans.
"Why are you such a dic-dic-dic-dic...dictator!"
- Larry the Cable Guy joked that his deaf cousin also has Tourette's, which means that he randomly flips people off when signing.
- Which can actually happen to Deaf people with Tourette's, although what more likely happens is that when they are actually saying something— ie, concentrating on signing— they sign just fine, but when they are sitting unoccupied, they may repeat a sign, often a rude one, because it's the thing they are most worried about doing involuntarily. Children do it more often, because their parents have been on their case about doing it, and they worry more.
- Daniel Tosh has wondered whether or not there is a "polite Tourette's", which causes those with it to blurt out compliments instead of obscenities.
- Robin Williams once described his comedy style as "a sort of voluntary Tourette's," which got him in hot water with the Tourette's community for making light of their affliction.
- In Sam and Max: Season 2, Jimmy Two-Teeth is revealed to have a son, Timmy Two-Teeth, who has "terminal Tourette's syndrome", with the result that about half of Timmy's dialog is bleeped out.
- Tropico. Tourette's is one of the character flaws you can choose your dictator to have. In the latest installment it complicates foreign policy (sizable relationship score penalties with both superpowers), makes holding election speeches a kind of a political Russian roulette (a big popularity drop with a random faction)... and grants you an annual $1000 in Pay-per-View royalties (the presidential addresses have become a huge hit with the Yanquis!).
- In Kira-Kira, Tonoya gets the group to cuss at every opportunity as a part of their band's "training".
- Left 4 Dead 2 has Nick with the most swearing, but most of them had to be forced by the player via key binds. Most people playing as Nick would make him swear every chance they could get, making him sound like he had Tourettes. However, a patch disabled binding phrases so now Nick swears a lot less on player impulse.
- Partially averted in Lost Souls MUD, in that the implementation of Tourette's syndrome does manifest physical tics, but 100% of cases also display coprolalia rather than 10%.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours. Taunting can be done anytime, anywhere, thus faking the condition. In other words, having Tony scream violent swears at the bank teller, Mexican Wrestler or nobody at all.
- In Rogue Legacy, one of the randomly-selected traits that can affect player characters is Hollywood Tourette's, which causes them to shout profanities (via Symbol Swearing word balloons) whenever they're hit, and replaces the random advice when you die with even more Symbol Swearing. A patch changed the name of this trait from Tourettes to the more-accurate Coprolalia.
- Ben (and Roxy) from Loserz - but just when they're meeting a member of the other sex. See this strip.
- In the xkcd, comic Clark Gable, the occurrence of "damn" in Gone with the Wind is attributed to Tourette's.
- Non-obscene version: in Scandal Sheet!, Foster is offered a job as a writer by the owner of a porn studio after his friend Max sets him up as a joke. The owner asks Foster if Max has Tourette's - "The whole time I was talking to him on the phone, he kept making this barking, snorting sound, like a hyena."
- Inverted in Questionable Content when Sven says that he has "compliment-Tourette's".
- Lord Tourettes from the Dick Figures series. His eyes go red when he is in a tic. Interestingly, he only swears when he has his hat on. Otherwise he just twitches and continues to speak normally, albeit loudly.
- In the machinima The Leet World, Ahmad's stint on HAX leaves him with brain damage, which manifests as some sort of Tourette Syndrome-Cloud Cuckoo Lander hybrid, with the Terrorist spouting random verbal outbursts such as "Hamwallets!" "Crotchbutter!" and "Random Outburst!"
- Averted in Friendship is Witchcraft. Spike's Tourette's is hiccuping and involuntary firebreathing. That, combined with his weak grip, causes him to accidentally teleport his handwritten epic fantasy novels to Celestia, who burns them to roast marshmallows.
- In this exchange of e-mails, a "scambaiter" known as "Shiver Metimbers" receives a 419 Scam email (as with all entries on the site), and plays along with the scammer, pretending to not know that he is being scammed, but also claims to have a made-up variation of Hollywood Tourette's which causes him to unconsciously type in swear words in his messages. This, of course, is just an excuse to measure how much being sworn at a scammer can take before giving up on the scam (in the end, it seems the constant swearing was not a factor in the scammer giving up).
Thank you for your interesting fucking email. I have to say that I am very interested shit in your proposition however before I am prepared to proceed any faggot further I would like you to answer me some questions if you can1. Please can you tit-wank tell me how long this procedure will take to complete?
2. Will I be required to travel to complete this financial deal?
3. Is it completely arse legal?
- In "The A.D.D Test" by Matthew Santoro, when Matthew goes to pick up his Tourette's medication and finds that the store is closed, he curses in anger, "Motherfucking ballsack hairy asshole dick-licking tits!".
- In Queer Duck: The Movie, Queer Duck calls into a homophobic evangelical reverend's talk show claiming to have Tourette's, then proceeds to call the reverend words like "homophobe, "gay-basher," and "motherfucker."
- The Tourettes Guy is a shining example of this. Of course, the now-defunct website did include a special note saying that while the Tourette's Guy does have Tourette's Syndrome, his behaviour is influenced far more by his heavy drinking than it.
- There's a French humourous picture consisting in a photograph of Georges Gilles de La Tourette (a.k.a. the physician the syndrome was named after), with a text saying "A crappy future for this fucking France? Vote Gilles de La Tourette (you sons of bitches)".
- Zerkaa has a tendency to say some very strange and profane things in his outbursts of frustration, which led the other Sidemen and the group's fans to believe that he may have Tourette's syndrome.
- South Park had "Le Petit Tourette", an entire episode about Cartman pretending he had Tourette's Syndrome so he could openly swear as much as he wanted and say anti-Semitic things without getting into trouble. However, this episode turned out to be a subversion. After being accused of being prejudiced against people with the disorder, Kyle meets with a support group for children with Tourette's, and the kids who actually had it were portrayed more realistically. Most of them had a physical tic of some kind; only two were cursing, and unlike Cartman, it was usually the same word. Cartman faking his Tourette's also came back to bite him in the ass by the end of the episode. Since he had gotten so used to just saying every thought that popped into his head out loud, he lost his ability to self-censor entirely and couldn't stop blurting out embarrassing secrets about himself.
- The Tourette Syndrome Association's reaction. They weren't completely happy, but even they had to admit the creators had Shown Their Work. Additionally, Cartman was not merely portrayed as a hilariously unpleasant person, but viewers were firmly reminded how awful a person must be to fake an official syndrome for their own entertainment.
- In Family Guy, Peter Griffin pretended to have Tourette's at least once to excuse away his potty mouth.
- In "A Hero Sits Next Door", Peter uses it to show why he got upset at Joe asking to borrow a screwdriver. Peter thought Joe was a moocher and didn't want anything to do with him, but changed his tune after he saw how many baseball trophies Joe had.
- Another episode had Lois claims that the spider from Charlotte's Web struggled with Tourette's. Cue Cutaway Gag where a little girl sees the word "WHORE" written in a spiderweb. Even though, y'know, Tourettes doesn't occur in writing...
- Another episode had a cutaway where Chris had "Hampster Dance Tourette's Syndrome," meaning he involuntarily sang the Hampster Dance at random intervals.
- No swearing, since it was a kid's show, but Warpath's bizarre mannerisms in The Transformers (as well as some of the comics and the War for Cybertron game) are pretty consistent with the condition.
Warpath: BANG-BANG!, you're KABLAM!
- Appropriately enough, he turns into a tank.
- On The Simpsons, Bart once attempted to get out of class by claiming he had Tourette's Syndrome; he then shouted, "Shove it, witch!" and began barking. In later broadcasts, after a series of complaints, the scene was changed so that he claimed to have rabies and the outbursts were removed.
- Subverted in one skit in Robot Chicken: A little girl gets diagnosed with Tourette's when she starts using racial slurs and various other profanities...when she's actually using them to describe everyday objects in order to demonstrate the power of homonyms (for example, "Bitch" is actually the term for a female dog, while "ass" is a synonym for "donkey").
- Harvie Krumpet: Actually, Harvie's Tourette's Syndrome is portrayed realistically, as a compulsion to touch objects with his index finger and to touch people he meets on the nose.