ALAS, POOR LAVINIA

It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time in the middle of the 1980s when all the artistic gains made in the name of 60s and 70s libertinism seemed in peril; we were on the cusp of a potential rewind back to the censorious era of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and the Hays Code. Channel 4, which has made its early 80s name as a fearless purveyor of ‘anything goes in the name of Art’, was a frontrunner in this sudden and abrupt reversal of attitudes when it introduced its red triangle season of films circa 1986. These were movies that nowadays wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) provoke outrage, but at the time appeared shocking even by the easygoing standards of a TV station that had promoted the brief usage of an expletive such as ‘frigging’ in a primetime soap opera (‘Brookside’). The fact that characters on soaps are generally the only people in Britain who never swear was something ‘Brookside’ momentarily challenged until it became as blandly unrealistic as the rest of them.

Channel 4’s red triangle season featured TV premieres for the likes of Derek Jarman’s Romanesque gay fantasy, ‘Sebastiane’, as well as Dennis Hopper’s ‘Out of the Blue’; for those who weren’t around, the red triangle in question would be a permanent fixture in the top left of the TV screen whilst the movie aired, which allegedly served as an early warning system for the unsuspecting viewer who might switch over from something less contentious on ITV or BBC1. Most of the films screened as part of the short-lived season weren’t that different in content from what had already been shown on Channel 4 – it had premiered the infamous Sex Pistols movie, ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, in 1985, for example; but the bizarre season can be seen in retrospect as a concession to the great moral backlash of the late Thatcher era, which also included Clause 28.

Back then, most of us watching thought that such unnecessary caution would be redundant by the time we reached the twenty-first century; we didn’t bank on our contemporaries raising children with so many layers of cotton wool wrapped around them that coming into contact with the classics by the time they reached university age would necessitate a revival of the same red triangle approach that Channel 4 had pioneered in the middle of the 80s. Lo and behold, however, the loathsome ‘trigger warnings’ have now even crept upon the works of one of England’s most revered wordsmiths like the kneejerk reorganization of the BBFC rules and regulations in the wake of the ‘Video Nasty’ moral panic of 35 years ago.

Apparently, students at Cambridge have been warned that certain masterpieces penned by an obscure playwright, name of William Shakespeare, might upset them; yes, the English lecture timetables have been marked with trigger warnings that take the shape of Ye Olde red triangle with accompanying exclamation marks. One play in particular has been singled out as specifically gory – and to be honest, it does read like the plot of an archetypal 80s Video Nasty in that a major female character is raped and then has her arms amputated by her rapists as well as having her tongue cut out.

Admittedly, ‘Titus Andronicus’ is a bit of a gore-fest, though is also one of the Bard’s most invigorating works, one in which the sibling perpetrators of the crime in question receive their just desserts by being baked in a pie that is then eaten by their mother. Elizabethan audiences were seemingly less squeamish than their equivalents 400 years later, perhaps because they didn’t question the eye-for-an-eye morality that was just as evident in the nursery rhymes they’d been raised on.

In defence, Cambridge University has claimed that such warnings are ‘at the lecturer’s own discretion’ and ‘not a faculty-wide policy’, though at the same time the esteemed academic establishment has admitted that ‘Any session containing material that could be deemed upsetting (and is not obvious from the title) is now marked with a symbol’. A representative from Derby University, Professor Dennis Hayes, commented ‘Once you get a few trigger warnings, lecturers will stop presenting anything that is controversial…gradually, there is no critical discussion.’ Critical discussion, for centuries a hallmark of university life, is now something to be avoided for fear of contaminating safe spaces. The impression given that universities today are akin to nurseries for mollycoddled adolescents who shirk from anything that contradicts the world as presented to them in infancy is hard to shake off when confronted by such ludicrous censorship; and if Shakespeare is fair game for the no-platform treatment, we really are f**ked.

The kind of guidelines familiar on the sleeves of DVDs now apparently apply to plays as well; if a sensitive seventeen-year-old objects to the content of something written by Shakespeare – and even the fastidious middle-aged Festival of Light brigade let the Bard off in the licentious 70s – chances are others will feel the need to be protected from centuries-old content that is hardly comparable to the kind of ‘adult’ material they’ve probably routinely scanned online. That ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been removed from some US school syllabuses on account of it being ‘uncomfortable’ is a classic example of illiterate idiots taking over the asylum; as some wag on Twitter pointed out in relation to the ‘uncomfortable’ factor in Harper Lee’s modern classic, ‘that’s the point’; but if even Shakespeare is targeted in this revisionist facelift, anybody seeking to say something about the here and now has no chance.

What that says about the world we live in, a world wherein British policemen are sent out wearing nail varnish to virtue-signal their stance against modern slavery when they’re in a better position to stamp out the practice than the rest of us, is profoundly depressing. But this be 2017 in the septic isle.

© The Editor

7 thoughts on “ALAS, POOR LAVINIA

  1. “….universities today are akin to nurseries for mollycoddled adolescents….”

    Yup – but when 50% of brats are now somehow deemed worthy of such tertiary education (when what we really need are plumbers), is it any wonder that (a) standards drop through the floor to lowest common denominator level and (b) the little snowflakes have to be protected from precisely the sort of open learning that fuelled previous success.

    At my single-sex secondary school in the 60s, the occasional fruity bits in various Shakespeare plays were all that passed for sex-education – the theory being that, if you asked what it meant, the master could then explain: if you didn’t ask, then it was presumed you already knew, so why waste valuable learning-time on it. No-one ever asked.

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  2. I work in tertiary education. We are turning out more graduates than there are jobs for.
    It used to be that a university education would prepare you for a wide range of careers because of the challenging nature of the subject matter. Due to the large number of unsuitable students we get the course content has to be dumbed-down so the graduates we produce are for the most part useless in their subject area – so they go into teaching which completes the cycle.

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    1. It may be depressing on the inside, but don’t forget the benefits.
      All those new graduates with their impressive degrees in drama and media studies are now well-equipped to inflect so many different emotions in their everyday work-place phrases, such as “Would you like fries with that?”.
      Thanks for that, Mr Blair – now I’d better call Bogdan from Budapest to get that dripping bath-tap fixed.

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  3. How far my alma mater has fallen. And i too saw pictures of some Plod with blue nail polish that was crossing my social media. I koked on here recently about how I enjoyed an Alex Jones rant about Spirit Cooking; and indeed I do enjoy it, partly as performance art, which is exactly what Jones’ lawyer described it as in his recent custody battle, and rightly so.
    But the funny thing about Infowars is that within each each slightly off the wall crazed anti Soros diatribe there is a grain of truth. It seems to me that in the weird, PC, trans and fluidity gender politics of “these people” there is a calculated agenda, and the agenda is the destruction of the family, the feminisation of men and the destruction of the beauty of femininity. Just look at those fucktards wearing “pussy” hats as they marched against Trump, lead by a woman – Linda Sarsour – who hates everything about America and who is clearly – and I mean this – a psychopath who given the chance would burn to death any white male who did not bend the knee to Islam.
    And before anyone thinks I have joined the ranks of crazed white supremacists, I ask you to ponder this. As a white male, small c conservative, I found myself watching a video or two which featured arch lefty feminist Camille Paglia. Paglia is or was, as I understand it, at the spearpoint of 60’s feminism, much vaunted by the progressives, but, surprise surprise, she’s clearly an intelligent woman and she sees big trouble coming. She has repeatedly warned that we are in a situation which has parallels with the fall of Rome, and the collapse of civilisation, in which social norms which are rooted in biology are corrupted and broken down, and in which an infantile population sleepwalks to its own destruction.
    She is right.
    My grandfathers fought in the trenches of WW!. My father stormed a beach on D Day. I read John Webster and rather enjoyed his ever present sense of malice and impending evil. These students cannot read Romeo and Juliette without a safe space because it is full of White Privilege. Policemen flaunt purple nail polish but ignore grooming gangs and mass abuse, because it is a cultural issue. This ends only one of two ways; the fall of the West and darkness, or war. God help us all.
    I will leave a link to Paglia below.

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  4. Think of it this way. me, a white, middle aged male conservative traditionalist, with a deep instinctive disdain for the “progressive” feminism of the left, and yet I find this woman is talking more sense than I have heard in a month of Sundays. For those with a little time and willingness to listen I offer two presentations which make more sense than i ever could. One is via the noted fascist (i.e he disagrees with SJW’s) Sargon, and another from the noted fascist (i.e. he disagrees with the Clintons and is broadly pr Trump) Stefan Molyeneux. Both make for chilling reading/listening. Enjoy.

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