Before a recent episode of the thrilling US import Homeland (Sundays), the Channel 4 announcer carefully pointed out that there would be “nudity, sexual scenes and strong language from the start”.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear anything like this, particularly when it’s said in a Serious Voice, that rebellious little Jiminy Cricket who lives somewhere in my frontal lobe strikes up with “A filth alert! Wey hey! Get in! Everyone, come here and see, there’s muck on the telly!”
I wonder who needs these warnings before a thoughtful, adult drama about power and trust? Who are they meant to protect? Maybe granny hasn’t yet gone to bed and is still sucking eggs in the parlour, so you’ve got ten seconds before the first back-arching moan on screen to throw a blanket over her and get her up the stairs.
Or perhaps your adorable ringleted children in their sailor suits are playing cup-and-ball way past their bedtime and nanny needs a minute to bundle them up to the nursery, where she will read them The House at Pooh Corner.
Anyone who watches Homeland presumably knows that it is full of “nudity, sexual scenes and strong language from the start”. And no, that’s not why we watch it. Not all of us, anyway (you know who you are). It’s not as if we switch over to Channel 4 at 9pm on Sundays expecting that, in a radical departure, this week’s Homeland will feature Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood urging CIA agent Carrie Mathison to bake the perfect croquembouche.
Similarly, I don’t understand prissy warnings before unpleasant footage of war or famine shown in post-watershed news bulletins. Who are these tender daisies, these delicate blooms, who have to be alerted to look away from the bad things happening in the world? Where do they live? On clouds made of fairy dust and marshmallow?
You are ADULTS, for pity’s sake, so act like it. It’s YOUR world, play your part; you’re meant to feel outrage and revulsion at atrocities, it’s part of being human. If everyone averts their gaze from the barbarism of dictators, what hope is there for the oppressed?
But we live in an increasingly bland and homogenised world, where everyone is encouraged to take offence at anything – jokes, books, thoughts, TV dramas, comedies – by people we can’t see, people who are offended, or who are prepared to be offended, on our behalf.
And what is offensive? I find the abject emptiness of reality shows such as Desperate Scousewives, Geordie Shore and The Only Way Is Essex insulting and invidious. But where is the caring presentation person who warns me before TOWIE: “We wish to advise viewers that there will be scenes where Arg gets his nostrils waxed that are of such soul-sucking vacuity that some of you may find yourselves staring into the empty space where your intellect used to be. And you will weep.”
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 14 March 2012