Read the Label
Despite living in an age where access to information has never been easier, the concept of an informed choice still seems to elude a substantial percentage of the population. Take for example the new television show Gunpowder, which was broadcast last night at 9:10 PM on BBC One in the UK. The very fact that it is being broadcast after nine o’clock at night should be indicative of adult content. Otherwise it would have been broadcast prior to that time. The next logical step for any potential viewer, should have been to at the very least, to consult a TV Guide. This would have informed the audience of the show’s content. And being a drama set in a period of history in which Catholics were persecuted and publicly tortured, it would be logical to conclude that there may well be scenes of this nature. Furthermore, the first episode of the drama was prefixed by a warning about its content prior to broadcast. However, a small percentage of viewers were still surprised by the violent content and saw fit to complain about in either directly to the BBC or via twitter.
It would appear that even in this day and age, there are still a lot of people that decide to watch programs blind. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is this group that frequently holds up their hands in horror at being exposed to something they do not care for. The fact that they brought the situation upon themselves seems to be conveniently ignored and typically the displeased viewer immediately seeks to find someone else to blame for this outrage. Take for example the latest series of the historical drama Victoria, currently being broadcast in the UK on ITV. A gay kiss prompted a small quantity of complaints that the tabloid newspapers were quick to capitalise on. We won’t stray into debating the homophobia but what amazes me is the fact that the inclusion of these scenes upset some people. Yet despite the scene being justifiable within the context of the drama, we still find a few voices claiming moral outrage and an erosion of “family values”. All too often one gets the sense that some folk are simply looking to be “offended” and that it’s become a national pastime.
Although we do live in broadly more tolerant times than we did forty years ago, a cursory trawl of the Internet shows a wealth of similar situations. There seems to be someone getting upset by what they’ve seen, read or heard, every day. Most of these incidences stem from the fact that people simply haven’t bothered to check what they are watching or what website they were visiting beforehand. This problem has reached such large proportions, that some organisations have seen fit to add an extra layer of consumer information in attempt to inform the public. One such example is the British Board of Film Classification, which are responsible for classifying and rating all cinema and video related material available in the UK. They call this additional tier of consumer advice on their website, “insight”. Often the detailed description of the movie’s content will include plot spoilers but once read a viewer would be under no illusion about the material included in the film. Below is the “insight” details for the horror movie Jigsaw.
Returning to the subject of television and the regulation of its content, people will argue that video on demand services such as Netflix negate the concept of the watershed. That is a valid point. Streaming allows continuous access to a broad range of material. This shift in viewing habits increasingly places the onus on the viewer to be even more aware of exactly what they are watching. It also demonstrates the importance of parental control over children’s viewing, a functionality that is built into most streaming platforms. Sadly, in an age where family and communal viewing is in decline and a television in every room is commonplace, too often such parental duties are neglected. “Will someone please think of the children” is a common refrain often heard after a child is upset by something they shouldn’t have seen. Yet if the parent or guardian had exercised their duties correctly to begin with, then the entire situation could have been avoided.
Of course, this problem also manifests itself in the world of video games. How often do we hear about parents who have gone to a retail outlet, purchased a game that clearly has a rating on the packaging stating that its intended for a mature audience, only to hand it over to a child? The fact that they have technically breached the law is always conspicuously overshadowed by their misplaced shock and indignation, when they subsequently see the nature of the game that their child is playing! The resultant outrage never ceases to amaze me. But of course, it’s always somebody else’s fault these days, isn’t it? And then the same problem spills out into music. A good many parents will have absolutely no idea of what their children may be listening to. Dare I mention reading material as well?
And therein lies the problem. You can provide the public with an indefinite amount of consumer advice but you cannot ensure that they’ll actually take heed of it. In a democratic society, there really isn’t an alternative way to tackle such problems. I do not like Draconian laws that favour the stupid minority at the inconvenience of the sensible majority. So, the only tactic we are left with is to continue to reiterate the message and to trust in attrition. In the meantime, next time some dumb ass complains in the public in the fashion I’ve described, I would strongly advocate that rather than give that missed guided individual the oxygen of publicity, we should simply point and laugh as loudly as we can. Stupidity may not be a crime but it is the ruination of Western civilisation and should be challenged wherever it appears.