Gareth Roberts Gareth Roberts

TV trigger warnings are out of control

(Photo: iStock)

The warnings on what we now call ‘content’ (i.e. what we used to know as films and TV shows) are getting ever more ludicrous. Almost everything made before 2000 now carries a cigarette packet-style exhortation or exculpation about race, sex and offensive attitudes.

But it’s getting even crazier. A friend of mine was channel hopping over the festive period and caught a stern banner, on nostalgia channel That’s TV, reading, all in capitals:

CONTAINS ADULT HUMOUR AND REFLECTS THE STANDARDS, LANGUAGE AND ATTITUDES OF ITS TIME. SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND THIS CONTENT OFFENSIVE.

What was this antediluvian horror? Birth of a Nation? Song of the South? No, it was an episode of Birds of a Feather ­– from 2015. Cast your mind back, if you can, to the standards, language and attitudes of the unfathomably distant 2015. Politicians such as David Cameron and Nigel Farage were making headlines. Pop stars Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith were all the rage. And Prince Andrew was in hot water after he was named in documents concerning disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein. So much has changed!

These warnings seem to exist merely to stave off idiots on social media complaining to Ofcom

These warnings are definitionally stupid. They take their viewing audience for fools and treat adults like children. They seem to exist merely to stave off idiots on social media complaining to Ofcom – and often only a solitary idiot, like the one person who lodged an objection to the blacking up in the forgotten children’s sitcom Rogue’s Rock, broadcast on Talking Pictures TV in 2020. The idea that a channel is endorsing what happens in a work of fiction is bizarre – it’s like accusing Penguin Books of endorsing murder because it publishes Crime and Punishment.

Then we have the utter vapidity of stating ‘this programme reflects the attitudes of its time’.

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