The B.B.C.produces some wonderful documentaries, yet somewhere in a back office sits The Official Stress Gauge. Is it a pleasantly middle-aged woman in twin-set and pearls, with a motherly concern for our emotional well-being ? Or is it a large machine, into whose maw are flung assorted tapes which are then passed through a politically correct robotic digestive system? She [or it] sends advisory notes to the printers of CD boxes. "Contains mild violence and nudity and moderate horror", says the blurb on my copy of "How Art Made the World". Everything except the integrity of words seems to be protected by this caveat. Okay, perhaps there are degrees of aggression and nudity----a badly thrown punch , or a breech-clouted bronze nude, but horror is not capable of polite qualification. Words like horror and terror, fury and ecstasy live on the far edge of language, occasionally enhanced by 'absolute' or 'total'. Better words exist for their less overwhelming emotional cousins, ----'fear', or 'anger', or 'joy', down to being 'scared' or 'cross ' or 'pleased.'
I suspect that my pedantic attitude towards warnings is because I probably don't want caveats for the arts. How can we be moved by the terrible beauty inherent in the arts if we are all kitted out in hard-hats and padded jackets? ....."Pssst," whispers the usher, "King Lear can be pretty awkward when he gets upset." ........ "Try to overlook the negative aspects of the Last Judgement, old chap" says a kindly guide in the Sistine Chapel, " these Italian fellows are inclined to be a bit over the top." ......"I suggest you leave during the slow movement, " advises the programme seller, "that Eroica can be a real tear-jerker."
No. Say : "The contents of this programme will probably disconcert you or move you. If you want anything less, we suggest a sit-com."