Stephen Fry: Through the Posh Looking Glass.
Stephen Fry, the national treasure, came out and told abuse survivors to grow up. With a wave of fury hitting the press, it got me thinking.
Now, don’t get me wrong: thinking is exactly what Mr Fry esquire provokes. QI, a television show researched and co-ordinated by an army of fact-finding back-room boys, has offered him the illusion of total infallibility. This is the kind of thinking I disdain. Provoking thought through a lens of hedonistic, archaic language doesn’t do his past work any favours. In any case, the man is a very wealthy individual with loyal fans: he has his platform (Read Paris Lees’ excellent opinion piece for more).
I don’t agree that people should have to sift through negativity and rudeness to find true meaning, I really don’t. I worship Orwell, not Fry. Orwell never minced his words. There are friends of mine that have had the treatment Fry alludes to, and there is nothing dignified in belittling it. That said, I can see a faint consonant of sense through the posh, ill-thought out babble.
Maintaining cultural intrigue relies, in part, on pushing socially accepted boundaries. If we are to support ‘trigger warnings’, the relevance of which should be debated separately, we must accept the loss of a confrontational, sometimes brutal form of culture: confrontation I found of serious importance in Marlon James’ Man Booker Prize novel A History of Seven Killings.
Suggest, after writing an inflammatory novel or composing an album laced with violent references, the creator forgot to include their disclaimer at the beginning. Outrage! Terror! The art is beheld by a person who can relate to a particular trope and is worse off for it. A petition is created, the artist stops production and we all feel safe in the knowledge that it will never come up again, never to be explored; no matter how relevant the issue is to the overall message of the piece.
It is, in the world of art, nonsensical.
Stepping back to assess if ones work triggers people is one step away from “this work offends me”.
I despise violence of any kind towards children, but I’m proud that there are so many painters, sculptures, dancers, actors and writers out there forcing the public to stare into the the issues that count in eloquent, well-thought out ways.
Mr Fry sympathise and be glad that, in time, victims of atrocities may come to feel closure through great art past and present. Let’s allow trigger warnings to be that, a warning, and only that. Let’s stop banning books from schools and trivializing our galleries. I’d rather be working on that than alienating the masses.