Watching The Crown on Netflix recently, I noted that every episode has the following warning at the top-left of the screen when it begins:
Sex, Nudity, Language, Smoking
I find these kinds of warning silly. I imagine that there are people who, upon seeing such a warning, will stay away from the program. This is the intended function, I suppose. But such a warning is nothing more than a dare to younger people.
Interestingly, in the case of The Crown at least, anyone reading said warning and then eagerly watching the show hoping for sex, nudity, language, and smoking will be somewhat disappointed. I have made it a little more than halfway through the second season and so far have not encountered any sex, nudity, or language (other than that of upper class English). Smoking, however, is another matter. Perhaps the warning should read:
Smoking, Smoking, Smoking, Smoking
It occurred to me for the first time (perhaps because I am slow on the uptake) that these warning are listed in order of seriousness, although that doesn’t seem to be quite the right word. Harmful to young minds, perhaps? If that is the case, I am rather amused.
Sex, when safe, doesn’t seem particularly harmful. If nudity were harmful I think we’d all be taking showers in our swimwear. Language, well, they do say the pen is mightier than the sword, and certainly words can sometimes hurt, but I’m not sure that is what the warning is about. Finally, we come to smoking.
Of all four items in this list, smoking is the only one I know of that causes cancer. I do find it a little ridiculous that the warning has made its way from cigarette packages to television shows on a streaming service that I willingly pay for (as opposed to say broadcast television). But still, I think we can all agree that smoking is harmful. And there is a lot of it in The Crown.
Incidentally, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I am really enjoying the show. I think that John Lithgow’s performance as Sir Winston Churchill is about the best Churchill I’ve seen done. Back in the summer of 2014 (I think) I read William Manchester’s 3-volume biography of Churchill and it was phenomenal. Indeed, parts of it were incredibly moving, such as the death of Marigold Churchill. That moved me so much that I wrote a post about it that has become a surprisingly evergreen post, though I have never figured out why. Anyway, the show is a good one, well-written, and well-acted, and while I can’t speak to its complete historical accuracy, it’s fun to watch.
Still, every time I start a new episode, I am reminded of the warning: Sex, Nudity, Language, Smoking. Each time I eagerly await the first three (the fourth is a given) and each time, I come away a little disappointed. (Indeed, The Crown is downright prude compared to Bridgerton, a half dozen or so scenes of which I have caught while Kelly watched it. The warning on that show might read: Sex, Sex on Stairs, Sex in Baths, Sex in Hallways.)
Here are some thoughts that come to mind when I see the warning:
- If anyone is looking for a name for an album or painting, you could do worse than Sex, Nudity, Language, Smoking.
- Sex, Nudity, Language, Smoking reads like an order of operation. In old movies, doesn’t the (implied) sex come first and the smoking come last?
- I wonder what Churchill would have had to say about warnings like these? For language, at least, we know, as he is famous for his quip about ending sentences with prepositions: “That is the kind of English up with which I will not put.”
There is at least one good thing about the warning: without it, I would have had nothing to write about this evening.
Given that warnings like these seem to proliferate, it makes me wonder if I need a warning at the top of each of my posts here on the blog. I have some ideas but they all either involve sex, nudity, language, or smoking, and out of an abundance of sensitivity on my part, I will spare sharing them with you.