“For May wol have no slogardie a-night.
The seson priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his slepe to sterte.”
Now who can argue with that? The passage is from a story Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” “The Knightes Tale,” the English classic written between 1387 and 1400. I did not expect a substantive comment regarding Chaucer to follow an Ethics Alarms post (Chaucer has been mentioned in passing here in the context of the evolution of the English language), but there it was: Michael West revealed his fascinating discovery that Chaucer may have been a pioneer in more than just English literature. Michael’s Comment of the Day is unusual in another way besides its erudition. It was a comment on a post that is nearly two years old. It concerned the jaw-dropping warning that preceded the “Darkest Hour,” the acclaimed film about the wartime heroism and brilliance of Winston Churchill:
“The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.”
I wrote at the time,
Winston Churchill, you see, smoked cigars. Actually he chain-smoked them, and inhaled. They were among his trademarks. Any adult who doesn’t know that should not have graduated from high school. Interestingly, shooting and bombing people are also serious health risks, so I don’t know why it wasn’t noted that the “depictions of warfare contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration.”
Whatever “based solely on artistic consideration” is supposed to mean…
Of course, showing Churchill smoking cigars is not an “artistic consideration,” but one of historical accuracy and integrity. Does this mean that there was really a debate in the studio about whether or not Churchill should be shown smoking, so as not to trigger good little progressive totalitarians, who believe in changing the past for the greater good of the present? I wonder if they considered making Winston, who was fat, appear slim and ripped, since the surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with obesity and over-eating. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, if they felt that showing people smoking in the 1930s, when almost everyone smoked, might be interpreted as promoting smoking today. Churchill also drank like Bluto in “Animal House.” Why no warning about that? Uh-oh—does this mean that the film, for artistic considerations, only shows Winston sipping soda water and prune juice?
That warning says to me, “We, your Hollywood moral exemplars, think you are an ignorant, illiterate dummy who can’t tell the difference between a historical drama and a tobacco commercial. We also support the government’s belief that it should impose on every aspect of your life, including your entertainment, to protect you from yourself.”
I had, mercifully, completely forgotten about that asinine warning, and now I’m ticked off all over again. Gee, thanks, Michael, for reminding me.
Here is Michael West’s Comment of the Day on the post, “A Trigger Warning About A Trigger Warning: Audiences Should Walk Out Of The Movie Theater When This Appears”...
Trigger warning in Chaucer???
Up front: I’m inspired to ask this because I listen to an excellent podcast (among many excellent ones I listen to) about the English Language. For full credit, you can find its website here: https://historyofenglishpodcast.com/ . It’s fascinating, start from the beginning.
But the most recent episode highlights a line in the Miller’s Tale that sounds like a “trigger warning”, in Middle English it essentially provides full disclosure that the following storyline contains extreme vulgarity.
Here’s an excerpt of “The Miller’s Tale,” provided by an interlinear translation found here:
I’ve deleted out the Middle English portion to provide the current verbiage.
What more should I say, but this Miller
He would not refrain from speaking for any man,
But told his churl’s tale in his manner.
I regret that I must repeat it here.
And therefore every respectable person I pray,
For God’s love, think not that I speak
Out of evil intention, but because I must repeat
All their tales, be they better or worse,
Or else (I must) falsify some of my material.
And therefore, whoever does not want to hear it,
Turn over the leaf and choose another tale”;
Has Chaucer provided a trigger warning to readers sensitive to foul language and vulgar story???