This quote is a very good explanation of why it actually matters to put disclaimers before streaming content with content that is now considered offensive.
Years ago I interviewed Brian Eno and he was amazing. But one thing he said about streaming music has always stayed with me: that his daughters listened to stuff from all sorts of eras without any idea of genre or timeline or context because it was all equally available to them. As he put it, everything was present.
And I think that’s the big difference in the last decade or so of pop culture: we now accumulate stuff rather than replace it. Instead of The Office being a sitcom people remember from a decade ago, it’s a show they’re watching now. There’s new pop culture, but it has to elbow for room amongst humanity’s vast back catalogue.
And because everything is present, everything is necessarily judged against the standards of the present. So where once you’d only see, for example, an episode of the Muppets if you knew what it was and sought it out, now it’s just something popular on Disney+ that anyone can stumble over and go “um, why is Johnny Cash flanked by Confederate flags? I didn’t know he was a white supremacist!”
And, friends, THAT is why we’re getting disclaimers on shows or letting old children’s books go out of print: not because people are oversensitive or hysterical or stupid, but because society changes and pop culture used to keep pace with that, but now that everything remains accessible we interact with our cultural past differently.
This is a monologue which I would once have delivered with verve and panache in a pub after many beers but is now being typed on a phone in my loungeroom at 10pm on a Friday night THANKS A BUNCH PARENTHOOD.
-Andrew P Street
(Also, in case you're wondering, Andrew P Street seems to be an Australian music writer and Brian Eno is a British musician.)
As an aside, I also think it's hilarious that people are so concerned about people being "too sensitive" to need warnings for overtly racist content, but demand warnings before being shown human bodies or hearing certain words or even being exposed to "mature themes" where people talk about the fact that people sometimes die.
We have had content warnings for at least as long as I've been alive, we have simply added something to the pile of things that we should be warned about.
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