The Ministry of Appropriateness

I know one cannot condone offensive – or even just plain “bad” – behaviour, but is it just me or does anyone else think there’s something vaguely “inappropriate” about accusing the New York comedian Louis CK of “inappropriate behaviour”? Louis CK has made a living standing up on stage or in front of cameras telling people about how inappropriate his behaviour is in real life, and often lamenting it, or at least the romantic consequences. The more inappropriate he is, the more they applaud and the more airtime he gets. It’s a perfect case of “But I told you so…”. In other words, is nothing unsacred?

So what next? Will we be asking President Trump to be politically correct – or even grammatically correct? God forbid. Here is an extract from his recent speech in South Korea: “Together, our nations remind the world of the boundless potential of societies that choose freedom over tyranny, and who set the free. And we will free, and we will sacrifice, and we will hope, and we will make things beautiful, especially the aspirations of your people.”

With a bit of luck, nobody understood what he was saying anyway, least of all himself, and as one report has suggested it probably sounded better in the original Russian.

But back to the question of appropriateness… 

The word “appropriate” means “suitable or proper in the circumstances” and, in this sense, dates from the early 15th century, stemming from the Latin “appropriatus”, the past participle of “appropriare” (“to make one’s own”, hence the English verb “to appropriate”). The problem is, who decides what is appropriate or not? There is an open-and-shut case here for creating a Ministry of Appropriateness, along with a dedicated Appropriateness Police, then we’d really know where we were.

I have a vague recollection of someone saying something inappropriate to me in a pub about 25 years ago. When I remember who it was, and what they said, I think I’ll sue them. And while we’re on the subject, how long is it going to be – in the inappropriateness stakes – before a man sues a woman? (This reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch, which it would be totally inappropriate to repeat here.)

In the meantime, when every film and series has been scrapped because someone who acted in it behaved or spoke inappropriately, when Netflix and HBO and Amazon have all collapsed like Ozymandias into the lone and level desert sands and the screens have gone blank and the loudspeakers emit only white noise, what are we going to do with our spare time?

Walk the dog, I suppose, which is what I should have been doing in the first place instead of writing this.

My personal wake-up call for the new age? “Appropriate a Life!”

© 2017 Adrian Mathews