‘Is that really what happens now?’: Dame Judi Dench takes aim at trigger warnings

May 15, 2024
During a recent interview, the 89-year-old actress hit out at the rising trend of pre-show alerts being read out before live shows. Source: EPA PHOTO.

Nowadays it feels like everything is being slapped with a trigger warning, from classic children’s books such as The Wizard of Oz, Dr Seuss and Little House on the Prairie to the works of Shakespeare, it seems as though no piece of content is exempt from these cautionary notices

While maintaining a balance between alerting those who may be affected by potentially offensive content and upholding the freedom of expression is crucial,  there are some who have grown tired of such  practices.

One such figure who seems to have had enough of this growing trend is renowned actress Dame Judi Dench who suggested those who need trigger warnings should steer clear of the theatre.

During a recent interview with the Radio Times, the 89-year-old actress hit out at the rising trend of pre-show alerts being read out before live shows to prepare sensitive people for scenes of violence, abuse, bereavement, and loud noises.

“Do they do that? My God, it must be a pretty long trigger warning before King Lear or Titus Andronicus! Crikey, is that really what happens now?” she told the publication.

“I can see why they exist, and it is preparing people, I suppose, but if you’re that sensitive, don’t go to the theatre, because you could be very shocked. Where is the surprise of seeing and understanding it in your own way?

“Why go to the theatre if you’re going to be warned about things that are in the play? Isn’t the whole business of going to the theatre about seeing something that you can be excited, surprised, or stimulated by? It’s like being told they’re all dead at the end of King Lear. I don’t want to be told.”

Trigger warnings for sensitive viewers aren’t the only thing that has recently drawn the ire of Dench, with the actress pulling no punches when she penned an open letter to The Times, lashing out at The Crown creators for their “inaccurate and harmful account of history” after it was reported at the time that the 5th season of the show would depict the then Prince Charles plotting for the Queen’s abdication.

“The closer the drama comes to our present times, the more freely it seems willing to blur the lines between historical accuracy and crude sensationalism,” Dench wrote at the time.

Dench’s letter also called out the streaming giants for opting out of using a disclaimer stating that The Crown is a fictionalised drama, despite being previously advised to do so by the British government.

“While many will recognise The Crown for the brilliant but fictionalised account of events that it is, I fear that a significant number of viewers, particularly overseas, may take its version of history as being wholly true. Given some of the wounding suggestions apparently contained in the new series,” Dench’s letter read.

“No one is a greater believer in artistic freedom than I, but this cannot go unchallenged.

“The time has come for Netflix to reconsider — for the sake of a family and a nation so recently bereaved, as a mark of respect to a sovereign who served her people so dutifully for 70 years, and to preserve their own reputation in the eyes of their British subscribers.”

Dench’s correspondence with Netflix appeared to have made an impression, prompting the streaming platform to acknowledge that The Crown is a “fictional dramatisation”.

Netflix added a disclaimer to the beginning of the show that reads: “Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatisation tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign.”

-with BANG.


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