As I write this, I am wondering whether I have become the personification of Kyle’s mom from South Park in her dogged and at times misguided pursuit of films and media containing ‘potty langauge’, however sometimes we have to risk inevitable ridicule in order to pursue that which is good, wholesome, honest, beautiful and true. Descriptions which could not be applied to the following Valentines Day cards display spotted in the front window of Scribbler cards shop in High Holborn London, earlier today. The lady who saw them was with her young children at the time and hurrying back home from a traumatic hospital appointment, hence she did not stop to complain.
They don’t really merit further explanation, but are these cards really appropriate for public display in a place where they may be easily read by young children? The average six year old would have little trouble deciphering the words, my daughter was literate at the much earlier age of four, and frankly no one should be put in a position (pardon the pun) to explain what “I would so take it up the bum for you” means to their children. I guess the only positive to come out of this particular statement is the implicit notion that anal sex is an unpleasant experience. (No wonder this blog often gets blocked by porn filters). Unless it’s supposed to be some postmodern ironic statement. Who knows?
Scribbler cards fulfil the juvenile jottings evoked by their brand name; “I love you because you have a big willy” is about the standard one would expect from an unsophisticated spotty hormonal and gauche thirteen year old. The old sexism canard cannot be pulled out either, both sexes are equally objectified, arguably the male more than the female, nonetheless”let’s get you out of that dress” does not even attempt to employ a witty double-entendre and neither does “sugar t*ts”. These cards are brash, crass and juvenile. “I f-ing love you” – oh how edgy! Most women would baulk were they the unfortunate recipient of such tasteful, thoughtful and refined sentiments. Your man obviously really values you for the quality of your mind and has gone to a lot of effort to express just the right sentiments, “I f-ing love you”.
Lest the objections be defined as an attempt to hamper free speech and ideas, greeting cards manufacturers should be able to produce as many tasteless, bawdy and gratuitously offensive cards they please – no words or ideas should be verboten, despite the fact that many will bemoan that they are symptomatic of a general coarsening of language and attitudes in an allegedly civilised society. Surely a country steeped in literary tradition, the love sonnets of Shakespeare and Sidney, the overtly lascivious and then scandalous suggestions of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and the sensuous poetry of John Donne (who hasn’t sniggered at hairy diadem), can do better than “I love your willy”?
It’s not simply that the cards themselves are awful, but that they are thought suitable to be put on public display where they may be viewed by impressionable children and young adults. This language is not deemed appropriate in the mainstream media, so neither should it be accepted in the High Street. Is this really what we want young people to aspire to, is this the pinnacle of romantic expression and desiring of the best outcome for the other?
Of course Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a marker in the Western calendar of consumerism and so perhaps it’s unsurprising that retailers need to stoop to ever more outrageous gimmicks to capture every possible niche in the market.
This could simply be a one-off display in a London shop window, however they seem to have deliberately chosen to put together a sample of their rudest and most offensive cards in order to generate curiosity and resulting foot-fall. These same cards are not on general display on their website, they are categorised under the heading of “rude”. Although obscene would be more appropriate judging by some of them, which utilise the theme of sexual humiliation; “you’re a cheap good for nothing wh*re” being one of the more printable sentiments. There is a difference between adult-appropriate material being discretely sold and explicit offensive language being used as an advertising hook.
A complaint to Head Office would seem in order, along with assurances that none of these cards will be displayed within a child’s eyeline. In future I won’t be taking my children into Scribbler in Brighton to buy any birthday cards, just in case. I suggest other parents follow suit. Surely this kind of retail is exactly what the internet was invented for?
Saint Valentine is the patron saint of happy marriages, which aren’t best served by selfish sexual objectification of the other and lust.