an adventure in the absurd and downright disgusting

It’s hard to know whether or not one should recommend an episode of a television program that features an unredacted screening of Martin Creed’s Sick Film – a film of sick people.

For what it’s worth, I gagged and looked away. Personally, I’d rather watch Question Time 2015-2021, Peter Jackson’s Cut, than see this again.

That said, however, Sick Film and its explicit companion S–t Film perfectly illustrated the point that presenter Mary Beard was trying to make in this first episode of her otherwise excellent new series, The Forbidden Art of Mary Beard (BBC Two). The fact was that certain arts were always forbidden to someone somewhere; one person’s sunflowers are another person’s sunflowers.

The Romans, Beard’s specialist subject, had no problem with statues of the god Pan having explicit sex with a goat (which, as Pan is half-goat himself, takes a while to unravel). So maybe it’s just us 21st century prudes who can’t stand to see someone drop a poop and walk away.

There have been several series in recent months about supposed taboos, like breastfeeding your boyfriend or having sex with a flatbed scanner (I made up the latter but it’s got to be something somewhere). They mostly have to do with how one person’s obscenity is another’s normality, and how they all thrive in the cultural petri dish that is the internet.