Monday, November 11, 2013

Labels and Legends

Media live by legends; or rather by labels, and a label is a sort of legend. The great mass of people, which is US, cannot do with an excess of complexity or subtlety. We have to be given a frame, or structure, of simplicity if we are to have any kind of context for what we read. A famous incident labels a figure. It may be quite untypical of that figure. Ever afterwards it is a placard hanging round his or her neck -- 'This is Bishop John Robinson: he gave evidence for the defence in the Lady Chatterley case.' We, the public, need reminding who people are. This reminds us. The label helps. Yet the label creates a legend. We read all else we know of a character in the light of a label, which may record some moment or happening entirely untypical of the person round whose neck we see the label hanging.

Owen Chadwick, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: 1990), p. 157.


  1. ombhurbhuva2:17 PM

    I've always thought of him as Bishop John 'honest to God' Robinson which is how he was mostly presented.

  2. branemrys3:19 PM

    That's the way I've found him mostly presented; I think this is largely fueled by Evangelicals and readers of C. S. Lewis, who are most likely to have read comments about him along such lines. The Lady Chatterley thing, particularly the claim that Christians should read it, does come up in biographies, though, even very brief biographical summaries.

  3. Enbrethiliel5:55 AM


    This goes well with the Country Music Crisis post. If you are happy to let labels tell you all you need to know about a person, then you will also use labels to tell others all they need to know about you.

  4. branemrys7:40 AM

    It would explain why some of it seems so strained -- trying too hard to make themselves legends.


Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.