My favourite scene in Pulp Fiction isn’t the car-cleaning episode with Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolf (brilliantly repurposed by Saatchi & Saatchi for Direct Line), but the gruesome revenge sequence when Marsellus Wallace promises his attacker he is “gonna git medieval on your ass”.
(The reason for his revenge isn’t something that can decently be shared in a magazine like Campaign.)
Marsellus’ promise to “git medieval” is something I identify with. In fact, “git(ting) medieval” is something we all might benefit from doing more often.
You see, medievalism – or, more specifically, the works of Geoffrey Chaucer – is my secret work weapon.
It’s not just that Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a dissection of human foibles and pretensions as relevant today as it ever was, nor that it’s packed full of consumer insight, nor that he has a great turn of phrase worthy of a 48sheet poster. It’s not even that there are lots of dirty bits and laugh-out-loud gags. Honestly, there are.
It’s more that medieval Chaucer generally comes up with good answers to modern questions.
Take our current concerns about “fake news”. Well, Chaucer was all over that – more than 600 years ago. In The House of Fame, in which Chaucer is flown around in the claws of a talking golden eagle (don’t ask), he comes across a “House of Rumour”, which is 60 miles wide, made of twigs, continually spinning out of control and disgorging an endless stream of rumour, gossip and news. More Twigger than Twitter, but weirdly prescient of it.
His answer? Well, the plug is pulled on the cacophony by a “man of great authority” – someone we might call a trusted editor figure. This reminds us, I’d argue, of what we’ve lost by allowing so much stuff to swill around the internet unmediated, without someone fact-checking, arbitrating, editing. And we think it was Chaucer who lived in the Dark Ages.
MALCOLM WHITE Chief strategy officer and founder, Krow