Heaven knows, anything goes – and the problem with the principle of ‘anything goes’ is that it eventually and somewhat seamlessly translates into ‘everything goes’; and we’ve been here before. The breaking down of repressive barriers is a good thing, but the difficulty is judging when to stop and how far to go before one has gone beyond the pale. The counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s was confronted by this conundrum, when all the genuinely objectionable laws and social mores that had made the immediate post-war era so restrictive for numerous outsiders were gradually eased as we were steered in the direction of a more socially enlightened society. But when the demands of the few are taken into consideration, the demands of the fewer also claim the right to be heard. By the early 70s, the loosening of sexual morals in particular resulted in European film festivals devoted to pornography promoted as though they were on a par with an established cinematic celebration such as Cannes. With the likes of Germaine Greer on the judges’ panel, one even pushed the boat out as far as bestiality – well, if anything goes, everything goes; to object on moral grounds would be to line-up with The Man, no?
The notorious ‘Paedophile Information Exchange’ was a further example of what happens when any form of censorship is perceived as symbolic of a repressive old order that needs to be utterly obliterated. It’s not unlike the ‘all property is theft’ maxim, which essentially means anyone has the right to come into your home and help themselves to whatever you own; transplanting this principle to sexual peccadilloes means any perversion is legitimate and none should be bracketed as deviant. So, this invariably leads to gimps on dog leads openly participating in a jolly Pride Parade for all the family and the endless variations of ‘trans’ can cry discrimination if they perceive the sub-gender they’ve just invented to identify as is being oppressed by the wicked heterosexual patriarchy. If this goes on unchecked, you end up with a situation in which a man who identifies as a woman is publicly referred to as ‘he’ and the offence is a sackable one for the misgendering miscreant. Or a male rapist in a dress can be locked up alongside hundreds of vulnerable women. Raise any objections and you’re part of the problem rather than the solution.
Anyone who remembers the P.I.E controversy of six or seven years back – a long-forgotten issue rescued from obscurity as part of Tom Watson’s imaginary ‘Westminster Paedophile Ring’ crusade – might recall how Harriet Harman was dragged into the scandal on account of her libertarian approach to social issues as a leading light in the right-on wing of the Labour Party at the turn of the 80s. Harman’s exposure as a former ‘loony lefty’ who had endorsed P.I.E as a legitimate fringe group entitled to their rights highlighted the problems with applying the ‘anything goes’ template to everyone who demands to have their personal notion of freedom of expression recognised. Some remain unacceptable for a reason, and a line has to be drawn in the sand at some point.
But what of a film that is marketed as sexualising prepubescent girls by dressing them as twerking lap-dancers? Unacceptable, surely – especially if directed by a middle-aged white man? We’d be in Harvey Weinstein territory, then. But what if the director is a Woman of Colour? Er…well, that’s good, isn’t it? That’s what diversity’s all about, innit? As long as someone fulfils a quota, that’s okay, yeah? Guardianistas have been tying themselves in knots when presented with the ultimate moral head-f**k for the Identity Politics Utopia that is ‘Cuties’. A black woman as a director = good; Paedophilia = bad. What do we do? That’s the problem when someone gets the gig not on merit but because they tick a box – you can’t then backtrack when they f**k up. You have to bend over backwards to defend them, even when they make a movie that wonderfully underlines the double standards and hypocrisy at the heart of Woke. I see Kate Winslet is now wondering aloud how she could possibly have consented to star in films directed by Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Perhaps she did so because they have both produced a body of work today’s directors can only dream about and she knew it would enhance her career at the time – and it’s not as if the ugly rumours encircling either were utterly unheard of when she did so; maybe it’s more a case of guilt needing to be proven rather than assumed back then. If only they’d both been Women of Colour, eh?
As for ‘Cuties’, a Netflix film that apparently presents erotic dancing as a life-affirming career for little girls, the public reaction compared to the pitiful critical defence has again exhibited the vast chasm between the cultural elite and the consumer. I haven’t seen it and I’ve no intention of doing so; the glimpses of the trailer online were nauseating enough for me. But the fact that Netflix promoted it in the way they did and were then surprised at people’s disgust says everything you need to know. The widespread cancellations of Netflix subscriptions that have followed has been interesting; but perhaps a company that splashes out millions on Duchess Dumb and Duke Dumber for an imminent schedule of Woke lectures shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as the producer of intelligent and groundbreaking television that its early successes suggested. The cancellers have been cancelled – and it had absolutely nothing to do with race, gender or any other Identity Politics agenda.
DIANA RIGG (1938-2020)
The sudden and unexpected death of Diana Rigg comes just a handful of months after the passing of the woman she replaced in ‘The Avengers’, Honor Blackman; both characters these iconic actresses played on the much-loved 60s fantasy series, Emma Peel and Cathy Gale, offered an original take on female role models not just for the time but for now. Patrick Macnee once said the key to the onscreen dynamic between him and Rigg was the combination of an 18th century man with a 21st century woman. Unfortunately, it would seem the manner in which Diana Rigg was treated behind the scenes was rooted in the 19th century – poorly paid, exploited and undervalued.
But it’s testament to Rigg that she continued to embody the independent spirit of Emma Peel by not playing the victim and rising above it, transcending typecasting as she walked away from ‘The Avengers’ when it was British TV’s biggest international money-spinner. She made the leap to the movies by playing the only Bond girl ever to marry the hero in the memorably moving climax to George Lazenby’s solitary outing as 007, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’; her other most beloved big screen offering was the blackly comic early 70s horror film in which she starred alongside Vincent Price, ‘Theatre of Blood’.
Diana Rigg went on to establish a reputation as a Great British thespian, adding her name to the illustrious Dames of the theatrical world, but she also continued to do plenty of sterling TV work on both sides of the Atlantic for decades, specialising in deliciously horrid dowager-types as she grew old gracefully. However, she never dismissed her time as Emma Peel with the disdain that many ‘serious actors’ do re the fun roles that made their names (Martin Shaw, anyone?); instead, she always came across as recognising she’d been part of something special and that she owed her subsequent success to that uniquely English series which remains quite unlike anything before or since. And it wouldn’t have been so without the great talent that was Diana Rigg.
© The Editor