Taking a break from all online activity for several days can be a bit of a gamble. Hell, how was I to know the head of the Met would be belatedly pushed before she jumped in my absence, thus leaving this here blog bereft of a swift post-mortem on a useless individual who will henceforth be sailing off into the sunset on a handsome retirement package as well as the inevitable seat in the Lords as Baroness Dick of Head within a year? Mind you, it could’ve been worse; it could’ve been Boris, and I would therefore have been denied an instant obituary to line up alongside those of David Cameron and Theresa May. Whilst the PM is doing his best to keep a low profile following his schoolboy-apologising-to-the-headmaster grilling in the Commons last week, Fleet Street’s ongoing fascination with the woman who currently has ownership of his balls shows no sign of abating, though ‘Carrie Antoinette’ (I can’t claim credit for that one, alas) has a limited shelf-life that simply serves to keep the saga running whilst the Tories decide whether or not any suitable replacements are prepared to trigger a leadership contest.
As is the case during this hysterical, newsworthy-for-24-hours era – whereby one favoured headline has to be pored over relentlessly in sensationalistic, speculative fashion for a day before being hurriedly superseded by the next (lest the viewers’ collective attention span expires) – the mortal remains of Cressida Dick have already been gutted by the MSM to the point whereby any further dissection of them could feel like exhuming Sgt Dixon’s cadaver. At the same time, the tense situation along the Ukrainian border, which was discussed here when it began to boil over a couple of weeks back, is a subject that any rushed analysis of could date within hours; probably best to come back to it when what everyone is expecting to happen actually happens. With this in mind, I’ll momentarily linger on a growing pop cultural trend I noticed has moved on into dubious new areas.
In the face of joyless Puritans permanently on the lookout for something to remove from the history books, some artists have been issuing preemptive strikes. Over the last few months, ‘Brown Sugar’ has been dropped from the Stones’ set-list after half-a-century and Elvis Costello has exercised self-censorship re ‘Oliver’s Army’ before the serial cancellers beat him to it. It’s a sad state of affairs that artists feel they themselves have to act as Ministry of Truth employees for fear that the artless will do it for them without asking, as each apologetic compromise to the unforgiving consensus earns them no stay of execution. After all, there is no concept of redemption in the new religion; once damned, one is damned for eternity. Much better to adopt the stance of Woody Allen’s character in the superb 1976 movie set during the McCarthy era, ‘The Front’; called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Allen declares he doesn’t recognise the authority of the Committee to interrogate him and abruptly exits by telling them to go f*** themselves.
Oh, for a brave soul to do likewise today. Joe Rogan has blotted his copybook somewhat by issuing what amounts to a half-arsed apology, something that will eventually be seen as an unnecessary olive branch held out to those whose only response will be to set fire to it. As has been rightly pointed out over the past week, sexual misconduct allegations will be the next weapon unleashed from the Woke arsenal if accusations of retrospective racism have proven unsuccessful. It’s a familiar contemporary pattern that is as predictable as night following day now; a minor employee will allege Mr Rogan touched her inappropriately ten years ago before too long and the demonisation will be complete. Therefore, the artist doesn’t need to humiliate himself when confronted by the 21st century’s McCarthy militia, for the militia will proceed regardless – and it has been hard at it for a long time.
Whether the removal of gollywogs from Enid Blyton books, the disappearance of Paul McCartney’s cigarette from the front cover of ‘Abbey Road’ or, of course, the ‘Top of the Pops’ revision that tells us Gary Glitter or Jimmy Savile had no part to play in pop culture beyond allegedly abusing underage girls on an industrial scale, ironing out the rough edges of the past is nothing new. A reference to ‘Negro spirituals’ being sung whilst the prisoners of HM Prison Slade dig a trench in ‘Porridge’ was excised when the haphazard dispersal of soil resulted in Fletcher informing Godber that he had no desire to visually resemble said slave labour. A wisecrack typical of Ronnie Barker’s character was removed without once taking into account the audience’s awareness that the programme was produced in the mid-1970s and therefore contains attitudes common to the era, especially from a character born in the 1930s like Norman Stanley Fletcher. To edit old dialogue so that it chimes with contemporary sensibilities is as ridiculous a move as the box-ticking BBC efforts to re-imagine the Britain of the past as some 21st century Islington dinner party vision of a multicultural nation.
Hollywood has set the pace in this revisionism and, not content with producing unwatchable Critical Race Theory lectures masquerading as entertainment (lectures that the cinema-going public mysteriously don’t queue-up to sit through) it has now re-imagined some of its past Identity Politics-free output that people are still drawn to. Disney’s animated masterpiece ‘Fantasia’ has already suffered from this approach, and over the weekend I caught a TV screening of what was once one of my favourite movies, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Around half-an-hour in, I began to realise that one notable aspect of the iconic Audrey Hepburn classic was strangely absent. Having watched the film on numerous occasions, I knew it more or less scene-by-scene and I was naturally expecting the appearance of Mickey Rooney’s toe-curling ‘Jap’ neighbour complaining about the noise from Holly Golightly’s apartment – yet he never appeared.
After a while, it dawned on me an entire character played by a box-office star in his own right had strangely vanished from the story. Now, before I go any further, I have to admit ‘Mr Yunioshi’ has always made me wince and I regarded this particular character as the sole weak link in an otherwise perfect film; a competent actor and household name for decades prior to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, Mickey Rooney was nevertheless responsible for a portrayal of an oriental idiot in the movie that would put Benny Hill to shame, played purely for laughs complete with comedy goofy teeth – even though it’s not remotely amusing. It’s an unfunny, cringe-inducing performance and would be even if ‘yellow-face’ accusations hadn’t permeated the narrative. I confess I often used to skim through his scenes whenever watching it on a VHS tape back in the day, but did I want Hollywood’s PC police intervening and removing him on my outraged behalf? In a word, no; but it’s happened; the version of the film I saw this time round had no Mr Yunioshi in it. Admittedly, it was a superior watch without him, but that’s not the point.
As with those cheering the toppling of statues of unloved figures from the sidelines, once a trend has been set in motion and has been legitimatised as a means of removing a character from the picture, what happens when those with an unquenchable appetite for destruction then turn their attention to someone the cheerleader for anarchy holds dear – as they will do? Granted, few who love the film will mourn the absence of Mickey Rooney from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, yet this is a dangerous precedent. Are all derogatory references to the colour of the black sheriff in ‘Blazing Saddles’ to be edited out, robbing the movie of a key element of its storyline in the process? Give it time. The list is relatively endless of old movies primed for this treatment, and having seen it done once I don’t doubt I’ll see it done again. A cultural line has been crossed, and nothing is sacred when you give a green light that lets loose the non-creative on the creative, however unfashionable their creative endeavours may now be.
© The Editor