Should the BBC ban Oscar Wilde?

It seems that this Christmas won’t be Christmas as we know it. This year we will not have the joy of spending three or is it four long hours on Boxing Day playing spot the superannuated actor you thought was long dead, or name the old girl in wig and pearls, playing an amateur sleuth called Button or Bundle. The BBC have put away their annual Agatha Christie Boxing Day drama.

This is not because they’ve decided to give us a work by Ibsen, Wilde or Shaw, a satirical production of Gilbert & Sullivan, as they used to do, or a new play by Tom Stoppard. The ritual Christie fest has been cancelled because someone in it, Ed Westwick, a lad you will probably never have heard of has fallen from virtue.

Two women accused Westwick on Facebook of attacking them at his US home in 2014. He denies the claims and says he doesn’t know them. They have accused him of rape and he is being investigated by the police. The BBC says they ‘are not making any judgements’ but until the matter is resolved they are dropping the appropriately entitled ‘Ordeal by Innocence,’ from the Christmas schedules. The BBC like the railway companies don’t believe in spoiling us at Christmas so presumably there will be a big Dad’s Army filled hole left behind. White Gold the late night comedy where he appears has also been put on hold.

It’s hard to understand why Westwick is so important. He is not a household name, at least not in this one or anyone I have asked nearby. The cast contains at least eleven other well known actors, including Bill Nigh and Anna Chancellor. With its starry cast, elaborate filming, varied lush locations, in the UK and abroad, the three part drama probably cost at least a million of our money as licence payers. As he is not particularly well known to the general public and he has not been charged yet, let alone brought to court this move seems incredibly cautious. It can only be understood by seeing the BBC once the world’s most respected public service broadcaster, taking part in the great national moral panic which began in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein. Someone else almost no one had heard of.

It’s hard to believe that this is the same BBC which once used to revel in sin; sending Mrs Mary Whitehouse into a lather of rage at scenes of debauchery in its weekly Wednesday Play and in its weekly classic drama. Their production of Edward II for instance showed scenes of homosexual love which shocked the public at the time. Our TV screens were replete with dramas about seriously transgressive people from kitchen sink conflict to psychotic Roman emperors, Oscar Wilde a celebrity who liked young men, some under age, to Caravaggio who committed murder and Dylan Thomas a chronic alcoholic who abused his wife. I don’t think anyone ever enquired what the actors involved had been up to. Actors were not so important, or seen in any way as role models in those days. Now to appear in one late evening comedy seems to turn an actor into a celebrity, a new form of high priest of modern culture, expected to be impeccable in all his ways. Sophisticated people and BBC producers once suspended moral judgement in the interest of art. That culture, still paid for by us, has vanished.

If I ever met Miss Marple I would ask her how did this happen, why is Aunty back after being away for so long? I think the wise old bird might point out that she hasn’t come back to save our morals. She’s entirely here for the money.

In the UK we no longer produce great eccentric character actors, instead our young thespians, as in the USA have to be beautiful, mostly ex-models, and all very similar. To be seen as successful they now have to make it to Hollywood, become part of that homogenised face-lifted industry, just as every TV series made by the BBC is now chiefly a product for sale on the open market. Incredibly the BBC is now governed by what it thinks quite cynically the Americans will approve.

No one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of an audience and everything from BBC drama must now be as unchallenging and safe as, well, an Agatha Christie novel. Very thin bedside fare for most of us and if Ed Westwick is innocent as he says he is, I wish him well and thank him as he may have inadvertently done us all a favour.© Salisbury Review





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11 Comments on Should the BBC ban Oscar Wilde?

  1. Thank you for mentioning the redoubtable Mary Whitehouse, who was pilloried by the BBC when she complained about constant attacks on Christianity.
    Now that same BBC pillories those who attack Islam as Islamophobia.

  2. Eh?
    I made a comment here that was rejected by the robot on the basis I’ve already made the particular point.
    Must have been a month or more ago, because I’ve been absent.
    Any case, Mr Editor, I’m sure you know -you are a doctor after all- that repetition is often necessary to get a point through the haze and maze.

    • Oops, it seems I pressed the Post Comment button twice in the same half-second, and the robot picked that up, and rejected the second press.
      So, I withdraw this complaint.

  3. Things are bad alright.
    Now, what to do?
    I start with the assumption/axiom that a governance system that is sourced in a parliament that pitches Left agin’ Right is the best we can do.
    Then, for me, as I assume almost all SR readers, it is best if the Right is dominant, mostly.
    We must permit Leftist Govts from to time, but it’s best when the Right is on top, for most of the time.
    Thing is, the Right will wobble: sex scandals, various corruptions, as we know.
    The worst corruption of the Right is when it mimics the Left in attitudes, policies and resource allocations.
    So the Right must be corrected and stiffened, on a regular basis, by its concerned constituents.
    Yes, we civilians must participate in politics.
    Two million, perhaps five million folk-of-the-Right would do well, right now, to join their local Tory branch.
    And then pester, bluster, push and pull, and present arguments and evidence to the local member, or candidate, and the branch executive, with the sharp intent to get them to see things straight again, or possibly for the first time.
    The generations that fought the wars of 20th Century did very, very heavy lifting on our behalf.
    It’s time now for us to sign up, and act with all ruthless ferocity to save our quite good governance system, and its extraordinary fruits.

  4. The BBC have saved our souls from another wicked visitation! Glory be to all that is political and correct!
    I will go out under the moon tonight and make a sacrifice before a sacred image of Dianne Abbott.

  5. Quite right of the BBC. Can you imagine the evil that might crawl out of our television sets and infect who knows how many viewers should this character, whoever he is, be allowed to appear – on Boxing Day of all days. Why, it might even crawl into the turkey left-overs we will be hoping to eat on Sunday week and mutate into an evil too great to be contemplated. Lock it away and newer allow it to be seen again

  6. I would never want to condone or excuse acts of sexual predation, but it does seem that we have become awfully quick to judge those accused of such transgressions. The matter of evidence or the exercise of legal due process seem to be swiftly set aside in today’s Court of Popular Opinion, leaving alleged perpetrators labelled guilty from the moment the accusation is made. Even claims, such as those of the BBC in this instance, that quarantine style measures should be seen as merely the suspension of judgement; feed the notion that the accused is guilty. What on earth is happening to our once cherished tradition of assuming innocence until guilt is proven?

  7. Dear Jane, have you seen episode one of the Beeb’s atrocious “Howard’s End”? The upper middle class characters are played with mockney voices; the crowds are peppered with members of ethnic minorities, as though mass immigration had started in 1845; the Schlegels have a black maid – something which might have obtained in New York or St Louis but which would have excited much comment in Edwardian London – and all the actors mumble. The really sinister side of all this is that objecting to such innovations – as contrary to the supposedly realist spirit of the production – would bring at least the shadow of prosecution and the reality of social ostracism. Unless self-employed or sufficiently grand, your livelihood would be at risk as well. There are a number of licensed voices – journalists, mostly, such as your good self or the great James Delingpole – who can voice these points without paying too high a price; but for the majority there is no such freedom. Even mooting an ethnically realist production is now a kind of thought-crime. Surely it is time to fight back? Otherwise liberty will be nothing but a memory.

    • I should like to support Percy’s point. I am reminded of George Orwell’s ‘1984’, in which the Party proclaim that ‘He who controls the present, controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future’. This is surely a lesson that our current generation of media masterminds have taken to heart.

    • Dear Percy,
      I have tweeted extensively about Howards End. It is in my opinion a disaster; I knew that in the first 15 mins when we were treated to a scowling black maid, atrocious background music and a character misusing the word ‘disinterested.’

      The BBC at its most craven and venial

      • Quite so. The persons responsible for this car crash adaptation have no feeling for the novel or its period or the culture which gave it birth. It is every bit as atrocious as the plodding, ponderous, unfunny attempt they made at Decline and Fall a few months ago. To be brief, they’re always looking to skew these books towards their own views, to twist them into offering the sort of “message” they agree with. “The Hobbit” was no exception, actually; instead of Edwardian gents, hobbits were rendered as pretty millennial cockneys and the dwarves, who should have been a gaggle of grumpy old chaps were turned into a crew of thugs led by a “working class hero”. The Beeb, of course, should be resisting this dumbing down and political slant, but it is the chief instrument of both processes.