A Crime to be Different

There is a question that has come up lately when I talk about my book. Rupert Everett’s new film The Happy Prince and Nicholas Frankel’s The Unrepentant Years as well as my own Oscar’s Ghost all explore the aftermath of Wilde’s arrest and incarceration in different ways. Why has this topic suddenly become of interest?

“Sudden” is, of course, not quite the right word. As I understand it The Happy Prince took 10 years to make. I spent 6 years on Oscar’s Ghost and I assume The Unrepentant Years was not written overnight. That makes it all the more interesting that, indeed, this story does seem of the moment.

I was thinking about this when I read a quote from the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov that came up as a Facebook meme. Baryshnikov said that this era of Brexit and Trumpism is one in which it is “a crime to be different.”

When we convict someone of the crime of being different what happens next? What happens to the person who was punished after the public has moved on to other worries? What happens to the people who love him? In an era like ours it feels important to stare this in the face.

For those of us who believe in an inclusive society these are depressing times. We have gotten through hard times before, which is in some ways comforting, but it neglects an important point: We got through it collectively, but many individuals did not.

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One comment

  1. Brexit and Trump are manifestations of a deeper malaise (the boils on the surface so to speak) in the same way that McCarthy was in the 1950s. We are living in an era of witchhunts and moral certainties where someone’s reputation and the entire fabric of their existence can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, the majority of our political caste in the UK, the rest of Europe and the US has been exposed as hypocritical and self-serving, and in some cases criminal, but there appears to be no viable alternative as we head towards an as yet nameless and formless disaster.

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