By now, we are all used to classics of the Western canon getting cancelled, from Cambridge compiling literary blacklists, book-burnings in Quebec, and Canadian libraries eliminating all books not published recently.
Those classics that are not discarded completely are being reinterpreted. LGBT characters are magically being discovered as if the books exist entirely independently of their creators. An LGBT activist rewrote Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women with Jo March as a lesbian. The BBC’s recent screen adaption of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations included foul language and, more disturbingly, BDSM-themed sex scenes. (It was widely condemned even by critics with the stomach for that sort of thing.)
The latest example is Eddie Izzard. Izzard is a British comedian who for years has been well-known to dress in drag on-stage, traipsing back and forth in heels and makeup. At that point, he publicly identified as what he very obviously was: a transvestite.
When he started cross-dressing in public at the age of 23 and used the female bathroom, he ended up in an angry verbal confrontation with three 13-year-old girls who didn’t care to find a man in their private space. Izzard’s identity, predictably, has evolved with the culture, and he now identifies all over the spectrum – as “gender-fluid,” and now as transgender. As such, the media has taken to obediently referring to Eddie as “she,” occasionally using the new name he’s chosen, “Suzy.”
Izzard has now turned into an activist on the transgender issue, which is unsurprising since he’s been a high-profile public cross-dresser since the mid-1980s. “The world is more accepting,” Izzard said recently. “The extreme right is not more accepting. The extreme right is setting up culture wars. But most people in the streets… they’re saying, ‘Good for you, be your authentic self. I think you’re looking great,’ and hopefully I’m looking okay.”
Data on social attitudes towards transgenderism indicate that Izzard is incorrect, and it is important to note the framing here: apparently, opposing a cross-dressing man heading into the bathroom with, say, thirteen-year-old girls is a “far-right” issue, which is a good way to push plenty of people – parents in particular – into the “far-right.” This “culture war” wasn’t created by the right – it was forced on the culture by men wanting to force themselves into female spaces.
Izzard, however, is decidedly not fluid in his beliefs on this issue: “No, women’s rights are human rights and trans rights are human rights. End of story. There are some people who are hateful, some people are transphobic, but they are a minority and maybe things are spiking at the moment, but we will pass through this time and then we will get to better times in the future.” Better times, presumably, in which cross-dressing males can enter female-only spaces regardless of whether young girls are made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe by this. Their rights – to sex-based spaces and safety in society – no longer matters. The rights of men like Eddie Izzard trump them.
Which brings me back to the retelling of old stories. Back in 2012, Eddie Izzard starred in a film version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as Long John Silver. Newly identifying as transgender, Izzard has now starred in another Stevenson project – a movie remake of his novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde titled Doctor Jekyll. In this version, however, Dr. Jekyll is a “trans woman” – that is, a man identifying as a woman. The scientist in the film, the transgender “Nina Jekyll,” is another example of retelling old stories with a new ideological message. Izzard is enthusiastic about it.
“As an acting role it’s fantastic because hopefully, as people are watching the scenes, they can’t quite tell who is controlling this trans woman, which way she is going,” he said. “But the fact that she’s trans, it doesn’t matter. It just happens to be there.” Of course, Dr. Jekyll’s transgenderism is the furthest possible thing from just “happening to be there” – the transness of the main character is the entire point of the retelling. Izzard’s claim that it “doesn’t matter” is simply a tactic he is employing. Now, if someone complains that this is actually a vandalization of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original work, he can accuse them of being “far-right” and engaging in a “culture war.” Because that is how this works: they pervert and destroy things we value, and then they accuse us of hatred if we complain.