The BBC is leading the charge in rewriting our culture to suit the 'woke' brigade

The new BBC adaptation of HG Wells' War of the Worlds centres on a woman and a gay man, 'pushing aside the white straight men who were so annoyingly prevalent in Victorian England'
The new BBC adaptation of HG Wells' War of the Worlds now centres on a woman and a gay man, 'pushing aside the white straight men who were so annoyingly prevalent in Victorian England' Credit: BBC

Everywhere you looked this week, culture was busy trying to correct the mistakes of the past. The new Broadway production of West Side Story has cut Maria's song "I Feel Pretty": the director explains he wants a rendition fit "for the 21st century".

Because, as we know, young women of today have ceased caring about their appearance, no longer enjoy getting dressed up for a big night out and are wholly indifferent to their attractiveness to the opposite sex. If there is still such a thing as the opposite sex, that is. Last time I looked, we were up to seven genders but, hey, it's still only Wednesday!

"I feel stunning and entrancing/Feel like running and dancing for joy," a giddy Maria sang on the opening night of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's musical in 1961. Her frothy, feelgood "I Feel Pretty" made the perfect counterpoint to the agonising poignancy of One Hand, One Heart. How quickly love can become loss and party frock a funeral shroud.

West Side Story was an instant classic because it set eternal truths about human nature to immortal melodies. The attitude of its latest director, Ivo van Hove, seems to be: "Nice try, guys! Now let the #MeToo generation show you how it's done. Let's start by ditching the sexist crap about girls wanting to be pretty."

The same wilfully wrongheaded thinking dominates at the BBC. No period drama is safe any more from the drip-drip of politically correct views, regardless of how bizarre they appear in a historical context. We will have to wait till Sunday night to see whether the latest adaptation of HG Wells's War of the Worlds is travesty or triumph. (As is now de rigueur, it has ignored the novel, put a woman and a gay guy centre stage and pushed aside the white straight men who were so annoyingly prevalent in Victorian England.) Its predecessor in that prime slot was a virtue-signalling dud.

Blessed with a lavish budget and international cast, World on Fire should have been magnificent, shining a spotlight on Poland's overlooked role in the fight against Nazi Germany.

Instead, it rapidly turned into a Woke War Two drama complete with an anarchist Battle of Britain pilot declaring, "I'm not fighting for Churchill or Britain" (God forbid!) and a far-fetched mixed-race, same-sex love story. The villain of the piece was Robina Chase (brilliantly played by Lesley Manville). I mean, OK, the Nazis were bad and everything, but Mrs Chase was a Conservative of decidedly old-fashioned opinions. Oh, the horror!

Her racist and sexist views were probably held by 98 per cent of the population in 1939, but the drama still had to punish her for not being feminist or socialist. The BBC blew a few million quid of the licence-payer's money pouring contempt on such stoic, patriotic people with lines like: "Make sure you do what's right, not what’s British."

Do you suppose anyone at the Beeb noticed that over 800,000 British people lost their lives defeating fascism and doing "what's right", despite them being so tragically un-woke and all? Producers may be far too busy fighting the culture wars to care about details from the actual war, but it turns out viewers do mind. The audience for Sunday's finale dribbled away to 4.4million, a modest figure for such an extravagant production.

Revisionist history undoubtedly has its place. We no longer expect the reflex, gung-ho patriotism of The Dam Busters, which seemed to be on telly every rainy Saturday afternoon of my childhood. But castigating that wartime generation for the crime of not being as enlightened as a vegan Green in 2019 is a bloody cheek, frankly. Not only is it morally vain, it makes for bad drama. Remember it was the Manchester Guardian, the BBC house journal, which ran headlines praising Stalin and demanding that Britain didn't go to war with Hitler.

BBC One's epic dud, World on Fire: 'rapidly turned into a 'Woke' War Two drama' Credit:  Gareth Gatrell/Mammoth Screen

Goodies can be baddies, and vice-versa; any great dramatist knows that. Such complexity is no longer welcome, however. Not when the priority is protecting snowflakes. For the vigilantes of offence, it is not enough to censor new work. Old favourites must be made to see the error of their ways and repent.

Word from the set of No Time To Die is that this will be the "most politically correct James Bond movie" yet – a contradiction in terms as any reader of Ian Fleming's borderline sado-masochistic novels could tell you, but that clearly hasn’t stopped them trying.

The original plan to have 007 played by a black actress appears to have been shelved after an outcry on social media. But Great Britain's most successful libidinous export since Lord Byron faces humiliation when the patent Bond seduction technique fails miserably. "It's very funny," a source said.

Is it? Do we really want James Bond to be a figure of fun? I don’t. A Goldfinger poster on our landing, with Sean Connery looking irresistible in black tie, bears the caption: "Everything he touches turns to excitement!"

For almost 60 cinematic years, that was the key to his extraordinary global appeal. Of course Bond is a chauvinist throwback, a sleek predator who belongs in a retro world where it was still possible to use the dreadful word "womaniser" and nobody worried it was inappropriate. You can't update him. You shouldn't even try.

The important thing is to create iconic roles for women in their own right. What female in her right mind wants to be James Bond to score a feminist point?

Cast members of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris and Lashana Lynch. IN the the 25th James Bond film, Lynch's character reportedly takes over the 007 secret agent number after Bond leaves MI6 Credit: GILBERT BELLAMY/REUTERS

Today, though, there are those who won't rest until the ultimate rogue male is a house-husband with a spew-spattered baby muslin over one shoulder, reduced to begging his CEO wife for a perfunctory monthly shag between Antiques Roadshow and a BBC updating of King Kong which – you’ll never believe this – turns out to be a searing indictment of Brexit. Daniel Craig plays Ant Darrow who screams when he gets cradled in his teeny Speedos in the palm of Queen Kong.

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." LP Hartley was right. Our arrogant, self-righteous culture may choose to rewrite that “unacceptable” time when men ruled the world and besotted girls tried on a dress and sang, "I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty!"

More fool us. One day we too will be history. 

Read Allison Pearson every Tuesday at telegraph.co.uk, from 7pm