It’s Lord of the Flies, not Lady of the Flies

Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s classic novel about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island, is set to become the latest Hollywood all-female remake. Such films are all the rage. Ocean’s Eight, an all-female addition to the Ocean’s heist franchise, is due out next summer. And who could forget the all-female Ghostbusters?

But Lord of the Flies has caused more controversy than other remakes, because, as everyone knows, a core part of the story is that the characters are all little boys.

It’s not always beneficial to know what an author thinks of his or her own work (JK Rowling demonstrates how infuriating this can be on a daily basis). But before his death, Golding specifically said that the characters in Lord of the Flies were supposed to be all boys, because: ‘I didn’t want this book to be about sex.’ ‘It’s too trivial a thing to get into a book like this, which was about the problem of evil’, he said.

You would have thought that Golding’s reasoning would make sense to feminists, who often argue that maleness (especially white maleness) is evil. So, if a matriarchal society would be more pacifist and just, how could an island of little girls descend into the same chaos as happens to the boys in Lord of the Flies?

None of this is to say that remakes are always destined for mediocrity. But when remakes set out to make a political point, as is clearly the case here, the result is often cringe-inducing and lacking in artistic merit. Worse still, in this case the remake entails ripping out a core part of the story for the sake of mere virtue-signalling. There’s nothing interesting or daring about that.

Benedict Spence is a writer based in London.

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