“Earnest-ness” in the 21st Century: The Graphic Diary, Tattoo, and Lie in Oliver Parker’s 2002 Film

By Amy W. S. Lee.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) is not only a great comedy in itself, but because it marks both the high point and the downfall of Wilde’s career, it has been closely read and interpreted with special attention to its “hidden” meaning and significance. While the 1952 film version of the play has been considered a classic in its handling of comic effects, it is suggested that the film rendition takes the play further in its exploration of the “hidden” sexual agenda. This film is not only an interesting reinvention of the play in terms of the freedom the director exercises in the creation of visual sequences which are not in the original play but indeed very much part of a 21st century multimedia mentality. It incorporates many changes our sensibilities have undergone because of psychoanalysis, film language development in the second half of the 20th century, gender theory, the development of communication technology, as well as the popularization of multimedia visual communication methods which have great impact on the way audiences receive and understand a film’s text.

From the marketing point of view, this all-star cast is certainly a guarantee of talked-about-ness and box office return. The choice of Rupert Everett as Algernon shows an extra dimension of the play than just a director’s concern for box office return. His sexual orientation has long been known not only to people in the business but also to the general public. His autobiographical writings have been a personal confession to the readers his sexual orientation and his views about the show business. The choice of Everett as Algernon, the fun-loving, joyfully irresponsible dandy who seems to have the ability to make instant conquest adds to the fun and discussion concerning the depth of the questionable “earnestness” in the play.

Keywords: Earnest, Erotic Fantasy, Gender Representation, Truthfulness

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 8, pp.11-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 605.963KB).

Dr. Amy W. S. Lee

Associate Professor, Humanities Programme, Department of English Language and Literature, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Amy Lee has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Warwick, UK. Her research interest includes the Chinese Diaspora, female self-writing, contemporary fiction and culture, and narratives of marginal experiences. She has published on women’s diasporic writing, life writing, gender issues in contemporary fictions and detective fiction. She has taught writing and communication courses of different kinds: professional writing and communication, creative writing and academic writing. Currently she is an associate professor in the Humanities Programme and the Department of English Language and Literature of Hong Kong Baptist University.


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