Lionel Shriver: We need to talk about Ezra Miller

August 22, 2022
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When Lionel Shriver’s story of a troubled teenager, We Need to Talk About Kevin, was adapted for screen in 2011 it launched the career of young actor Ezra Miller.

In 2012 Miller came out as queer, saying “I don’t identify as a man, I don’t identify as a woman, I barely identify as a human.” And in the ensuing years, outlandish and expressive clothing came to typify the actor, who became somewhat of a standard bearer for queer identity.

But recently, Miller’s life has taken a strange turn. Throughout 2022 a string of bizarre allegations have hit the headlines, and last month the actor was arrested twice for assault and then only a few weeks ago for felony burglary. What went wrong for the promising young actor?

Miller’s troubles may just be another predictable story about the price of early fame, but it could also speak to something more troubling about contemporary culture. Shriver’s award winning novel asks how society and parenting shapes the minds of young people. It seems prescient now. Have our permissive mores and hyper-liberal culture driven young people to distraction?

Shriver joined Freddie Sayers to discuss these questions.

“It looks to me as if [Miller] is falling apart,” she said, “And I don’t think that’s totally his fault… I see Ezra’s deterioration as taking place in a context where he’s both been given not enough guidance and the guidance he’s been given is disruptive.”
- Lionel Shriver, UnHerd

Shriver thinks that older people are doing a disservice to the youngest in society. By allowing young people to deny reality when it comes to their gender “the grownups are failing to be grownups” she says.

“He’s obviously very caught up in a confused gender identity. I think the whole business of claiming to be non-binary is patently absurd.”
- Lionel Shriver, UnHerd
“It was very interesting to me to read a couple of articles about what’s happening to Ezra Miller. And often in mainstream publications like The LA Times… he’s referred to as ‘they’ throughout. ‘They’ and ‘them’ and ‘their’. And the text is incoherent. It’s also comical, and it’s wildly ungrammatical. It’s ridiculous. It’s hard to understand. And it’s a performance; it’s indulgent. And that’s really a failure of the adults. It’s not a failure of the generation we’re talking about, it’s the generation before, which has been pliant, and I would say indulgent.”
- Lionel Shriver, UnHerd

“But I think that we have led a generation astray by indicating to them that if they simply get the right relationship to their sex – let’s talk about sex, not gender – the right relationship to their sex, then they will know who they are.”

“It’s clear that children do flourish when given limits, and total freedom is a kind of hell,” Shriver added.

Join Freddie Sayers and Lionel Shriver for the full discussion.



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