- Anatomy of a Scandal -Are The Libertines A Real Secret Society? 'Anatomy Of A Scandal' Found Inspiration In A Real Oxford Group
Omertà Libertines is the rallying cry of the obnoxiously privileged Oxford alums at the center of Anatomy of a Scandal. In essence the phrase is a posh version of snitches get stitches. As James' lifetime of lies illustrates, members of the secret society/dining club don't turn on one another — no matter what. While there doesn't appear to be a real group called The Libertines at Oxford, there's no denying the fictional secret society looks an awful lot like a real club that's full of famous British names.
Oxford University has long been home to an unsanctioned all-male society known as the Bullingdon Club, which began as a sporting club in the 18th century before evolving into a haven for privileged debauchery. Famous members include not one, but two Prime Ministers: David Cameron and Boris Johnson, who were both in the club at the same time. Members are known for committing property damage, practicing dangerous hazing rituals, and rampant sexism.
In a 2018 blog post on her official author's site, Anatomy of a Scandal author Sarah Vaughan noted she always intended The Libertines to be a "thinly disguised Bullingdon Club." Hence the focus on its members going on to become top-ranking officials in the British government. Like Cameron and Johnson, Tom eventually becomes Prime Minister, and due to the personal debt he owes James, he refuses to publicly distance himself from his friend even when James is accused of rape.
In a 2019 Guardian article, an anonymous woman who once acted as a recruiter for the Bullingdon Club revealed some of the club's customs, including smashing up pubs and restaurants. The same thing happens in Anatomy of a Scandal when The Libertines shout "pour it away" and proceed to wreck the restaurant they're in and sexually harass the woman serving them. This scene in particular draws a direct line between the fictional society and the real one.
These days the Bullingdon Club has fallen out of favor with most Oxford students. In 2018, the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) banned members from holding positions in the association, and in general, being associated with the unsanctioned club no longer brings the clout it once did, as reported by the BBC. Even Johnson denounced his involvement in the society in a 2013 BBC documentary, describing the his time as a member as a "truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance, toffishness and twittishness."
But despite Johnson's embarrassment over being part of the club, its former members still hold high-ranking positions in the government, the business sector, and even in the world of entertainment. This reality proves that much like the fictional Libertines, members of the Bullingdon Club are entrenched in British society with their past antics largely written off as "boys being boys." Just like on the show, society hasn't come nearly far enough to fully denounce the dangerous behavior of the rich and privileged men.