Are you familiar with Roald Dahl’s books? Beyond Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, arguably the man’s most well-known tale, the famous author published fifty-three in his lifetime, more than twenty for children. Dahl’s particular brand of humor, sometimes quite satirical, makes his tales genuinely unique and unquestionably beloved.
As reported in Britain’s Daily Telegraph last week, Dahl’s publisher Puffin along The Roald Dahl Story Company, are excising words like “fat,” “ugly,” and “mad” from new editions of his kid’s books. This measure is, as they say, to ensure that Dahl’s books “…can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”
To which I say, can’t readers enjoy a story even if they happen to read words like “fat,” “ugly,” and “mad?”
Dahl’s fellow countryman, Ian Fleming, known for penning the James Bond novels, is also seeing some ‘updating.’ As also reported last week, slightly a few days after the Dahl news, certain phrases and words are going to be changed and omitted from the original text of Fleming’s work as well a disclaimer/warning posted at the beginning of the book stating: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.” These kinds of disclaimer/warnings seem all-too ubiquitous these days, whether they be stamped on the beginning of a Disney cartoon or in the seeming ‘ratings’ of a T.V. show.
What is more upsetting than these obvious defacements and all the handholding is Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., which owns the rights to the James Bond books, and Puffin and the Ronald Dahl Story Company sought out these changes/defacements. In the case of Fleming, the company commissioned a review by sensitivity readers of the James Bond series; Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company hired a company called Inclusive Minds, “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature.”
I don’t know about you, but I shudder down to my Orwellian skivvies when I see terms like “sensitivity readers” and read words like “inclusion/diversity/equality” especially as they are abused today.
I know I sound like an old guy (which I am at 61), still, back in my day, we never needed protection from some past ideas that might not have been in fashion or maybe a word that the current culture thought was offensive. In fact, I can’t recall anybody ever using the word “offensive” or “inappropriate;” if you didn’t like something way back when you simply didn’t buy it or turned away from it. I recall as many people loving the ground-breaking sitcom “All In The Family” and its comedic and obvious comment on the over-the-top racism of the show’s main character, Archie Bunker, as plenty who didn’t like the show and…never watched it. We didn’t need a disclaimer popping up at the beginning of the program. It simply aired at a certain time of night so children wouldn’t be so easily exposed to such ‘adult’ material, and that was that.
But if a kid happened to catch an episode, which I did when I probably wasn’t supposed to, and I heard words unfamiliar, which I certainly would have in lots of Archie’s rants, if I had questions about these words, I’d have asked my parents what they meant—and subsequently learned what I knew anyway, that the people around me did not use such language.
Are Dahl and Fleming’s titles selling so badly that the companies publishing these books feel they need to boost sales with some virtue signaling? Or do the powers-that-be here believe that the modern reader (and add a viewer to this as well) are so weak they might come up against something (and I stress MIGHT) offend them without falling into a full fetal pose?
Anyway you look at this, presentism is censorship wrapped in the pretty bow of seemingly evolved sensibilities, but time and again, this only shows how truly un-evolved and weak we really are.