From playful and fun, to politically correct: Censoring Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl books, nationally revered and loved by kids everywhere, are having lots of alterations made to them by woke, politically correct editors who want to appease snowflake adults.  Roald Dahl, nationally revered and loved by kids (lots of whom are also adults now), is also dead and unable to speak out against the censorship being placed on his books.

I am against censorship in books and I am against banning books; sanitising them isn’t too far off. There are books and authors whose writing I despise – but I don’t believe in rewriting or banning them. Even if it is Salman Rushdie.

It seems to me that people would rather pull the wool over their children’s eyes than use ‘offensive’ language as an opportunity to explain the real world to them; the real world which, might I add, is a lot worse than how Dahl portrayed it. And let’s be very honest, the reason we love those books so much is because that language is all around us; it’s playful and it’s descriptive and it’s something we understand. I’m sorry you don’t like the words ‘ugly’ and ‘attractive’, but they are adjectives that exist nonetheless. It makes no sense to censure the use of the word ‘ugly’ when it is being used to describe characters whose entire story is based on the fact that they are ugly (both inside and out). How do you rewrite that? Not to go all Hopkins-Clarkson-Morgan, but I don’t understand why we need gender-neutral terms in the books either. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why ‘Cloud-men’ is more offensive than ‘Cloud-people’. Why is the word ‘man’ offensive? Men and women, boys and girls, exist; this fact shouldn’t offend anyone, regardless of their own beliefs about gender. Are we going to rewrite every character in every book as gender-neutral? Must we rewrite Harry Potter as the person who lived?

The changes to Dahl’s books were made by the Roald Dahl Story Company in conjunction with the collective Inclusive Minds, which describes itself as ‘passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature’. It seems the people at Inclusive Minds think it’s impossible to write new books that are inclusive and accessible, and would rather defile those that are already treasured. Apparently the changes are minimal and are designed to make the books more appropriate for contemporary, easily-offended world, but below is just one of the changes being made, in James and the Giant Peach:

Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat
And tremendously flabby at that
Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire
And dry as a bone, only drier.

is being changed to:

Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute
And deserved to be squashed by the fruit
Aunt Spiker was much of the same
And deserves half of the blame.

Not sure this is a minor change. I’m also not sure why they think ‘old’ is an appropriate replacement for ‘fat’.

There’s also a new line in the Witches. After being told the witches are bald underneath their wigs, we now have a disclaimer stating ‘there are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.‘. True. But critical thinking will tell you that. There are also plenty of other reasons why one might take a hike to Mordor but we didn’t need that specified.

The rewriting is terrible. New readers won’t know any different, but there’s no reason to completely alter books that already exist. Add a disclaimer in the front page of every book to warn people of the ‘outdated’ language, publish separate ‘clean’ versions, or publish adaptations for toddlers if you will, but do not rewrite them. Books are a product of their time and should not be touched, instead translated into different versions if necessary. Somewhere in the future, people will be offended by something new – where do we draw the line?

If you’re offended by it, just don’t read it. If you don’t want your kids to read it, don’t read it to them or buy it for them. If your kids are old enough to pick books out of the library and buy books themselves, they’re old enough to build up their own critical thinking skills (with your help, even!). Leave them alone. If you want gender neutral or bland, inoffensive books, write them yourself.

Or maybe I’m getting riled up for no reason. Perhaps this kerfuffle has been created to draw more attention to Dahl’s books again – but I can’t see this having any effect other than driving up sales of old used books. Those of us who still have paperbacks with the word ‘man’ and ‘ugly’ in them might just be in luck. 

In any case, nobody should be rewriting Roald Dahl’s books without his approval. Leave books alone.

Now playing: My Generation – The Who

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