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[P]
Censoring Children's Classics

By Jonathan Walther in Op-Ed
Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:36:25 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

This story has nothing to do with my wife. It is a rant about the erasing of my childhood, a la 1984.


When I start this rant in real life, I'm generally put down with a retort of "do you want to see a return of Little Black Sambo?" This precludes filling in the details of my actual complaint; my audience has already closed their minds and turned elsewhere. I could care less about Little Black Sambo; I never read that book, although when I was a small boy I did see a copy in my dentists office, and while waiting for mummy read the first few chapters. I've been assured that the "horrifying racism" in that book starts after those first few chapters I read, so one can excuse my ignorance of the work. No, Little Black Sambo can be safely removed to the dustbins of obsolete and rejected childrens literature without complaint from me.

In 1984, the protagonists day job was the endless rewriting of history, forging and reforging public documents to fit in with whatever the current party line was. The government paid him handsomely for it. But 1984 was just a novel; reality is scarier: beloved childrens classics are being bowdlerized and modified to fit with current political correctness, starting in the late 70's and continuing to the present. It's not a big evil conspiracy; its an irritating combination of group think among publishing houses and excessive political correctness. It almost makes me think that the writer of a certain manifesto was right. I will give two examples in the paragraphs following; perhaps readers could write in and supply more.

Example 1.

The Adventures of Dr. Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting, is loved by children everywhere, with its intelligent, talking animals and gentle English humor. For context, these books were written ~90 years ago, and set in the 1830's. The good doctor travelled to many places. In his first adventure, he went to Africa. While there, one of his many adventures involved the African chief asking Dr. Dolittle to whip him up a skin whitener so he could add a white settler woman he'd seen to his already bulging harem. The doctor did so, of course, but the chemical solution only lasted a week. That was ok though, because the chief had by then made his move on the Boer woman. The chief had thought she was Sleeping Beauty because he saw her sleeping under a coconut tree, and conceived the notion of waking her up with a kiss.

Guess what the bowdlerized version changed that incident into? That's right, Dr. Dolittle was now called upon to turn the chief into a lion. Completely different episode, patched in by cretinous hands long after the author's death. What was wrong with the skin whitener episode? More to the point, is it very far from reality? Two popular entertainment stars, known all over the world, have quite obviously used skin whiteners to go from very black, to almost white. I am referring of course, to Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. In America, in the Philippines, and many more places besides, skin whitening products are sold to a vast market. I would say based on that, that there was nothing wrong with the episode that got bowdlerized. It was perfectly natural, and realistic. It's something a child can believe. It matches the world around him. The lion episode is just plain silly. It lacks the realistic resonance of its forebearer.

Example 2.

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was apparently made into an execrable movie. I don't know; I haven't seen it. The book, however, was fantastic. Little kids love it. Not-so-little kids love it. Adults remember it fondly.

In this book, Willy Wonka's vast chocolate factory is run by the Oompah-Loompas, a sort of cheerful, singing little dwarfs with wicked senses of humor. Approximately. In the original, the Oompah-Loompas were a tribe of Pygmies in a remote part of Africa who were starving to death, being pushed out of their terrain by their larger neighbors. Willy Wonka promised them as much food as they wanted and safe housing if they came to work in his chocolate factory. They agreed, avoided starving to death, and found the Chocolate Factory to their liking.

In the current, bowdlerized version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompah Loompas are a (strictly male) tribe of dwarfish, long golden haired hippies. Eh? What gives? Any child who has watched National Geographic on television would expect that Roald Dahls Pygmy scenario is somewhat realistic. The realism helps them enjoy the story. The dwarfish blonde hippies though? Where did THOSE come from? It shakes one bolt loose from the mooring belt that made the story somewhat believable. (for kids) And the Pygmy tribal chants that Roald Dahl came up with... they don't seem in character coming from the peace loving little hippies. It just doesn't make sense anymore. The humor and realism is killed.

[Update]

Ben saw the movie as a child, and mentioned that it is much darker than the book; the Oompah-Loompas play little devils to Willy Wonkas satan for the first part of the movie. Satanism is somehow more politically correct than little pygmies running around? Oy vey.

Example 3.

Lars from Holland tells me they celebrate St. Nicolas birthday for children. Its like a pre-christmas holiday. Saint Nic's helpers are invariably Negros. Thats the tradition, thats how its been for hundreds of years. Recently in a few towns they turned the Negros blue instead. The children of those towns en masse decided they didn't believe in Saint Nic anymore. You muck with childrens traditions at peril.

Example 4.

I'm hesitant to put this as an example, but here goes: Aesop's Fables have been altered and bowdlerized for the last 300 years; so I'm not sure any modern tampering can do much harm. But they are finally available in full for those that want them. The Grim Brothers' Fairy Tales have been extensively bowdlerized for children since publication as well, but again, since its been going on so long I don't think I can really rant about it. They too, are finally available in the original these days. The originals did definately have a lot of sex and blood; that's for sure :-)

Conclusion

Somehow being true to reality is held to be racist in the context of children's books. How about adult books? No doubt King Solomon's Mines would fall under similar censorship, if it were still widely read. It was a rip-roaring good adventure though. One book that has actually received such censorship is the last book in the world one would expect to receive it; I refer of course to Uncle Toms Cabin, by Harriett Beecher Stowe. I haven't read the book myself; it is absent from all bookstores here in Canada. A copy I ordered from the United States silently vanished going through customs. Another copy is supposed to be on the way. That said, what is Uncle Tom's Cabin best known for? For being a racist book supporting white supremacy? No... it is reputed to be the book that triggered the American Civil War, the abolishment of slavery in that country, and to have garnered to that book's authoress the personal thanks of President Abraham Lincoln for having aroused the sympathies of the North to oppose slavery in the South. As far as I can tell, without having read it, this is a major work of literature, very important in the history of civil liberties, human rights, and the whole enchilada. Its one of those books that Had A Big Impact On History. Yet I've seen many reflexively use the term "like Uncle Tom's Cabin" when calling something racist, jingoistic, or just plain offensive. I find that offensive. Blind ignorance, if it puts on a face of political correctness, seems to drive out honest reality every day. I find that offensive. Never in my house.

Why would one get worked up about this? Because what children read does have an effect on them. And the more they enjoy a book, the better they will remember it. Bowdlerization hinders their enjoyment and turns them away from the classics that their parents and grandparents grew up loving. How many generations enjoyed Peter Pan or Alice In Wonderland? A lot, thats how many. Books that are so good they are enjoyed by multiple generations form a cultural touchstone, a point of commonality that breaks down so called "generation gaps". In short, they become the property of the community, and form a type of community memory. It is a high crime to brainwash a person into believing things that didn't happen did; why should a publishing house that tampers with a communities memory be held any less liable?

What is next? Is Shakespeare's Othello going to become a white man to protect some imaginary peoples sensitivities?

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Censoring Children's Classics | 184 comments (163 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden)
Now who's being alarmist? (4.47 / 21) (#2)
by pig bodine on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 06:52:04 PM EST

"...the Oompah-Loompas play little devils to Willy Wonkas satan for the first part of the movie. Satanism is somehow more politically correct than little pygmies running around?"

There weren't any actual satanic references, as far as I recall. There was a fairly alarming boat ride, which featured some grotesque imagery...bugs and insects and the like. In this paragraph, you are committing a similar error in judgement to those you are ranting against.

On a different note: "Noddy" was massively bowdlerised about ten years ago. Apart from changing all the golliwogs to monkeys on grounds of racism, and giving Tessa bear a stronger, more liberated feminine role, they also accused Noddy and Big Ears of displaying homosexual tendencies, and edited accordingly.

This sort of thing has been the curse of school libraries everywhere for decades. Most of the attempts to remove a book from the shelves of any particular library are aimed at children's books. The wowsers are always at their best (or worst, rather) when "thinking about the children".

Editing Noddy (4.00 / 3) (#64)
by j on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:18:06 AM EST

Very good point here:
On a different note: "Noddy" was massively bowdlerised about ten years ago. Apart from changing all the golliwogs to monkeys on grounds of racism, and giving Tessa bear a stronger, more liberated feminine role, they also accused Noddy and Big Ears of displaying homosexual tendencies, and edited accordingly.
I wonder whether future generations will judge them as harshly for their intolerance towards homosexuality as they judged Enid Blyton for her views on women (or female bears, anyway).

[ Parent ]
Future generations... (3.20 / 5) (#101)
by pig bodine on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:43:39 PM EST

...will probably find more intolerance to lament in the Texas school board who removed the book, "Daddy's Roommate" from their shelves on the grounds that "it legitimatizes homosexual relationships."

[ Parent ]

Golliwogs (5.00 / 2) (#156)
by jethro on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 05:00:40 PM EST

Haha

When I was a kid (over 20 years ago, gosh) my mom went through this pahse where she was knitting golliwog dolls for people. Mostly for other family members and friends.

Anyway, this one friend of hers asked her to make one for her daughter. My mom said ok, and the other women said "Thanks, but... can you make it not be black?"

Never even occured to me before that that they were black. My mom made her a blond gollywog. Looked rediculous.

--
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]
don't forget any tale by the Brothers Grimm (4.10 / 19) (#3)
by rebelcool on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 06:55:33 PM EST

The brothers grimm wrote their tales to be told to children to *scare* them into behaving. Thus, in little red riding hood..she actually gets eaten in the original story. Same with Hansel and Gretel (great incentive to not run away...some cannibal witch will cook and devour you if you do)

This is nothing new... people still lobby to have the Catcher in the Rye removed from libraries. How *DARE* someone question american values and show the underbelly of society? How DARE anyone disturb the sugary coated world that doesnt really exist.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

really? (3.66 / 3) (#48)
by mikpos on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:48:57 AM EST

I was under the impression that the two stories you mentioned (Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel) weren't written at all. I realise that the Brothers Grimm did write some, but for the first book or two, they just went around the German countryside asking people to retell stories that they knew (and had been around for probably centuries). These stories were, I think, not inteded solely for children (and they kicked themselves later for adding "Kinder" into the title of their book, as people seemed to get the impression that they were only children's stories).

Anyway, I could be wrong. I think I may be wrong about LRRH at least.

[ Parent ]

They didn't write them, but they did change them (4.66 / 3) (#51)
by spiralx on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:12:21 AM EST

Jacob and Wilheim Grimm spent most of their lives collecting folktales which were compiled into were academic works about the folklore of Germany rather than children's books at all. The pair were heavily involved in the German romantic movement at the end of the 18th century, and were often in trouble for their political views.

And although they didn't generally collect these stories, they certainly edited them to fit in with their beliefs. I'm actually reading a recent translation of the tales at the moment, which seems to be more true to the originals than other versions I've read, and includes several previously untranslated stories... it really shows they're not meant for children :)

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

They didn't write them, but they didn change them (4.75 / 8) (#68)
by mami on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:58:13 AM EST

<i>it really shows they're not meant for children :) </i>

And that's why children love and need them so much...:-)

There are many German fairy tales which were tales for adults. Nevertheless they were read to children, or left on the kid's nightstands to be picked up and discovered by themselves. What I don't get with all those "political correctness" fans and anxious parents, who think telling a story as it is or was, is _why_ they believe it will harm their kids and make them either less or more "racist".

Reading "Onkel Tom's Huette" in it's original words would never do that. Stupid movies and sweetened fake re-writes to adjust to "the current cultural values do.

I remember that my brother (age six or so) "demanded" that my mother read to him "Haensel and Gretel" every evening before he and my sister got tucked in.

He always started crying at the same spot in the tale and then he always was assuring my sister that she should never be afraid of the wicked witch. I can assure you that both were never harmed by that wonderful fairy tale. and my mother was puzzled that he couldn't get enough of it. And so she read it over and over. :-)

I have observed my own son to listen to an adult tale "William Hauff's "Das kalte Herz (The cold heart)" hundreds of times. Always the same tale. Why ? I don't know, but I wouldn't intervene. That tale is tough.

German schools have less mandatory summer reading lists for their kids, but kids always choose certain books over and over again on their own. For examples books by Astrid Lindgren and Edith Blython. I was very amazed to find that those books are even loved by Central Africa's kids (during the sixties and seventies). I mean apparently it was not necessary to change the children characters' race in those books to Bantu or whatever African race to make those books appealing to a black children audience ( and those kids didn't get those books read by their parents because those often coudn't read). They found them somewhere and picked them up and just read them and loved it.

I haven't read Harry Potter and don't know if those books are a new serious of "classic" children books. But if they would turn out to be that way, I doubt that you would have to adapt any of them to "current cultural values". If they would need that, they couldn't be counted as "classics".

I am also amazed to observe, how much parents try to "teach" kids values by choosing books to read for them (or eliminating titles by trying to prevent access to them). I have watched so many kids, who refused to read or coudln't be stopped to read and clearly - the ones who read will choose on their own what they like - and they should. And the ones who don't read, they are - unfortunately - very well "brainwashed" by the images of movies they see.

There is a huge difference between the influence of a book and the influence of movie. The book leaves all the room of your own imagination to digest the message of the book, the movie kills your own imagination and forces you to digest whatever was represented to you, imposing images upon you, which leave no room to create your own mechanisms of coping with them.

That's why I consider book cencorship the absolute evil and film censorship in some rare events a thing which should be considered responsible.

I have not seen _kids_ under ten years of age choosing deliberately hate speech literature. I saw though _teens_ producing hate literature on the web. I don't think they could have been saved in becoming little racist, supremacist monsters by their parents, trying to hide all "politically incorrect children books" from them. Strangely enough "political correctness" almost stirrs up more racist feelings, because they make everything so "race-conscious".




[ Parent ]
Grim Tales (5.00 / 3) (#63)
by j on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:06:21 AM EST

I am somewhat particular to the Grimm brothers, having grown up with their tales; thus I couldn't resist replying to your claim that:
The brothers grimm wrote their tales to be told to children to *scare* them into behaving. Thus, in little red riding hood..she actually gets eaten in the original story. Same with Hansel and Gretel (great incentive to not run away...some cannibal witch will cook and devour you if you do)
There is no proof that the brothers collected their tales with an eye on causing any particular behavior in children; some of the stories they collected were originally created for children and some of those were created with the intention of illustrating a particular lesson.

The story about Hansel and Gretel is not a very good example for this kind of tale: They did not run away from home; their father had remarried after the death of their mother and his new wife wanted to get rid of the children and convinced him to leave them behind in the forest.

This said, I started telling my daughter Grimm tales when she was about one-and-a-half. I am leaving out the grim ones, rather than editing them. Of course, I can't be 100% sure that I'm not subconsciously editing, since I'm retelling the tales from memory.

As for editing literary works: I would rather not have to read (or have my daughter read) a 'cleaned-up' version of a story. If you are old enough to examine the views expressed in a story critically, it can be an invaluable tool in understanding the mentality of the people in the time it was written. If you are not, it might be better to wait and read something else in the meantime.

By the way, does anyone know who is to blame for the notion that the princess kissed the frog to turn him into a prince?

[ Parent ]

That's exactly how it should be (4.50 / 2) (#152)
by yigal on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 03:34:03 AM EST

This said, I started telling my daughter Grimm tales when she was about one-and-a-half. I am leaving out the grim ones, rather than editing them. Of course, I can't be 100% sure that I'm not subconsciously editing, since I'm retelling the tales from memory.

As has been mentioned at other places in this thread, the Grimm stories are nothing more but a collection of folk lore which existed during their days. In other words, these stories were passed down from generation to generation by memory.

Some of these storytellers would tell the story exactly as they learned them, but others would spout their creativity and modify it here and there. This resulted in many different versions of the same stories during the years.

The same happened e.g. to Homer's classics. They too have been passed down for generations by mouth and memory. It wasn't until 200BC (?) before they merged all versions into one 'official' version which must be used for Homer-reciting-contests. But you can still find many interesting parts where connaiseurs can say: 'this part is clearly made by somebody else'.

As an aside, it makes you wonder what the Athenians censored out of the story... Imagine Ulysses being an avid anti-mainland activist in the original story...

As another aside, I find these different versions very entertaining. Maybe that's why I do not mind many movies Disney made. I know in advance that they are a free interpretation of the original works. Usually having read the original, I find it extremely entertaining how they edited the story to fit modern times.

By the way, does anyone know who is to blame for the notion that the princess kissed the frog to turn him into a prince?
Probably queen Victoria ;-)

YDD
.sigmentationfault
[ Parent ]

Still true... (5.00 / 1) (#181)
by keyeto on Fri Feb 23, 2001 at 11:46:18 AM EST

A friend of mine was at an international conference in Berlin a few years ago. Some Americans and other Europeans were talking about relationships having "fairy tale endings". The Germans were getting more and more confused by this since, they read all the versions with the unpleasnt endings intact. When they finally cracked, and asked what all this nonsense was about, they said their versions don't end with "... and they all lived happily ever after", they end with "... and if they are still alive, they live like that still".

On another note, an interesting case for the bowdlerisation of children's storis, is my father's copy of one of the "Just William" books by Richmal Crompton. It has William and his pals playing at being a local branch of the Nazi party, and using this as a reason to torment the Jewish owner of the sweetshop. The story was written and set well before the second world war, when the Nazi party were quite respectible, antisemitism notwithstanding. Now, this was the copy that I read as a child, and I was totally appalled. My father informed me that the story doesn't appear in modern editions. "Good!" was my response at the time, although I don't think that anymore. I think it's worth preserving such books, and have children read them, so that the past is able to speak for itself, and show just how reasonably and innocently the roots of such crimes can be laid.


--
"This is the Space Age, and we are Here To Go"
William S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]
How about Mark Twain? (4.73 / 23) (#4)
by onyxruby on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 06:58:23 PM EST

Mark Twain has had several of his books banned from public schools for being racist. I find this ironic considering that at the time he wrote he was considered a radical for his views on race relations. He had the nerve to write books mocking slavery and discrimination. He was also called "the best friend the black man had" at his time for his efforts on their behalf. And at the time this was said, it was not being said as a compliment. The man was way years to decades ahead of his time in equality issues, and has been rewarded by being censored. Political correctness + revisionist history = ignorance.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

no kidding. (4.76 / 13) (#7)
by regeya on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 07:12:35 PM EST

I saw a documentary on PBS in which a parent whose daughter was attending a high school whose English program studied Huck Finn at one point. She went on record, stating that "I don't want my kids to be exposed to that garbage. It's demeaning and wrong." It's also an excellent example of social commentary written about a particular time period, in a particular time period. It offends me that there are actually parents, be they Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, or whatever ethnic background that simply want a portion of history portrayed in a "politically correct" light rather than concentrating on teaching history. Yes, let's all believe that Thomas Jefferson believed that all men are created equal and ignore that unsettling time where some were considered to be valuable property rather than men. After all, we wouldn't want to offend anyone, right? :-)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Grimm's Fairy Tales..... (3.91 / 12) (#5)
by Blarney on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 07:08:47 PM EST

Are all versions of these books censored? When I was a kid, I had a version of the book with such stories as "The Jew in the Thorns", where a magical thornbush traps a Jewish moneylender so that a heroic Germanic peasant can rob him.



maybe the ones published for kids... (4.42 / 7) (#9)
by 31: on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 07:59:08 PM EST

Oft forgotten is that the Grimms brothers were linguists, tracking the Germanic languages by gathering the traditional stories from around Germany... talk to your local linguist, they can get you a non-bastardized version.

(This info gathered from a Anthro-linguistics grad student friend of mine, several months ago)

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
Same question here (3.33 / 3) (#37)
by mattc on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:50:33 AM EST

I was wondering a similar thing.. where can one get "unedited fairytales," and how does one know if a book they have has been editted?

[ Parent ]
Some sources (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by kallisti on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:51:38 PM EST

Although in comic form, DC Comics has a "Paradox" line which puts out "Big Books". One of them is the Big Book of Grimm, which is supposedly based on the original stories. I have no idea how accurate they are, but some of them are pretty grim.

If you want to see real differences, find a copy of Sir Richard Burton's Arabian Nights collection. They bear little resemblance to anything in Disney's Alladin.

[ Parent ]

RE: Same question here (5.00 / 2) (#108)
by milton on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:17:52 PM EST

I have a copy of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Translated by Jack Zipes. It claims to be a straight, uncensored translation with stories previously unavailable in English. It is available at Amazon.

In it, story 110 is The Jew In The Thornbush.

[ Parent ]

I know where to get them (5.00 / 2) (#151)
by yigal on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 03:20:29 AM EST

I know where to get them, at least in Europe. They are called 'Woodsworth Classics' (from Woodsworth Editions Limited, England) and are ridiculously cheap (f4,95, which is about $2 I think). They bring out huge volumes of 'classics', labeled 'complete and unabridged'. This probably means that their translations of e.g. Russian writers are as faithful as possible.

I recently read their version of Grimm's Fairytales. I am quite sure that they are indeed a translation of the original works, if only from the fact that many stories are quite gory. Even better, many stories have a highly questionable morale. It was in this book that I read the story of 'The Jew and the Thorns' for the first time. To me, this was very enlightening.

As an aside, it might be interesting to know that the stories of the Grimm Brothers have almost nothing to do with their political and religious viewpoints. They were scientists who had made it their life's task to gather as much folklore as possible. In other words, they wrote down the stories as they heard them. Where multiple versions existed, they tried very hard to make an edited version which covered as much as possible.

YDD
.sigmentationfault
[ Parent ]

Fairytales (1.00 / 1) (#179)
by eean on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 05:39:13 PM EST

You can get really get unedited fairytales, as most did not start out written. Cinderella was originally from Vietnam, I believe.

[ Parent ]
Grimm's Fairy Tales.... (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by joto on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:53:14 PM EST

Wouldn't that be politically correct at the time?

[ Parent ]
What about Disney? (4.36 / 22) (#11)
by GreenCrackBaby on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 08:03:33 PM EST

How about Disney movies? There are, by far, the worst offenders. They change history, mythology, etc into some politically correct horror machine. There was a great summary of all the changes they've done on a "boycott disney" site. I tried to find it again, but all I came up with were a bunch of southern baptist pages that dealt with boycotting disney.

I picked up a great book a little while ago called (I think) Politcally Correct Story Tales. It is a great rewriting of all the old stories told with a politically correct filter on.

Song of the South (4.50 / 2) (#60)
by Rasvar on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:51:37 AM EST

Of course, if you want to bring Disney into this, there are better examples. Sure they PC a lot of the stories; but you expect that from Disney. However, I would point you to the fact that "Song of the South" has never been released on video in the US, nor is it ever likely. It is in many places overseas, though. Especially Japan.

[ Parent ]
You're right (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by xiox on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:42:42 PM EST

Look at Winnie-the-Pooh. The original drawings by E. Shephard and wonderful stories - do read the original! - were incredible. Look what disney did to it :-(

[ Parent ]
Politically Correct Story Tales. (5.00 / 2) (#119)
by curious on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:45:42 AM EST

A humerous short book in a similar vein is available in Australia under the title "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories". I highly recommend it.

"And she was imprisoned in a tall tower, the symbolism of which should be obvious.... she would let her long golden hair come cascading down the side of the tower. The symbolism of which should also be obvious."

Curious.

--
"Got History?" -- The Prelinger Archive of Ephemeral Movies.
[ Parent ]

Whine, bitch, moan (2.11 / 18) (#17)
by 0xdeadbeef on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 09:59:59 PM EST

What does your wife have to do with this? Why isn't the point of this article expressed before the last paragraph? What the hell does this have to do with the Unabomber Manifesto?
In short, they become the property of the community, and form a type of community memory.
That's right. And that community can change them to better suit its values and ideals. It's hardly brainwashing rewriting fiction. All children's stories have been modified in this way.

Besides, you can always find Little Black Sambo in some historical archive of racist literature, if that's really what you want your children reading.

Merh (3.75 / 4) (#53)
by Srin Tuar on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:21:06 AM EST

At least they could mark such modified works as "edited", rather than trying to bill them as the real thing. Since they are books from a darker era, they may require a more mature audience- no longer being suitable for children.

What some are objecting to here is the rewriting of history. I dont think anyone wants to force children to sit through an indirect insult session everyday at school.

Better to defer the book to a higher grade level, and a non-mandatory class. (And high schools students are children- usually just as impressionable as elementary schoolers.)

[ Parent ]

that's what school is (4.20 / 5) (#94)
by vsync on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:30:38 PM EST

I dont think anyone wants to force children to sit through an indirect insult session everyday at school.

But you repeat yourself.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]

The post is good- but the last line is bullshit (4.50 / 2) (#109)
by nstenz on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:31:12 PM EST

(And high schools students are children- usually just as impressionable as elementary schoolers.)

Are college students too? I'm thinking you'll probably say yes... I know plenty who would say that's bullshit. I'd say I was one of them, but I dropped out. Care to make some generalized comment about me while you're at it?

Some high school students are as impressionable as elementary schoolers. So are some adults. Then there are those who make sweeping generalizations about a large group of people and try to get impressionable people to believe it...



[ Parent ]
sure (3.00 / 2) (#130)
by Srin Tuar on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:46:06 AM EST

A few are mature. But when you set curriculae, you have to worry about the majority, who will take such things either as an insult, or justification of ostricization.

I think that for the most part- sigh school students in the US are coddled. When they get into college, for many, they tend to realize noone is holding their hand.



[ Parent ]

Othello (3.61 / 13) (#18)
by kwsNI on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 10:09:37 PM EST

What is next? Is Shakespeare's Othello going to become a white man to protect some imaginary peoples sensitivities?

Actually, it's already been done - staring Patrick Stewart as Othello no less. It was never released on video, but Patrick Stewart (I know everyone on K5 knows who he is) played Othello in a controversial play performed at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C.

Otherwise though, thought it was a great, thought-provoking article...

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy

Re: Othello (3.33 / 3) (#39)
by tftp on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:03:01 AM EST

I assume Patrick Stewart got the role not because he has white skin but because he knows a thing or two about acting. The danger would begin when Othello has to be played by a white actor just because one or another group gets offended.

[ Parent ]
You didn't read the review, did you? (3.50 / 4) (#75)
by kwsNI on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:27:37 PM EST

If you read the review of the play, the entire race of the cast was reversed. Patrick Stewart was the only white actor in the play. The reason the play was so controversial is because it was about reversing the racial roles in one of histories greatest plays on race.

I realize that in this case, Othello didn't have to be played by a white actor to avoid offending a group, but the concepts behind it were the same. Othello has ben criticized more and more as a play about racial stereotypes in Shakespearean England and this play (staring Patrick Stewart) was cast for that very reason. It intentionally changed the roles to make it possible to show the greatness of the play without the focus on the racial issues there.

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]

Are you sure? (5.00 / 2) (#96)
by broody on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:42:52 PM EST

It intentionally changed the roles to make it possible to show the greatness of the play without the focus on the racial issues there.

While I did not see the show, OMG did it sell out fast, I did read a lot of the reviews and promo materials. I got the impression that the intention of the director was to highlight the racial issues for non-black viewers in general but most directly whites.

Most "reversed role" theatre that I have encountered was done with intention to intensify the roles presented rather then diminish them. For example the Source theater's production of "The Importance of Being Ernest" with an all male cast.

Did you see it? Now I am extremely curious of the affect it had on the audience.


~~ Whatever it takes
[ Parent ]
And? (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by spiralx on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:19:54 AM EST

We've had Hamlet performed with a black actor playing Hamlet... so what's your point? Unless this becomes the norm, I don't think you've managed to invalidate his point.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Read the link! (3.33 / 3) (#78)
by kwsNI on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:39:12 PM EST

I can tell that you neither read the link nor are you familiar with Othello.

Hamlet being performed by a black actor doesn't change the story of Hamlet. However, Othello is a play about race. More importantly, it's about how a black person what regarded in Shakespearean England.

If you read the link, you'd realize that Patrick Stewart was the only white actor among a cast of black actors. He also played the only role in Othello that is typically portrayed by a black actor. It was a complete reversal of the racial roles in a play about racism.

>I don't think you've managed to invalidate his point.

That wasn't my point, to invalidate his point. Actually, I was strengthening it. His argument is that we are removing racism from classic literature and asked if Othello would be next. It's already been done. No, it's not the norm for the races in Othello to be switched, but it was done (again, if you'd read the link...) to remove the issue of being black from the play.

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]

Re: Othello (4.00 / 5) (#62)
by Agincourt on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:01:09 AM EST

You missed one important thing -- Patrick Stewart was the only white member of an otherwise all-black cast.

-- Nature cannot be fooled. -- Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Thank you. (3.33 / 3) (#76)
by kwsNI on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:31:03 PM EST

Thanks. I can't believe no one actually read the link I posted. Everyone is criticizing me, saying that Patrick Stewart was chosen for his acting ability and not his race. He was chosen for both. Yes, he is a great Shakespearean actor, but my point is that this play was put on mearly to decentralize the issue of race within Othello...

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]
Othello (4.80 / 5) (#67)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:46:55 AM EST

Actually, it is only recently (i.e. the last forty years) that black actors played Othello. Prior to that, it was usually a white actor in blackface.

Anyway, I go see a lot of Shakespeare, and at least in the area I'm in, they do a lot of colorblind casting, giving the roles solely based on acting merit. I've seen a black Mark Antony in "Julius Caesar" and a black MacBeth, among others. It is amazingly easy to not notice in this day an age, which is good.

In fact, "Othello" is one of the few plays that I've seen where they didn't do that, probably because issues of race are so central to the play.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

That was the point. (4.33 / 3) (#80)
by kwsNI on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:52:00 PM EST

This wasn't a case of color-blind casting. The casting in this play was intentionally, racially-reversed. Patrick Stewart was the only white actor in the cast.

Othello is centrally based on race, so having everyone the same race or blending the races would destroy the story. In Othello, the villian takes advantage of Othello being a minority. In many ways, although Othello isn't the villian, he's responsible (by way of his race and the cultural differences) for the tragic actions in the play.

So they cast this play to remove being "Black" as the problem race. Now, the racial differences/problems fall on a white person in a black culture. That's what made this version of the play so controversial. Although it's very interesting to look at the play in such a different context, it's still removing a minority from the position of criticism.

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]

Mariah Carey's black? (2.90 / 10) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 10:27:17 PM EST

:o

I had no idea.

(I guess the whitener worked...)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

As I recall... (3.60 / 5) (#23)
by Anonymous 7324 on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 10:40:48 PM EST

half-black. I can't tell either.

[ Parent ]
Racist attitudes towards race mixing... (3.50 / 4) (#66)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:41:15 AM EST

There's a train of thought that states that anyone who has a drop of black blood is black. It goes all the way back to pre-Civil War race laws. It is complete crap, genetically speaking.

Anyway, the original story author has probably succumbed to, er, black and white thinking in regards to skin color. Skin tones in human beings can range anywhere from nearly bone white to an almost black chocolate brown and nearly everywhere in between. The vagaries of genetics being what they are, someone of mixed blood can have any of a very wide range of colors.

Anyway, most American blacks have some white blood and a surprising number of American whites have some black blood. The way I understand it, Mariah Carey has "black", "white" and "hispanic" ancestory, so she's as "black" as she is "white".



-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Skin tone (5.00 / 2) (#155)
by error 404 on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 11:49:43 AM EST

My mother-in-law, who is of European descent, finds it amusing to compare her skin tone with that of any African-descent people she meets. Which is a lot of people, she's quite outgoing. She's white, but her skin is darker than most black skin. The odd part is that she doesn't look dark - it's only noticable by direct comparison.
..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
No. (4.00 / 24) (#22)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 10:28:27 PM EST

While there, one of his many adventures involved the African chief asking Dr. Dolittle to whip him up a skin whitener so he could add a white settler woman he'd seen to his already bulging harem. [...] I would say [...] that there was nothing wrong with the episode that got bowdlerized. It was perfectly natural, and realistic. It's something a child can believe. It matches the world around him.

Well, I don't think the problem is one of lack of verosimilitude-- the problem is that of the stylised and unquestioning portrayal of very negative attitudes about race. There are quite strong implicit assumptions behind the details-- white people don't feel attracted towards black people (which, combined with the glorification of european science and values, leads easily to the conclusion "black people are ugly"); and the idea that blacks should try to look like whites.

Anyway, are you telling us that you don't find it disturbing that scores of dark-skinned people, and even some very famous ones, use products to whiten their skin (and also products to alter the texture of their hair to look more "white")? Do you really want your kid to regard that as "normal", regardless of its verosimilitude?

Also, the desire for verosimilitude can be used to justify showing children a good deal many things that happend in the world, which they aren't psychologically ready to handle. I won't even begin to come up with examples...

Similar reasoning applies to many of your other examples-- they mostly hinge on the use of blacks as caricaturesque characters born out of the prejudices of 19th century racist western societies (even the Stowe and Twain, despite having quite progressive stances for their times, aren't wholly innocent of this).

Why would one get worked up about this? Because what children read does have an effect on them. And the more they enjoy a book, the better they will remember it. Bowdlerization hinders their enjoyment and turns them away from the classics that their parents and grandparents grew up loving.

Bollocks. In the name of "giving the children the classics", what you are doing is giving them to read literature which caricaturizes a race and presents pernicious racial and ethnic beliefs, and then calling the content of those beliefs "real" because many people hold them.

And anyway, your children are not "hurt" in any way because they don't get to "enjoy" the stories you enjoyed as a child. I'm almost inclined to say it is you who feels hurt that your children don't enjoy these stories (the same way many parents feel hurt when their children don't enjoy what they want them to do, like play sports, etc.)

(This is mostly about the clearly child-oriented stories you mention. Twain and Stowe, of course, are quite appropriate reading for adolescents.)

--em

verosimilitude (2.50 / 2) (#45)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:04:53 AM EST

What are you talking about?

"Verosimilitude" isn't even a real word.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Versimilitude (4.00 / 5) (#46)
by Mr Tom on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:29:46 AM EST

"Verosimilitude" isn't even a real word.

Perhaps it was a typo of verisimilitude. To resemble the truth.

http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=verisimilitude





-- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.
[ Parent ]

aaargh, "verisimilitude" (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:57:20 PM EST

It's "verosimilitud" in Spanish, and quite possibly would be "verosimilitude" in French, though my "'tit-Bob" (Le Petit Robert) doesn't list it. Anyway, it means "similarity to the truth". Fiction is by definition not true, but it is verisimile if it is similar enough to the real world and real events.

--em
[ Parent ]

differences in people (4.75 / 4) (#56)
by JonesBoy on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:26:29 AM EST

>Well, I don't think the problem is one of lack of verosimilitude-- the problem is that of the
>stylised and unquestioning portrayal of very negative attitudes about race. There are quite
>strong implicit assumptions behind the details-- white people don't feel attracted towards
>black people (which, combined with the glorification of european science and values, leads
>easily to the conclusion "black people are ugly"); and the idea that blacks should try to
>look like whites.

Yes, this additude does exist, but the more prominent one is the idea of marrying out of one's culture. I have many jewish friends who refuse to marry a goy. Is this because they find catholics ugly? No, they just wish to preserve their heritage and share their lives with someone with which they can relate. A better example is a irish catholic friend who married a black baptist. She was afraid to tell her father, a rather bigoted man. He nearly died when he saw him and found out the details. No, not that he was black, but that he was a BAPTIST. Really kinda funny actually.

>Similar reasoning applies to many of your other examples-- they mostly hinge on the use
>of blacks as caricaturesque characters born out of the prejudices of 19th century racist
>western societies (even the Stowe and Twain, despite having quite progressive stances for
>their times, aren't wholly innocent of this).

Blacks (Negroes is the biologically proper, but dated term) have endured a lot of stereotyping and hatred around the world. They have only begun to be treated equally to whites in the past, what, 50 years? (In the US) I don't have children yet, (and would probably have different opinions if I did) but I believe it is important for them to know what stereotyping has occured in the past, and the journey people have undergone to eliminate it. How else will they understand peoples needs and wills for freedom? How will they understand reverse discrimination, affirmative action, and other issues? How could they recognize propaganda given to them from a supremicist group if they realize these opinions? Hansel and Gretel was a gory story about two kids who trusted the gifts of a stranger. This is a good story to emphasize the "don't talk to strangers" and "don't get into strangers cars, homes, etc". If we mask the existance of hatred, how do we educate our children to protect THEMSELVES from the "blacks/whites/asians are bad" type people?


Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
[ Parent ]
Gettin' your Stowe on . . . (4.11 / 9) (#27)
by mcwee on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:27:14 AM EST

If you're having trouble getting your hands on Uncle Tom's Cabin (is Canadian customs really siezing this book, or is that paranoid flap-jabber?), then why not just download it from the Gutenberg Project here, for example?

The PMjA; it's a whole new kind of Truth.

Canadian Customs (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:36:08 AM EST

Yes, my copy actually did disappear, but I'm not sure it disappeared exactly at customs. It could have disappeared somewhere else in the mail chain. Barnes and Nobles promised to credit my account and send another copy. Thanks for the Gutenberg reference; I hadn't thought of that.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Canadian Customs Sting Operation (3.50 / 2) (#82)
by eskimo on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:26:57 PM EST

Try ordering Harriet Beecher Stowe AND Margaret Atwood in the same parcell. Then we'll find the crooks. If Atwood makes it, then there are censors among us. We try the same experiance again, and see if any Canadian customs officials have to run across the border to buy U.S. postage, and nad him. Velma couldn't have thought of a better plan.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

You are your own worst enemy. (1.90 / 33) (#28)
by elenchos on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:31:35 AM EST

Your own refusal to understand racisim from other people's perspectives, your basic factual errors, and your unhealthy obsession with many of the worst children's stories ever written provides the best evidence I can think of that these works, in their original form, are harmful to the moral and intellectual development of children.

In truth, however, I doubt the stories are to blame for your defects. I think self-centeredness and intellectual laziness are your own fault and it is always in your power to change these character flaws. Have a nice day.

Adequacy.org

Aren't we elitist? (4.16 / 6) (#74)
by weirdling on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:25:39 PM EST

They're damaging to your political position; therefore anyone who disagrees with your position must needs be erroneous and mentally underdevloped or possibly even damaged by the books that disagree with your political position.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Just not redundant. (2.25 / 4) (#102)
by elenchos on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:11:56 PM EST

Others prior to my post had pretty thoroughly critiqued the article; no need for me to cover all that ground again. I only added what they had not already said to my satisfaction.

Elitist? Sure, if you like. But I think the author none the less serves as the best testimony against himself. The comment ratings serve a similar purpose.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

He has a strange argument (1.00 / 1) (#125)
by pallex on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 08:41:32 AM EST

Its old, so its ok. Because it was published a while back its beyond question.

[ Parent ]
Questioning is one thing... (4.66 / 3) (#126)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:19:35 AM EST

Questioning and critiquing it is one thing, but editing the offensive bits out and publishing it under the same author's name with the same title and no comment is another. There should be prominent mention made of any editing, on the cover. This would be useful for both types of consumer - those who want the original, and those who prefer the sanitized version for their children.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Yes, in a perfect world. (2.25 / 4) (#137)
by elenchos on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:52:50 PM EST

But texts get edited and rewritten all the time without notice. You can weep at the tragedy of it, but we all know it has been going on for thousands of years, not mere decades. It is almost charming to find a young Protestant on the cusp of illumination, learning for the first time that the KJV is not exactly "the" Bible. This article lacks that charm, because of the racially-focused axe the author has to grind, leading to blinkered view. To selectively pick out a few old children's stories that were changed for what seems to be political correctness, and then to get just about every basic fact wrong in the process makes it entirely different. The hypocrisy of claiming to be in some way defending the integrity of the original, to somehow anoint yourself as a defender of "truth" without bothering to research the facts properly yourself is just funny. When an article is that far off-base, the subject changes from the topic of the article to questions of how the writer got to be so screwed up.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

True, true. (4.00 / 3) (#138)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:29:48 PM EST

The article wasn't too well written, being essentially a rant from the author's diary. The section on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was particularily annoying, since the author's knowledge of the film version was secondhand at best, and wrong. However, the subject of the article is a real issue, regardless of the failings of the article. Editing books and passing it off as the original is not acceptible.

The example of the Bible seems to support my position, as well, especially from the point of view of the religious. What's more presumtuous than passing your own edits off as the Word of God? Of course, it depends on your point of view as to whether that was what the original Bible was, but people who want to follow Jesus should see the actual accounts of Jesus' life and words, unedited for political correctness.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]

Selectivity changes everything. (2.00 / 3) (#147)
by elenchos on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:48:13 PM EST

If your complaint is about passing adulterized versions off as the original, you are really just complaining about false advertising. One may decry books whose covers mislead the buyer as to their contents without exclusively focusing on the (in the mind of the ranter) efforts to promote the image and self-esteem of disadvantaged ethnic groups. Why not also mention stories that are rewritten to please the comfortable and powerful as well? Does this practice of molding literature and art to promote one's agenda only exist to make children's stories politically correct? No, it is the ancient tool of governments, only recently used for the supposed benefit of minorities by book publishers and film makers who are primarily trying to sell a product to as wide an audience as they can attract.

This guy doesn't give a crap about bowdlerization in general. He only notices when the basically racist images that he warmly (and often incorrectly) remembers from his childhood are missing when he looks for them in today's books. So what you have is somebody who is only willing to go to bat for the beleaguered cause of the Conservative White Male, against the weaker and disenfranchised segments of the population, but not anyone else. In other words, a bully and a coward.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Difference between censorship and adjustment (3.22 / 9) (#32)
by ToastyKen on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:47:44 AM EST

I think there's a big difference between censorship and adjusting for shifting cultural values. I'm completely against banning books or censoring them in a way that people cannot have access to them, but it's an entirely different matter to alter an old tale to fit your current values. In fact, change is what the oral tradition that brought most of these tales to life is all about.

I think that some of the examples you give are racist and would give children values that most people no longer hold today. While I think it would be a crime to prevent these books from being bought, I think it's okay.. even good for people to rewrite these stories to fit today's sensibilities, as long as the old versions are still around for those who want them.

In particular, I find your examples involving black people to be very disturbingly racist and promote stereotypes which I would not want to promote. (I also find it odd that you use the outdated term "Negro", which is generally considered to be offensive today. And before you argue that that's exactly the kind of political correctness you're talking about, "nigger" was once considered a fine and dandy term to use, too, but if you were to try to use that today..)

My point is, parents should be allowed to tell their kids stories in the way that they see fit. Culture evolves. That's why so many of us are against lengthy copyright periods, right? So we can assimilate the old and make it new? That's exactly what people do when we take old stories and change them.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with all the changes, mind you, any more than my support of free speech means I agree with the Klan.. But I think it's perfectly fine to change old stories and retell them the way you want to.

I also think that, far from being less believable, changing the stories to fit today's sensitibilities makes them more appropriate for today's kids. After all, why do you think there are so many remakes of old movies?

The originals are NOT available (3.83 / 6) (#34)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:51:39 AM EST

My beef is not that modifications are made to the tales; I do belief parents should be able to choose what their children read. But for my children, I choose for them to read the originals. Well, guess what. I can't buy them anymore! The damn publishing houses that own the copyrights changed them and only publish the changed versions. Changing the authors intent after he's dead, and not even TELLING people that they are reading a modified version is a dirty trick.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Eh.. (4.25 / 4) (#58)
by Remmis on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:44:26 AM EST

I have to admit, the fact that you can't get a hold of the originals puts a whole new spin on things. I'm curious as to the timeline of these sorts of things. I mean simply saying "they are changed to meet the times" tells me nothing. How does a story get from point A(original) to point B(altered)? Is it a matter of "concerned parents" objecting to content, and the copyright owners bending so as to not make a big deal out of it? Also, once the work changes does the original copyright still hold? That is, if you look in the cover of an altered "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", or what have you, will it say "©1960-2001"(or whenever it was originally published) or will it say "©2001". If it's the former, how do they account for the fact that it's not the author doing the altering? Just wondering.




[ Parent ]
I agree; Project Gutenberg (5.00 / 2) (#92)
by ToastyKen on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:51:47 PM EST

I agree that it's definitely a problem that the originals aren't more available. I think it's a matter of demand.. the publishing houses do this because this is what sells better and what makes more economic sense.

I have no doubt that original versions of stories.. especially those out of copyright, are circulating somewhere.. They're just probably hard to find because there's so little demand for them.

That is, I think, why things like Project Gutenberg are so important (even though I have many issues with Project Gutenberg itself.. namely, I'm very much against their plaintext bias).. And why it's so important to reduce copyright terms so the world can do with the stories what it wants.. including keeping the originals in circulation.

[ Parent ]

WTF? "Negro" considered harmful? (4.50 / 4) (#113)
by Crutcher on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:21:06 PM EST

What, you think we should use the term "black"? Or some long, obtuse, and non-specific qualification of ancestral descent?

"Negro" referes to a particular subspecies of humans, as does "Causcasian". You can propose a different name for said subspecies, but you can not make me take the old name as an offensive word seriously. get a grip.



Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
[ Parent ]
Semantics (2.00 / 1) (#123)
by ppanon on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:54:33 AM EST

In particular, I find your examples involving black people to be very disturbingly racist and promote stereotypes which I would not want to promote. (I also find it odd that you use the outdated term "Negro", which is generally considered to be offensive today. And before you argue that that's exactly the kind of political correctness you're talking about, "nigger" was once considered a fine and dandy term to use, too, but if you were to try to use that today..)

Well, Negro is also spanish for black, so maybe that's the reason for poor understanding between the black and latino communities? I used to be pretty clueless in using the term Negro in university (since I still believed it to be the correct term to use in discussing cosmetic features in contrast with with caucasian and asiatic races). Fortunately I was set straight by my more politically sophisticated friends from eastern Canada who had had more exposure to people of sub-saharan origin. The proper term is of course, sub-saharan african-american, since many arabs living between Morroco and Egypt believe they have maintained a vibrant language, culture, and history; each significantly distinct from those of the sub-saharan peoples.



[ Parent ]
adjustment == censorship (5.00 / 1) (#145)
by jajuka on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 08:46:00 PM EST

I think there's a big difference between censorship and adjusting for shifting cultural values. I'm completely against banning books or censoring them in a way that people cannot have access to them, but it's an entirely different matter to alter an old tale to fit your current values. In fact, change is what the oral tradition that brought most of these tales to life is all about.

I can not disagree with that statement more strongly. I'd like to know exactly what you do consider censorship, because adjusting as you put it, for cultural values is exactly what nearly all censorship is. You find the word fuck offensive? That's a cultural value.

And, excuse me, but isn't exposing people to different value systems a big part of the whole multi-cultural tolerance thing? How do you expect to expose people to different value systems if you "adjust" them all to be in compliance with your own.

Not to forget the whole authors rights issue either. You put my name on the cover and it damn well better by my words inside, right down to the bad punctuation, whether I'm still alive to stick up for myself or not.

As for your insights on the oral tradition, which, by the way, none of the works mentioned save perhaps aesops fables were a part of....

[ Parent ]

Good subject, but.. (3.37 / 8) (#35)
by gblues on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:01:16 AM EST

I agree that "dumbing down" or "Disney-fying" classic tales is a bad thing, but the least you could do is get some facts straight. I can't speak about Mariah Carey, but I'm fairly certain Michael Jackson's lightening is because of a genetic disease, not a "whitener" drug.

The fact is that people don't like to be reminded of the dark side of history. Hence the axiom, "History is written by the victors." We would rather forget and move on than remember. To a certain extent this is good, but modifying historical documents to fit a certain regime is not.

Nathan
... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
It's both. (3.66 / 3) (#115)
by nstenz on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:36:13 PM EST

...I'm fairly certain Michael Jackson's lightening is because of a genetic disease, not a "whitener" drug.
I forget what the disease is called, but the skin pigment pretty much fades away to white, but not all together... It's a messy, blotchy coloring. Michael started to use a "whitener" when it got worse to even it out.

[ Parent ]
Ahhh. (3.00 / 1) (#144)
by gblues on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 06:44:18 PM EST

That makes sense, and I remember something about that too, now that you mention it. Thanks for the clarification!

Nathan
... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
[ Parent ]
Little Black Sambo = Racism (3.00 / 19) (#36)
by Lode Runner on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:05:07 AM EST

I'm ashamed to admit that I voted this article to the front page. I hope to make amends for this error by sharing what I learned about Little Black Sambo.

After doing a little research, I've decided that the article's author, Jonathan Walther, is spreading an essentially racist message. (Mind you that I'm not advocating censoring Little Black Sambo -- I'm just trying to explain why it offends many people and that Walther is at best highly insensitive.)

Anyway, I take particular offense at the following line:

No, Little Black Sambo can be safely removed to the dustbins of obsolete and rejected childrens literature without complaint from me.

Bringing back Little Black Sambo will certainly bring a complaint from those of us who are aware of the dangers of tacit racism.

To understand what I mean by tacit racism, please read this quote from The Dalton Middle School's excellent discussion of racism in LBS:

Then there is the name Sambo, long a contemptuous, generic way of referring to black men (as in, "Here, Sambo, fetch this bag to my compartment"). Further, consider the foregrounding of "black" in the title, implying the abnormality of being black. Think of what would be the corresponding titles featuring white characters: LITTLE WHITE WOMEN? THE ADVENTURES OF WHITE TOM SAWYER? WHITE PINOCCHIO? WHITE HEIDI? WHAT WHITE KATY DID? I think too that in 1899, when Bannerman published LBS, "black" was a rather derogatory term for blacks; the polite term would have been "colored" (remember what the acronym NAACP stands for--an organization founded soon afterwards). . . .

Now it's true that some individual African Americans have been empowered by the story, especially early in the century, when it was virtually the only available story for children featuring a dark-skinned child. Since then, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that when a teacher reads the story to a multiracial class any African Americans in the class are then called Sambo.

Now, bearning in mind how modern people of color may interpret the book's title, go read it yourself:

Little Black Sambo Online (slow -- be patient)
Google Cache (less slow)



Hmmm.. wrong Sambo (3.00 / 5) (#38)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:51:29 AM EST

That is nothing like the "Little Black Sambo" I saw in the dentists office as a child. The one I saw was a chapter book, and definately didn't have any pictures. Maybe I was mistaken as to the title. Oh well.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Little Black Sambo (1.00 / 4) (#117)
by Lode Runner on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:26:34 AM EST

You're not getting off the hook so easily.

It doesn't matter if you'd read some other book; that the racist, condescending title alone didn't ring alarm bells in your head is troubling enough. Hopefully my post demonstrated why people find the title Little Black Sambo so highly offensive. The fact that you are happy to a book with such a title in circulation speaks volumes of your ignorance and insensitivity.

[ Parent ]

Little White * (5.00 / 3) (#129)
by pete stevens on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:52:56 AM EST

"
Hopefully my post demonstrated why people find the title Little Black Sambo so highly offensive. The fact that you are happy to a book with such a title in circulation speaks volumes of your ignorance and insensitivity.
"

There's another book by the same author called

Little White *

[s/*/name I've forgotten/]

Is that highly offensive too?

.... the Flat Earth Society announced in 1995 that their membership was global
[ Parent ]
Little White Squibba (2.00 / 2) (#150)
by Lode Runner on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 02:21:38 AM EST

You and the people who gave you 5's really ought to do their homework.

See: http://www.sterlingtimes.org/squibba_v_sambo.htm

It's self-explanatory.



[ Parent ]

What?! (5.00 / 3) (#146)
by Smiling Dragon on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 08:46:29 PM EST

So the title is offensive? Defend this remark. Tell us precisly what is wrong with it, being careful to remember that Sambo is mearly a name, it became a racist slur in later years.

What do you think of Shakespear's Othello?
What about Uncle Remus? (That's now a slur as well).


-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
Defense + A Little Offense on Sambo (3.85 / 7) (#149)
by Lode Runner on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 02:11:06 AM EST

So the title is offensive? Defend this remark. Tell us precisly what is wrong with it, being careful to remember that Sambo is mearly a name, it became a racist slur in later years.

If you went up to Samuel L. Jackson and called him "Sambo," you'd get your block knocked off. To learn why you'd get your ass kicked, read on.

Sambo is not and was never a proper name. It was a nickname given to black servants by Southern whites starting in Colonial times. Blacks did not call each other Sambo. Names like Sambo functioned to make adult black males seem childish in comparison to adult whites. "Here, Sambo," says the white teenager to a middle-aged black male stranger, "I'll give you a shiny new dime if I can see reflection in my shoes after you polish them."

Today in the American South, one can still see a vestige of the racism of sobriquets: rural southern blacks will take offense at being called anything but their given name. Someone named James is to be addressed by strangers as "James" and never "Jim". (Yes, there was an allusion to Conrad in there).

So, "Sambo" was a well-established racist stereotype when the book in question was originally written; Sambo in the book has the same function as animals in kids' stories today -- simpler creatures are easier to understand (e.g. Berenstein Bears (sp))

The Sambo stereotype was therefore not invented by Hollywood, but perpetuated by the film industry. The name, with all of its baggage, predated motion pictures and radio by centuries. To get an idea how well-known the stereotype was,lLook for movies featuring characters named Sambo and Step 'n Fetch-it. Sambo is always childish, clusmy, and unswervingly loyal to his light-skinned superiors; though Sambo was an adult, he needed guidance in quotidian taks by white children. No explanation is ever needed for Sambo, the audience already understands exactly who he is. It's a lazy screenwriter's easy fallback for comic relief or just filler.

As for Uncle Remus. It's "Uncle" that's the offensive part, not Remus. Black male seniors were universally called "Uncle" by white strangers and, yes, they took offense. Here's a quote:

Another thing about Negroes. I am beginning to get used to sitting in classes with them... One old Negro is in my classes... The other day he spoke to me. I was not thinking... and said unconsciously "how do uncle." He has not spoken to me since. I really didn't mean to offend the old fellow but he looks to me as though he should be following a mule in Arkansas instead of following History in a university. (William B. Hesseltine in a letter to his mother, 1926. From Peter Novick, _That Noble Dream_, 1988. p. 226)

Othello title character is another matter entirely but it touches on an interesting issue. Is Othello African or Turkish or Indian or what? Shakespeare calls him a "Moor" but it's not entirely clear who The Bard had in mind, as Moor was a general term for Africans and Muslims. Similarly, was Sambo black American or Indian (subcontinent, not Native American)? Since the name Sambo stems from the English colonial tradition, it probably has a similar meaning in both cases.

In conclusion, your assumption that Sambo was an innocent name when the book was written is wrong. Today, even the fairly bigoted whites among southerners realize that the name Sambo belittles and offends, and unlike you, they know that it's not just PC liberals over-reacting.



[ Parent ]

Impressive... (2.50 / 2) (#157)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 05:24:03 PM EST

Wow. Looks like I just gagged on my own foot :) I appreciate the history correction, I really had thought the slur came from the book.

Thanks for the clearup :) And the information about it, much new interesting stuff there, a good read.


-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
impossible (2.00 / 3) (#161)
by Lode Runner on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:22:26 AM EST

What? Someone on K5 admitting an error and then proceeding to learn from their mistake? Impossible! K5 isn't about learning new things, it's about popularity and crushing those who think differently than you.

Anyway, thanks for being reasonable about this.



[ Parent ]

"Uncle" not considered offensive (2.33 / 3) (#175)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 02:33:11 PM EST

You Americans must be pretty screwed up. Up here in Canada, especially in the rurals, a child will call an older man "uncle" in deference to his age. Its a sign of respect, and its not associated with blacks. Its just plain Good Manners.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
Canada? Je m'en fiche (1.66 / 3) (#176)
by Lode Runner on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:47:42 AM EST

You Americans must be pretty screwed up. Up here in Canada, especially in the rurals, a child will call an older man "uncle" in deference to his age. Its a sign of respect, and its not associated with blacks. Its just plain Good Manners.

Your "uncle" comment is totally beside the point.

Now, let's see here. It's okay for kids to call old guys "uncle" in Canada, so it must be okay everywhere else too. That's Canada-centrism, man. How pathetic. I mean, as bad as it is, Americentrism can at least be explained by U.S.'s size and accomplishments; Canadians can't use that excuse.

If your article didn't prove you a total ignoramus your lame-ass comments and unthoughful rating of others' insight certainly has. No, you are not a racist, but you are the kind of person who has allowed others' racism to remain unchallenged.

And one last thing, a petty thing: it's "it's" not "its". Dumb, illiterate Canuck... no wonder your money's becoming worthless.

[ Parent ]

censorship doesn't cure racism (4.00 / 6) (#40)
by SEAL on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:16:03 AM EST

I think it's quite a leap for you to conclude the author of this article is a racist.

The way I read it, he is worried about political correctness becoming so forceful that, in a way, it rewrites history. Is this really what you want? Is it so bad to leave Little Black Sambo unedited on the shelves of a public library?

People need to stop being so overly sensitive and learn to deal with it. If you don't like the book, then don't read it, and don't read it to your children. I don't mind if public schools want to leave such books out of their curriculum. Schools should try to stay neutral and I'm fine with that. But people should be able to decide for themselves what they read (or read to their children) in their free time. Changing the content of books themselves is scary.

When you start changing books that way, where does it stop? It's easy to say "we're doing it for the children", but that's just where it starts. When someone in power gets an agenda going, some other so-called offensive category will be removed from your view. Just for example -- what if the Bush administration decides to clamp down on family planning and related info? This isn't so far fetched.

And even outside government, big retail stores tend to cause a dumbing down of content because they refuse to stock possibly offensive items. Consider trying to get a violent / sexist / racist / you-name-it computer game on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Good luck with that one.

Books, especially historical ones, have traditionally been the last stand against censorship. But now, even they are getting the axe. I think it's sad.

- SEAL

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
[ Parent ]
not quite... (3.66 / 3) (#107)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:17:08 PM EST

I think it's quite a leap for you to conclude the author of this article is a racist.

The post you replied to says nothing of the sort. What it does say is "I've decided that the article's author, Jonathan Walther, is spreading an essentially racist message". There is a difference between accusing somebody to be a racist, and accusing them of a specific instance of spreading a racist message. It is possible that a person may unadvertently spread a racist message despite not being a racist.

To further complicate the issue, the term "racist", as applied to people (e.g. "Dave is a racist"), is quite vague-- the strongest meaning would be "a person who consciously believes members of a particular race are inferior and deserve to be treated as such", while a weak one is "a person who because of unconscious patterns of thinking treats members of other races worse." The weaker one can actually be applied to a good deal many people who are very well-meaning and consciously believe in equality of races, but still, are not quite sensitive to the ways society privileges them for their race. So what you unjustifiedly accuse Lode Runner of isn't even clear.

People need to stop being so overly sensitive and learn to deal with it. If you don't like the book, then don't read it, and don't read it to your children.

I'm sorry, but the freedoms you would base your argument on also give me the freedom to tell you my case of why you should not give your kids such books. Which is what people in this forum are doing.

Anyway, I fail to see what's so important about "Little Black Sambo" that it must be given to our children, despite the fact that there are countless children's books out there to choose from.

--em
[ Parent ]

you ignored my point (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by SEAL on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:05:07 PM EST

The question is: should we alter the content of books to satisfy the sensitivity some people have towards certain topics?

I'm saying this is wrong. Little Black Sambo isn't anything special in particular - it was just an example. This issue could be true of anything currently deemed politically incorrect.

I'm sorry, but the freedoms you would base your argument on also give me the freedom to tell you my case of why you should not give your kids such books. Which is what people in this forum are doing.

I have no problem with that. And like I said, I don't have a problem with controversial books being left out of school curriculum. However, changing the content of these books to satisfy the politically correct flavor of the month is going too far. That isn't your free speech telling me not to read that material. It is physically preventing it.

That is quite a significant difference. I think it is getting lost in this discussion because many people instantly close their minds (one way or the other) as soon as racial issues are brought up. The issue I see, though, is above and beyond a racial one.

Let me state clearly: changing content of books on the basis that they are objectionable to SOME people, is a bad thing. Especially historical ones where the author has passed away. Karmakaze states "you can't unwrite the past and we shouldn't try". That's my feeling exactly. Better to learn from past mistakes than to bury our collective heads in the sand.

- SEAL

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
[ Parent ]

Wrong. Racist means: (5.00 / 1) (#112)
by Crutcher on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:15:42 PM EST

A person who believes that a particular race is superior.
Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
[ Parent ]
Don't be ashamed (4.33 / 3) (#47)
by xrayspx on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:34:35 AM EST

I misred the dustbin line twice. He said it can be "removed to the dustbin..." not removed FROM the dustbin. Anglo-Canadian wordplay, perhaps meant to confuse us yanks? I hope not. At any rate, he's not saying "Bring back Little Black Sambo", he's saying don't CHANGE published stories to keep in lockstep with PC "morality", it ruins the story and interrupts the authors origninal flow/intent.

I would agree with that sentiment. Or they could change the title to "Vertically Challenged African-American [insert non-threatening name here]"
"I see one maggot, it all gets thrown away" -- My Wife
[ Parent ]
The *real* Little Black Sambo was *not* racist! (3.00 / 2) (#159)
by isdnip on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 10:12:11 PM EST

Perhaps somebody once wrote a nasty book called "Little Black Sambo", taking the title from a popular kiddielit piece of the 19th century. And maybe some street trash talkers abused the term, based on a false meaning. But that does NOT make the original racist.

At the time and place it was written, black did not mean "African-American"; it was about an Indian; India was, at that time, a British colony. The usual British attitude towards subjugated races was condescending. But in this story, the boy, Sambo, surprises the reader with his cleverness. It's a positive image, especially if the reader understands the context. More recent shifts in the semantic use of "black" should not impinge upon the merits of the original story! When I was growing up, btw, "Negro" was the preferred term, with "colored" the condescending one. "Black" became acceptable in the 1960s, joined soon thereafter by the more formal "Afro-American". I think "black" as applied to an African-American was considered insulting at one point in the distant past, when the polite term was "Negro", but those who really wanted to insult that population had a more potent "n-word".

Of course Americans are hypersensitive to the trappings of racism, but that plays into the real thing. Even Sambo's Restaurant had trouble after the 1960's semantic shift of "black" (replacing "negro") caused people to think that Sam B's and N. Bohnett's restaurant chain was somehow named to insult African-Americans.

And don't let the bad review fool you: Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a wonderful movie. (I have two kids of the right age for it; we own the tape, and my older one adores Dahl's books.) We do use the term Veruca Salt to refer to a greedy person. I think Wonka does mention late in the movie that the children who are so, uh, abruptly removed from his factory do come out alright. And if you're not really straining to find racism, the Oompa-Loompas are just fun, not anybody's nasty stereotype.

[ Parent ]

Bad history (1.00 / 1) (#160)
by Lode Runner on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 10:46:05 PM EST

Perhaps somebody once wrote a nasty book called "Little Black Sambo", taking the title from a popular kiddielit piece of the 19th century. And maybe some street trash talkers abused the term, based on a false meaning. But that does NOT make the original racist.

Hogwash. When the original "kiddielit" 19th century Little Black Sambo was written the term Sambo had already acquired its racist tone. The original term was racist when applied to non-whites and classist when applied to whites.

See my more extensive explanation of the history of "Sambo": here



[ Parent ]

Censorship is a tradition of storytelling (3.90 / 10) (#43)
by slaytanic killer on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:31:56 AM EST

Censoring childrens' stories is actually a time-honored tradition. When I was in Germany, I learned that the Brothers Grimm collected the old stories from little villages, and actually tidied them up for popular audiences. And the Grimm stories still remained disturbingly dark and well.. grim. Now, just send these stories through a couple levels of Disneyfication, and you've got a good idea of the evolution of such stories.

Now, of course I don't consider this censorship, though I'm fine using your words. A storyteller has the right to tell stories his way.

Stories change to fit new cultures. They must retain something of their humor and wonder, or they end up insulting and hurting children. As an adult you may wish the stories stayed the same, but children are blank slates, as far as these stories go.

The Storyteller (5.00 / 1) (#163)
by Kugyou on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 08:42:45 AM EST

Therein lies the rub. You said A storyteller has the right to tell stories his way. Very well, I'll agree with you there. But who is the storyteller? The author? A publishing company? A children's-rights (snicker) activist group? Who gets to decide how X's story is written? While X is alive, I'm sure many of us would agree that X should be allowed to bar candied versions of their literature. But what if X is dead, or disappeared, or just doesn't give a damn? What happens then? I was on a board, some years ago, to determine what books could and could not come into an elementary school's library. I was appalled by the idiocy there (thus I quit). Some memories (a note, these are all things I voted against, but went through anyway, and the bolding is just for the result, no emphasis connoted):
  • A book containing the word 'Bitch', being used to refer to a woman, was banned from the school library.
  • A book containing illustrated and highly-detailed instructions on witchcrafts, spells, enchantments and the like, was allowed into the library.
  • The Christian Bible, the Muslim Quran, and a Romanized Torah were banned
Now, a minor justification here. The book on spellcraft included several rituals which involved blood or sexual fluid, as well as the use of psychotropic substances, near-explosive materials, and corrosives - the thought was in the danger to the children (I, at the time, was a practicing witch).

I think the one that *really* got me was when one of the parents on the board informed me that the obvious drug references in a story about a clown's birthday party, and the loss of 'happy dust', would not be caught by a child, and I challenged her. Told her to prove it. "Take the book home to your five-year-old and have them read it". Next week's meeting, she votes to ban the book - her kid looked at her and asked her if the book was about cocaine.

No, I don't believe in censorship. I've read too many Lit-Book-Ized versions of stories that are unintelligible because of the removal of phrases such as 'son of a bitch' (they let us read the original 'A Seperate Peace' Freshman year of high school, made us read the Lit-Book version the next year). A friend and I were informed that we could not give public presentations of our book reports, Senior year in high school, because we both did research reports on 'Fringe Religion' (Lovecraftianism and Illuminatism/Discordianism in my case, Satanism in hers). Children's classics are no different. When are our kids going to be told that they can't give a report on Tuck Everlasting or Huckleberry Finn because they portray black people in a negative light? The censors are dumbing down children's literature, and the storytellers - the original storytellers - have no say.

Please rate my opinion, not my formatting.
-----------------------------------------
Dust in the wind bores holes in mountains
[ Parent ]
Flawed Correlation (3.75 / 8) (#49)
by Remmis on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:51:15 AM EST

Your intro to your article made it look quite promising, but I don't really have any attachment at all to the books you mentioned. Maybe there's a bit of a generation gap there, but the only book you mentioned that I've read is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is one of those books that schools make you read, and I remember to be only mildly rewarding. I'm not sure I'd call it a "childrens book" or group it together with things like little red ridinghood. Screw around with Dr. Seuss though, then I'm pissed. :)

Anyhow, I think the main thrust of your first few paragraphs is somewhat flawed. The point of books like "1984" and "A Brave New World"(by Aldous Huxley) is that the powers-that-be have re-written history and structured society to fit their agendas and so it profitted them more. I don't see any correlation at all between giving citizens a false history to assimilate them, and re-writing books so that they are less offensive. Mildly at best. I make no claims as to whether it's right or not, childrens books just arent that big of a deal. I submit that any children I may have won't need a book to tell them what's right and wrong.




Actually, there is a correlation (4.00 / 3) (#72)
by weirdling on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:17:49 PM EST

There's no evil genius doing it; it is just what society seems to be doing to itself, collectively putting its heads in the ground.
Case in point just yesterday, moving in to my new apartment in Westminster ( near Boulder, Colorado, home of many weenies ), I and a friend were porting a rather large couch towards the apartment when a youngish female came by and cheerily wished us luck. As she was walking by, however, she noticed the rifle cases on the couch ( saving a trip ), and immediately turned cloudy and reserved. It's not as if the guns were out in the open; they were encased in plastic moving cases and she could not possibly even know what kind of guns they were. It just drove home a point that society as a whole has managed to change many things about the way it perceives itself. A lot of stories I heard as a kid would make a modern parent aghast: 'A Tale of Two Cities" was read to me when I was around 6. I vividly remember many other, violent tomes. In this modern day and age, children don't see violence until they run accross it on their own and have no defense to it.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Violence (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by B'Trey on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:37:55 PM EST

In this modern day and age, children don't see violence until they run accross it on their own and have no defense to it.

While I agree with the gist of your post, I have to call you on this statement. Even children who grow up in homes with concerned parents get exposed to a GREAT deal of violence on television and movies.

[ Parent ]

Possibly (2.00 / 1) (#81)
by Remmis on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:26:26 PM EST

You're assuming that this "censorship" is at the detriment of society. The problem is that people expect books and television to raise their children, not that books are being censored to keep the nitty gritty out of them. Unless you're going to debate censorship in general, which I whole-heartedly disagree with, it doesn't add up. You may think that contradictory, but the main point of the article is that children are losing out. Why? Because parents can't instill good morals on their own without scaring their kids into it with hansel and gretel? There is definitely something wrong when a third party tells you what is or is not good for children to read, but what's the point in arguing that when the schools decide what they're going to read anyway?




[ Parent ]
Cautionary Tales (3.00 / 1) (#122)
by ppanon on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:16:32 AM EST

Because parents can't instill good morals on their own without scaring their kids into it with hansel and gretel?

Grimm's fairy tales are cautionary tales. Kids used to read these stories and realize that it can be dangerous to accept candy from strangers. Most kids are smart enough to tell that Hansel and Gretel got lucky because the witch got careless, and that they could have wound up in the oven as easily as the witch did. Instead now parents have to tell kids not to talk to strangers and accept offers of candy. So either the parents scare the kids for real, or the kids don't really get the message and resent the limitations they are placed under. Which is worse?

And then again, if more kids read Grimm's fairy tales to get their morals, maybe you would have a lot fewer religious fundamentalist decrying the decline of morals in North America. Given that there are a lot of families with two parents working to make ends meet these days, it would probably be better if kids learned their morals from cautionary tales than from Billy the future street punk at the after-school daycare. If you have time and the skills to do a better job than that, great! But many people realize that sometimes there is something useful in 200+ years worth of child-raising experience and that they don't have to re-invent that wheel, tabula rasa. I resent the PC pushers' decisions that force me into not having those options available when I decide to raise a child.



[ Parent ]
From Ray Bradbury (5.00 / 4) (#83)
by losthalo on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:35:20 PM EST

"Fire-captain Beatty, in my novel _Fahrenheit 451_, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever." In my recent printing of the book, I think from 1982, he says that editors had removed 75 separate sections of the novel, over the years. It makes me wonder if perhaps _To Kill a Mockingbird_ is being (or has been!) censored, unbeknownst to us. Are the wonderful works of Hemingway that I read avidly being plotted against for the use of racial slurs? What about the continual alcoholism of A Farewell to Arms? To strip those things out, well, to my mind you would be better off burning them than to leave them maimed and impotent. Those books have important things to say, and need all their words to say them. Bradbury says that if people want to cut things out of his works, let them write their own. I say, let the censors be beaten with a hard stick. Bruce von Nagel "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

[ Parent ]
Yes, yes (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by Remmis on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:14:26 PM EST

Why is everyone picking on me? :P
I agree with what you're saying. Let me try to clarify my position. I was trying to keep myself within the boundaries set by the article. He was only interested in censorship as it applies to childrens books, so that's what I tried to comment about. The concept of censorship in general could fill volumes. You could argue that it will start out like this and soon they'll be taking more and more paragraphs out of more and more books, sure. That's simply not what the article is about. I could care less if instead of "see spot run" it was secretly changed to "see max run", or if suddenly they replaced mother goose with father goose, or if little red ridinghood gets eaten or escapes, or if oompa-loompah's are pygmy's or god damn eskimos. Children's books have little bearing on anything and are mainly there to facilitate them in learning to read. You gotta read something to build reading skills, so that's what's there. Anybody who would be bothered by changes like that is simply overly nostalgic. As someone pointed out earlier, the children come into it with a clean slate. Do you really think they will be majorly affected by any of this? The only detriment I can see is one to society in general, for losing an original piece of work. But again, I dont think the article is speaking to that, or to censorship in general.



[ Parent ]
You are wrong. (4.66 / 3) (#111)
by Crutcher on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:10:28 PM EST

Charlie and The Chocolate Factor was not written to build reading skills. Little Red Ridding Hood was not written to build reading skills. I could go on, but that's not my main point.

My main point is that children's stories have more of a bearing upon who you grow up to be than anything other than your parents. they provide the mythic backdrop which your mind uses /for the rest of your life/ to analyze the world arround it. And simplifying that tapestry, or removing some of the colors, or some of the paterns, diminishes our children. The stories /must/ have evil in them, and the bad guys /must/ win occasionally, and people /must/ die occasionally, because these things happen in the real world.
Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
[ Parent ]
What? (5.00 / 3) (#118)
by Cosmic Osmo on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:33:13 AM EST

Whoa...wait a minute...childrens books just aren't that big of a deal? Children's books are a very big deal! Maybe they aren't as highly regarded in literary circles, but they are very important in encouraging children to read, learn and develop imaginations and critical thinking. They aren't simply a tool to teach the mechanics of reading. If they were, "Dick and Jane" would be all young children would need to read. Kids don't just learn to read so they can read their bills or the TV guide when they grow up.

It is disturbing to me to see the extent that children's literature has been modified. It seems that the best of children's literature is the most vulnerable to censorship as well. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach" are among my favourites from childhood, and both have been subject to pressures from thin-skinned advocates of censorship. "Lord of the Rings" and the Harry Potter series are also hits with youth and subjects of censorship debate.

It looks to me like only the most bland and unimaginative works escape unscathed. We are doing a great disservice to children if we shelter them from such rich stories. These are books don't need illustrations. They paint vivid pictures in your mind through their words alone and provoke thought and discussion. If these works contain something potentially disturbing to the young reader or the parent, sheltering the child from it is entirely the wrong thing to do.

Why all this censorship? What happened to responsible parenting? If your kid shows an unexpected interest in "Little Black Sambo" or some other controversial story, don't gasp and take it away--you're telling your child that reading is at least sometimes bad or dangerous. Read the book with your kid, and discuss why it is wrong to portray people without respect and equality, and explain the historical context it was written in.

Our children are not going to learn to be responsible and compassionate by sheltering them from objectionable subjects. They learn by confronting these subjects head on, and that can happen with the guidance of parents (in a healthy way) or without (often with harmful consequenses). Would you rather your child learn the word "nigger" while you are reading stories from Mark Twain with him and can explain why the word is so objectionable and its connection to slavery, or would you rather he overheard it on the playground or the street from some low-life skinhead punk? Parents should encourage their kids to read whatever they show an interest in, and be there when they read it for guidance. Government or politically correct lobby groups will never be an adequate replacement for good parenting.

[ Parent ]
Well... (5.00 / 1) (#142)
by Remmis on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 05:32:41 PM EST

I still think my original argument stands. When I said that childrens books simply build reading skills, that lumps together "...learn and develop imaginations and critical thinking". Since it's simply not possible to read without doing all those things; it happens automatically, that's why it's important to read and to read often. I was really trying to keep away from arguing censorship in general. I completely agree that sheltering people from certain topics will NOT make those things go away. It's like saying not teaching your kids about racism, or war, or famine will cause them to grow up in a world without it. All it will do is make them obvlivious to it, and most likely add to it. Keeping touchy subjects away from people is exactly the opposite of the way you should be dealing with them. It's a lot easier for publishing companies, however, who don't want to hear all these people banging on their door about the content of their books, to simply delete the content.

Diversity in the content in books is the easiest way to a more knowledgable and intelligent public. It's obviously wrong to censor things out of books to shelter children. I probably should have included all this babble in my original content. What I was trying to say is that I don't think the changes in the books he mentioned are all that much of a loss to society at large. But I suppose you can't simply argue that the censorship in one or two books is ok, but no not these books over here. I probably shouldn't have posted while being awake for 30 hours with no sleep. *kicks source code*




[ Parent ]

Michael Jackson (3.14 / 7) (#50)
by CrayDrygu on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:55:48 AM EST

I've only seen one other person mention this, and it was buried in the middle of a comment, so I figure I'll bring it right to the front.

Michael Jackson didn't use and "whitener" to get where he is. He has a genetic disease that I forget the name of. My father has it, too, though not as bad -- he has dark and light splotches on his skin instead.

Also, it struck me as odd that you said Willy Wonka has "apparently" been made into a movie. That movie's been around for 30 years! (1971)

However (3.25 / 4) (#55)
by Srin Tuar on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:25:15 AM EST

The man has obviously taken some drastic steps to change his ethnic appearance.

He could have just as easily used a skin dye matching his original complexion as a bleached white one.

But the modified hair and nose give his intent away.

Perhaps we should take his skin disorder story with a grain of salt.

[ Parent ]

VITILIGO (3.00 / 3) (#61)
by /dev/human on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:58:39 AM EST

Michael Jackson claims to suffer from a skin condition called VITILIGO. While this may or not be true, vitiligo is visible as patches of skin which lose their pigment and may or may not spread over time. It has not been proven to be a genetic disorder. Michael has obviously taken great pains to alter his appearance, ie. multiple plastic surgeries and skin lightening. But really - who cares?


There is more to life than increasing its speed.
    - Mahatma Gandhi
[ Parent ]
re: VITILIGO (3.00 / 2) (#97)
by pornking on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:51:32 PM EST

My understanding of vitiligo is that you have three options:

  • grin and bear it
  • use special makeup which is a serious pain in the ass to mix and apply
  • have all your skin whitened

Personally, I think vitiligo is the best explanation for his single white glove and body covering John Lennon style jacket from his early days.

ps. No, I am not a fan.
pornking
[ Parent ]

A Note on Uncle Tom (3.85 / 7) (#54)
by refulgence on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:24:51 AM EST

The reason that the phrase "Uncle Tom" is used in connection with racial stereotypes is mostly because of the stage show, not the book. The story totally turned inside out and put on as a minstrel show (a la Bamboozled).


______________________________________________
"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
"Uncle Tom" (4.50 / 2) (#65)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:26:16 AM EST

I was under the impression that the phrase "Uncle Tom" comes from the particular character in the book, and that it refers to a black person who betrays his own race. I.e, that the phrase is not itself a racist term, nor does it imply that the book itself was racist.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
"a black person who betrays his own race" (4.60 / 5) (#88)
by jacwhite on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:16:02 PM EST

Um, well, it does depend on what you mean by "betray".

I read the book over the Xmas break. I have to recommend it as a picture into the times, but realizing that this was a picture from a white, northern, Christian woman's perspective. Not exactly great literature, but interesting. While Stowe did push for emancipation, she makes a big deal about "good" and "bad" qualities in "Negroes". She subscribed to a lot of prejudices, but to her credit she also took a big jab at the Northern breed of racism: no slaves, but don't put "them" in our schools or our homes.

As to the character of Uncle Tom: he was the typical "good slave". He was a Christian who truly understood the meaning of turn the other cheek. He never stood up against the wrongs done to him, only the wrongs done to others. Stowe used his character as a Jesus figure (the whole story is allegorical).

In the story, Uncle Tom never "betrayed" his race. He had a wife and children that were also slaves. He helped other slaves escape when necessary (to prevent the splitting up of families or the corruption of morals). He was a good person. However, I speculate that the term was used by the militant groups to criticize blacks that wouldn't stand up for themselves. Now it's used as a derogatory term for any black that is perceived as being too white or helping promote a anti-black agenda (such as Clarence Thomas, for example).



[ Parent ]
1984 Correction? (3.00 / 5) (#57)
by WinstonSmith on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:26:31 AM EST

In 1984, the protagonists day job was the endless rewriting of history, forging and reforging public documents to fit in with whatever the current party line was. The government paid him handsomely for it.

No it didn't. He lived just like everybody else. So far as I remember, there's nothing in this book at all that says Winston Smith was paid any more than anybody else.

He was simply in a higher class (3.20 / 5) (#70)
by weirdling on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:08:57 PM EST

In the class-based society he was in, being a minor political functionary still made him a political figure and thus a higher-class, having greater priveleges...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
No, quite correct... well... sort of. (4.66 / 3) (#106)
by curious on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:08:28 PM EST

Winston didn't live just like anyone else - society under Ingsoc was rigidly stratified into three levels, the Proletariat ( no named examples ), the Outer Party ( to which Winston and Julia belonged ) and the Inner Party ( to which O'Brien belonged ).

While he may not have been paid "handsomely", he certainly was paid somehow - compare his purchases of the coral paperweight, the diary and finally, the room above the antique dealers store. He also lived in a "priveleged" position at Victory Mansions, unlike the proles who existed in slum like dwellings of their own construction / salvage from old England.

The thrust of your point is, I feel, correct however - Winston was about equally miserably kept as the rest of the outer party.

Seeing 1984 thrown into discussions like this always interests me, as the comparison is not always a correct or appropriate one. The rewriting of history by the Ministry of Truth was in keeping with the central tenet of English Socialism in that they would direct all aims of the state towards remaining the state, and protecting it from dissident ideas, where in this case, the rewriting of history seems to be geared more towards protecting people from themselves, two, I thought, quite disparate goals. The first, at the very least, recognises it's direction as antagonistic to the people of the state, while the other believes itself to be benign and for the common good.

Don't get me wrong, I adored 1984, and still think there is a worthwhile message to be gained from reading it, even though I don't think society as it stands at the moment could support a collective Oligarchy in the style of Orwell's piece. I think the concept-object of Ingsoc, however, like a somewhat more highbrow form of what Godwins principle describes, has become a kneejerk stereotype that precludes critical thought. It's almost as if we have our own seven [1] minute hates against these ideas that we find unpopular, invoking 1984 like the animal chants of "BB, BB" that were so chilling in the book.

We have always been at war with 1984.

Curious.
-- Wishing he had more time to write on kuro5hin. And less real work to do.

[1] Were they seven minute hates? I can't remember.

--
"Got History?" -- The Prelinger Archive of Ephemeral Movies.
[ Parent ]

Responsibility? (3.33 / 9) (#59)
by /dev/human on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:49:26 AM EST

"Those who are willing to sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

- Benjamin Franklin

If and when I have children, it will be my mission to raise them as intelligent, compassionate individuals who can recognize the difference between fact and fiction. It's a parent's responsibility to discuss, and/or control, what their children read, what they watch, and who they spend time with.

"Little Black Sambo" does not magically turn intelligent, socially responsible people into racists, just as watching "Bugs Bunny" does not turn them into a gun-toting Elmer Fudds. We all have a responsibility to turn off the television if we don't like what's playing.

The reason some people are changing these books is because they believe not talking about an issue makes it disappear. People are more able to deal with problems when they have been empowered by information to do so. Leave the books untouched and on the shelves...


There is more to life than increasing its speed.
    - Mahatma Gandhi

I remember reading Little Black Sambo (4.50 / 10) (#69)
by Karmakaze on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:07:19 PM EST

I remember reading Little Black Sambo as a child. (I am, for the record, under thirty).

I also remember my mother explaning what the stereotypes were, why they were hurtful, and why the story had once been considered acceptable. It started a long conversation about "why do people believe racist/hurtful things that aren't true?" It also was a good start in learning to spot (and dismiss) the same sort of bias in other things. I think books fall into the same category as television programs. Parents should know and discuss the content with their children, rather than trying to pretend objectionable material doesn't exist.

You can't unwrite the past, and we shouldn't try. The only way we can stop ourselves from making our ancestors' mistakes is to know what they were - and to know them for mistakes.

Of course, my mother was an anthropologist, which may have colored my upbringing somewhat.


--
Karmakaze
RE: Agreed. (3.75 / 4) (#71)
by the_0ne on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:17:07 PM EST

I don't remember little black sambo at all, did hear about a book by that title, but had no idea what it was.

You can't unwrite the past, and we shouldn't try. The only way we can stop ourselves from making our ancestors' mistakes is to know what they were - and to know them for mistakes.

Totally agree with you. By changing history and rewriting history so our children don't see what happened is wrong. This reminds me of the confederate flag debate that is going on down south. I don't understand how that flag flying there can mean only one thing to some people, slavery. It's part of our history. Slavery is wrong, period, but by removing all references to it doesn't mean it didn't happen. There were slaves under the American Flag also, when do we see the debate to get rid of it?

Again, removing exerpts from books will not remove the fact that these events happened.

[ Parent ]
Your mother... (3.66 / 6) (#89)
by jacwhite on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:19:41 PM EST

What a wonderful parent she must have been! That is exactly what I hope to be able to do when I have children. Sounds like she was better trained for it, though.



[ Parent ]
Uncredited Changes. (4.20 / 5) (#73)
by broody on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:18:26 PM EST

To me this a discussion of two distinct issues. The first being, "should an author's work be 'edited' or 'updated' without the book prominently noting the modification"? The second being, "is book X a 'responsible' choice for a children's story"? To the first question I have strong opinions. To the second, I couldn't care less. There will never be one academic program that will represent everyone. To me this strenghtens the call for private schools & private choices.

The best approach that I have seen to the shortcomings of an author's work was Thomas Pynchon's "Slow Learner". He savages his text and expresses his regret for his "sexist", "racist", and "facist" tendancies of his earlier work. To me this is the best cause scenerio, the author aknowledges his errors.

Obviously some authors will not revise thier contentious beliefs. The two acceptable options in my mind are to reinterperate the authors' work or simply leave it be. Despite the way the law currently operates, I do not think uncredited changes should be able to made to an author's work.

YMMV.


~~ Whatever it takes
Ray Bradbury commented on the first of those two. (4.00 / 2) (#100)
by dr3 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:39:09 PM EST

in the edition i have of Fahrenheit 451 there is a 4-5 page rant form Ray about this subject. I unfortunatly am at work and can not quote from it but it makes very good points, such as something to the effect of, by modifying an authors work your taking the work out of its own context and ripping away shreds of reality from the readers mind, and also watering down the authors orginal intentions.


As Confused as a toddler in a topless bar.
[ Parent ]
More on Bradbury's comments (5.00 / 4) (#103)
by thenigan on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:37:12 PM EST

Mr. Bradbury did indeed comment on this issue in his coda to Fahrenheit 451 (after the afterword). Apparently, he was asked by several people to make changes to The Martian Chronicles. One reader asked that he rewrite the story to include more female roles and another requested that he rewrite the black characters in the story because he felt they were portrayed as "Uncle Tom's". Do these requests sound familiar?

Bradybury went on to relate another story of censorship. This one much more disturbing, since it was done in the name of academia. He says:

"Some five years back, the editors of yet another anthology for school readers put together a volume with some 400 (count 'em) short stories in it. How do you cram 400 short stories by Twain, Irving, Poe, Maupassant, and Bierce into one book?"

"Simplicity itself. Skin, debone, demarrow, scarify, melt, rendor down and destroy. Every adjective that counted, every verb that moved, every metaphor that weighed more than a mosquito--out! Every simile that would have made a sub-moron's mouth twitch--gone! Any aside that explained the two-bit philosophy of a first-rate writer--lost!"

"Every story slenderized, starved, bluepenciled, leeched and bled white, resembled every other story. Twain read like Poe read like Shakespeare read like Dostoevsky read like--in the finale--Edgar Guest. Every word of more than three syllables had been razored. Every image that demanded so much as one instant's attention--shot dead."

The rant goes on, but I think you get the picture. It is often in the fringes of a story that the true theme is realized. Altering even "unimportant" sections rips the heart out and irrecoverably alters the meaning. One last comment from Mr. Bradbury. One that s especially true in these politically correct times.

"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches."

Check out this book. There is a reason that it is a part of the core curriculum of high school and college literature. This edition of Fahrenheit 451 contains the afterword and coda by Mr. Bradbury.




Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
[ Parent ]
Get your facts straight (4.65 / 23) (#79)
by psychonaut on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:46:10 PM EST

You've made a number of factual errors that significantly weaken your arguments.

I've been assured that the "horrifying racism" in [Little Black Sambo] starts after those first few chapters I read

I had this book as a child... as far as I know, there is nothing horrifyingly racist about it. Sambo-slammers simply cite the presence of "Black" in the title as an indication that the author implies being black is abnormal. So what? Considered in the context of its target audience (English-speaking Western countries), being black is abnormal. Notice I said abnormal, not unnatural or wrong. If it's wrong to simply mention someone's race for the purposes of description, what's next? Shall we change the title of "Old Mother Hubbard" to just "Hubbard" on the grounds that the protagonist being female and aged is irrelevant to the poem?

In 1984, the protagonists day job was the endless rewriting of history, forging and reforging public documents to fit in with whatever the current party line was. The government paid him handsomely for it.

Winston Smith was not rewarded for his labour any more than any other Outer Party member. The only truly well-off people in 1984 were the parasitic Inner Party, among whose ranks was the inquisitor O'Brien.

Ben saw the movie as a child, and mentioned that it is much darker than the book; the Oompah-Loompas play little devils to Willy Wonkas satan for the first part of the movie. Satanism is somehow more politically correct than little pygmies running around? Oy vey.

Wrong again -- there was nothing Satanic about the Willy Wonka movie. The film was criticized for depicting Wonka as uncaring, even sadistic, as he watched the children meet with unfortunate "accidents" in his factory. As I recall, this is not altogether different from how Wonka was portrayed in the book. Wonka's relationship with the Oompa-Loompas does not change throughout the movie. They are portrayed as dwarfs with curled hair and coloured skin -- closer to the original pygmy description than hippies.

Aesop's Fables have been altered and bowdlerized for the last 300 years; so I'm not sure any modern tampering can do much harm. But they are finally available in full for those that want them.

I'm sure Aesop's and Grimm's tales have been available for longer than you seem to imply. Any reputable humanities library ought to have had them in their original format. Where did the bowdlerized versions come from if the editors did not have access to the originals themselves?

How many generations enjoyed Peter Pan or Alice In Wonderland?

Now you yourself are falling victim to the bowdlerization and Disneyfication which you so vehemently oppose. Alice in Wonderland is not the name of any book by Lewis Carroll; it is in fact the name of Disney's cinematic adaptation of his two works, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The movie excised most of the macabre imagery from the books.

What is next? Is Shakespeare's Othello going to become a white man to protect some imaginary peoples sensitivities?

Shakespeare was bowdlerized long ago. Do you even know what "bowdlerize" means? The term arose from Thomas Bowdler's "Family Shakespeare", a heavily censored version of Shakespeare's plays, first published in 1818. Bowdler's neutered Shakespeare was heavily criticized at the time, despite being responsible for bringing the Bard's plays to a much wider audience. Bowdler was by no means the first to butcher Shakespeare, though. For instance, Charles & Mary Lamb published "Tales From Shakespeare", an expurgated children's version of the plays, in 1807.



Interestingly enough... (4.00 / 4) (#90)
by _cbj on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:27:39 PM EST

I've just come home from returning The Complete Lewis Carroll, so can't offer the relevant quotes, but amongst Dodgson's essays on vivisection and women in universities, he writes of his keen support for 'children's editions,' using Shakespeare as an example of beautiful, universal work that would lose nothing if sanitised. It's fair to say that Carroll intended nothing sinister in his fairy tales.

Genuinely strange events (superficially entertaining, with complex, plausible, never-mentioned explanations) just don't happen in kids' literature now. Disney's interpretation forms a more natural part of that other reaction to revisionism, the Dumbing Down debate.

[ Parent ]

JK Rowling (3.50 / 2) (#124)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 07:29:56 AM EST

I find that the best "childrens'" literature is still full of wonder and deep events. At any point in time, there are very few good stories spun. We should always keep in mind that there will always be the eternal suspicion that today's books are dumbed-down, and there's always some writer out to change that.

[ Parent ]
WTF? (3.00 / 3) (#104)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:56:54 PM EST

Considered in the context of its target audience (English-speaking Western countries), being black is abnormal.

WTF? There are millions of black people living in the US and Britain.

--em
[ Parent ]

It is still abnormal. (4.00 / 2) (#114)
by Crutcher on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:29:14 PM EST


Crutcher - "Elegant, Documented, On Time. Pick Two"
[ Parent ]
Get a dictionary, friend (4.00 / 2) (#116)
by psychonaut on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:43:05 PM EST

WTF? There are millions of black people living in the US and Britain.

Yes, and there are tens or hundreds of times more non-black people (predominantly white people) living there. Hence, being black is abnormal.

abnormal — deviating from the normal or average (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)

Consider also that the book was written in India, then a colony of the British Empire, for a white audience. The black (i.e. African) population in India at that time (and probably currently too) was so negligible as to make them even more abnormal than in Britain and North America.



[ Parent ]
You drag out the dictionary, I drag out WordNet (3.75 / 4) (#121)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:03:03 AM EST

WordNet is a lexical database of English which, by automatic analysis of masses of compiled texts, discovers meaning relations between words. What do you think WordNet gives as synonyms for "abnormal"? Let's see:
$ wn abnormal -synsa

Similarity of adj abnormal

3 senses of abnormal

Sense 1
abnormal (vs. normal)
=> aberrant, deviant
=> anomalous
=> antidromic
=> atypical, irregular
=> brachydactylic, brachydactylous
=> defective
=> kinky, perverted
=> freakish
=> subnormal
=> supernormal
Also See-> insane#1

Sense 2
abnormal (vs. normal)
=> exceptional(prenominal)

Sense 3
abnormal
=> immoderate (vs. moderate)

(Oh, yeah WordNet is Free Software...)

These are not arbitrary synonyms-- they are the words that semantically associate with "abnormal" after an analysis of more English texts than any of us would care to look at.

Of course, the lesson you should draw from this is simple: don't argue semantics lightly with a semanticist.

--em
[ Parent ]

And your point is...? (4.50 / 2) (#127)
by psychonaut on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:46:06 AM EST

WordNet is a lexical database of English which, by automatic analysis of masses of compiled texts, discovers meaning relations between words.

As a student of computational linguistics, I am familiar with WordNet, thank you.

3 senses of abnormal

Sense 1
abnormal (vs. normal)
=> aberrant, deviant
=> anomalous
=> antidromic
=> atypical, irregular
=> brachydactylic, brachydactylous
=> defective
=> kinky, perverted
=> freakish
=> subnormal
=> supernormal
Also See-> insane#1

Sense 2
abnormal (vs. normal)
=> exceptional(prenominal)

Sense 3
abnormal
=> immoderate (vs. moderate)

So what's your point? The synonyms you give here are overwhelmingly neutral or positive. Some of them, such as antidromic and brachydactylous, are highly specialized biological terms that almost no-one associates with abnormal. Only two or three (kinky/perverted, defective, and possibly subnormal) have a strongly negative denotation.



[ Parent ]
let's don't drag this out (3.00 / 1) (#128)
by G Neric on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:49:51 AM EST

Regardless of how many usages there are for a word, all usages are still available when a word is selected. The reader does not get to select the particular synonym, that's the author's perogative. If I write, "good job, take a bow" you should not start shouting, "why should he take either the front of a ship or a hair ribbon?" You could credibly say, "that would be more clear if you wrote 'bow to acknowledge applause'"

That doesn't mean authors don't purposely choose ambiguous terms, double meanings, or words with subtle senses, but for the purposes of a discussion like this where someone is trying to communicate, it only works if you try to read the meaning behind the entire sentence (which, by the way, is the proper domain of semantics the way linguists use it). I claim we all knew perfectly well what the author was trying to communicate, and this quibble over "abnormal" is obfuscating, not clarifying.

If it was really a burr under your saddle, you should deliver the criticism in a constructive way: "I know what you mean, but you shoud avoid the negative connotations of 'abnormal' by using a word like 'uncommon'"

[ Parent ]

"Abnormal" vs. "uncommon" (3.00 / 1) (#135)
by psychonaut on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:13:17 PM EST

If it was really a burr under your saddle, you should deliver the criticism in a constructive way: "I know what you mean, but you shoud avoid the negative connotations of 'abnormal' by using a word like 'uncommon'"

True, true. But keep in mind I was not the one who settled on the term "abnormal" -- I was attacking its use by those critics of Sambo who see it as racist. I contend that it is true that Sambo emphasizes the abnormality of blacks, as they claim, but only in a connotatively neutral sense of the word.



[ Parent ]
By that argument... (3.00 / 1) (#132)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:27:06 PM EST

Being male is "abnormal"
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Not really (3.00 / 1) (#133)
by psychonaut on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:01:10 PM EST

Being male is "abnormal"

Yes, but not significantly so. There are only marginally more females than there are males, whereas in North America and the former British Empire, non-blacks outnumber blacks by a long shot. Hence the characterization "abnormal" is much more appropriate.



[ Parent ]
Lil' Black Sambo (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by Robert Uhl on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:01:56 PM EST

Sambo is an Indian. `Black' was used to refer to the natives--in fact, in many of Kipling's works the lower classes tend to use words for the Indians which one would in the US think of using only in relation to Africans.

[ Parent ]
What are you disagreeing with? (and more on Sambo) (4.00 / 3) (#105)
by VValdo on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:58:35 PM EST

Aside from offering some specifics, it doesn't seem like you guys are really in disagreement about much. Who cares whether Winston was well paid or not-- taht's not the point.

As far as Sambo goes, I can offer this-- I grew up in Phoenix, AZ. On 7th street in North Phoenix there was this restaurant in the 70s (maybe early 80s too) called "Sambos," which is the only reference I have to the story.

As I recall there were drawings all over the walls of Sambo, depicted as one of those "Bamboozled" blackfaced big-lipped natives, chasing a tiger around a tree. I don't remember the story really, except somehow by grabbing its tail, the tiger was turned to... "butter"?! or something.

No one's mentioned the total absence of "Song of the South" or the excised scene from Disney's "Fantasia" with the nappy haired "jigaboo" type characters...

W

PS-- in later years the Sambos on 7th street turned to a "Guggy's" with a Humpty Dumpty theme. Later it became a Bob's Big Boy, I think.
This is my .sig. There are many like it but this one is mine.
[ Parent ]

Satanism (4.50 / 2) (#131)
by davidmb on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:06:42 PM EST

Actually quite a lot of people seem to think that Willy Wonka represents Satan in the film version. He keeps putting temptation in the path of all those children without seeming to care about their fates.

Try this

Or this

Or this.
־‮־
[ Parent ]
Heh.. (2.00 / 1) (#168)
by Danse on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 02:43:03 PM EST

The first link is very tongue-in-cheek criticism. I doubt it was intended to be taken seriously. The Everything link doesn't go into much detail. I'm not sure what to make of the last one, seems like it was written by a televangelist. It makes (IMO) unfounded assumptions and reads a lot of things into the movie that I really just don't buy. I think the movie was a sort of morality play, but I hardly see it as satanic.




An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
bowdlerizing carries another connotation (4.00 / 1) (#173)
by scrimmer on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 11:48:24 PM EST

For what it's worth, "bowdlerize" carries another connotation beyond mere censoring. The word actually implies removal of specifically _vulgar_ or _obscene_ parts of a text, rather than the removal of anything generally "objectionable."

[ Parent ]
Oxdung! (3.50 / 4) (#95)
by Pig Hogger on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:31:55 PM EST

One book that has actually received such censorship is the last book in the world one would expect to receive it; I refer of course to Uncle Toms Cabin, by Harriett Beecher Stowe. I haven't read the book myself; it is absent from all bookstores here in Canada. A copy I ordered from the United States silently vanished going through customs.
Here are 2 book versions and 2 video versions of it, straight from the Ottawa Public Library catalogue.
--

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it's idiot

In all fairness.... (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by Danse on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 02:26:50 PM EST

He did say bookstores, not libraries.




An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
If I Recall Correctly... (3.50 / 6) (#98)
by Captain_Tenille on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:52:10 PM EST

... "Little Black Sambo" was written by a British author, and is about a clever Indian boy who outwits some tigers (which are in very short supply in Africa and North America).

Thus, it seems that a.) Sambo is portrayed in a positive light in the text of the book and b.) it doesn't refer to a person of African descent. While the illustrations may not be the best, the story itself doesn't seem to be that bad.

Disclaimer: I'm going off of what my mother told me about it. I haven't read it, but she had at some point.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!

Here's the story... (4.66 / 3) (#120)
by VValdo on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:53:29 AM EST

Looks like it was written by Helen Bannerman. I found the whole book here at http://www.sterlingtimes.co.uk/sambo.htm


This is my .sig. There are many like it but this one is mine.
[ Parent ]

Little black sambo = indian boy (4.66 / 3) (#136)
by spacy on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:15:48 PM EST

... "Little Black Sambo" was written by a British author, and is about a clever Indian boy who outwits some tigers (which are in very short supply in Africa and North America).

You are indeed correct. It was an English woman traveling by train across India who made up the story to tell to her children. It has been slightly changed (like the rant said, actually) to make it less "Indian". For example in the original version the tiger turned into ghee (melted butter that all Indian cooking requires) but in later versions that I've seen it was water (I guess not requiring explaination of the ghee reference). My mom read it to me, and I read it by myself when I could read. My mom was actually really mad about the attempt at censoring it, because it should be pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain that it doesn't take place in Africa, because there are no tigers there!

[ Parent ]

censorship wrong, but not how you say. (4.20 / 5) (#99)
by atomic on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:05:39 PM EST

this is an interesting topic. i hope that the real issues will come out in the discussion following the article at least.

children's books should not be left in their original forms because kids only relate to realism, as you assert. indeed your point is that censoring certain "racist" or politically incorrect portions of a story (from pygmy to hippie, black to blue for instance) makes a story less enjoyable to children because it is not as realistic.

most children i know (including myself once) don't enjoy charlie and the chocolate factory or any of Grimm's tales because of the realism factor. children like faerie stories. they like to escape into a world entirely unlike there own. they choose stories that provide the most fire for their young and innocent imaginations.

the censoring of children's books has greater consequence than that point. the originals become more and more scarce, the lines between censored version and uncensored version become blurred. children don't need to be protected like many people who are all grown up think they do. they don't see the world through the same eyes as adults do. they don't notice political incorrectness or understand adult humour or references woven into stories because they haven't experienced that developement yet.

the more stonewashed these old stories get the more they become the same cookie cutter happy story, completely losing contact with the original intent. this is what to fear from censorship. stonewashing to make everything comfy-cozy for all can only lead to a tendency to not want to step outside that boundary.


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX? that's kind of... ewww." -- mom.
You have a point (3.28 / 7) (#139)
by Khedak on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:51:13 PM EST

Everything you say is true. The question really is: what is the motivation for these changes, what is the goal of the alleged propaganda? In 1984, the answer was simply the maintenance of the power structure, keeping the Inner Party in power and keeping everyone else in line.

However, I think in this case, the motivation for changing the original versions is the fact that the original versions, even without explicit 'racist' references, came from an essentially racist society, and the literature and traditions reflect this. These changes have been made because it's been decided that the old versions were racist. Whether that is true or not is of course open to debate.

So, yes, they are changing your favorite children's stories, and yes, it's because they think thyey are racist. You didn't seem to imply any ulterior motive, nor do I suspect one. But the situation is hardly as bad as that portrayed in 1984. Changing traditional literature and customs is dangerous no matter what the goals are, but I think you can find more dangerous examples then these efforts to suppress hundreds of years history of racism against Africans and those of African descent.

You can argue about whether they are racist all you like, but at worst, then all the political correctness is simply mistaken, people who mean well doing harm. But I think you're being slightly melodramatic when you compare this situation to that in the aformentioned novel by George Orwell. And in fact, those who do indeed believe these works to be racist would find it highly ironic that you consider the revised versions to be dangerous propaganda. In their view, the original works are racist propaganda.

I'll bet you voted for Bush.

They that can give up essential liberty to... (5.00 / 1) (#158)
by orthox on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 05:52:10 PM EST

...obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."--Benjamin Franklin

Once a book is revised by someone other than the original author, it is no longer their work in it's essence. It is somehting different, a neutered version of the original. Removing such things from the text, and by extension peoples minds will not change the truth. In this case racism seems to be censored. This was a part of history, it happened, can't revise that (at least not yet). By trying to forget it happened people will also forget why it was wrong, what started it, and all the strife that occurred because of it. What would happen if we started revising newscasts so as not to report about the crime that was occurring? (If people see the news stories about the crimes they might try to emulate them.) Guess what? People would still commit crimes. Without knowledge it will grow unchecked, and the people will be unaware if it is becoming a serious problem. What then?

Hiding the truth is not the answer.

Where does it stop? The one thing I have seen in my years on this earth is that it does not stop. Once you start censoring (via revision) childrens books, it will spread. Over time, people will consider the modification of a text to be a normal thing. Eventually that will spread to another area, perhaps books & magazines for teenagers. Over time, that will even spread. Then what?

[ Parent ]

Rhetoric (2.00 / 3) (#169)
by Khedak on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 03:59:12 PM EST

Your response is highly rhetorical. I salute your skill. In any case, I never said I approved of the censorhsip, so I will disregard your comments that insinuate otherwise (the majority of your reply).

Instead I employ the following analogy: The OJ simpson trial. He was acquitted, and popular opinion is that he was responsible for the murders, but the police also planted evidence in order to ensure that he would be convicted. Now, morally speaking, we have to acquit him, because the police acted irresponsibly and we can't abandon our system of justice when it pleases us. The same is true for censoring such books as you said. We can't do it morally, because censorship is immoral.

However, if you were trying to convince me in an argument that police tampering with evidence is sufficient reason to acquit someone (morally), the OJ simpson case is probably not the best example to use. Semantically it's correct, but morally it's confusing. The same is true of these allegedly racist books being censored. Semantically, censorship is always wrong. But these particular cases aren't exactly the best example. You wouldn't show me child pornography that had been censored and say "See? They're censoring child porn, how wrong!"

So, in essense, I agree with you, but I think it's only fair to point out that there are other moral issues at stake here, and that there may be other examples of censorship that are more, shall we say, worthy of being fought. For example, suppression of political events in the media, or police beating down protestors who are exercising their right to free speech. Those are the examples I would give, not the examples you gave.

But again, and for the last time, I agree that censorship is always wrong, but reiterate that censorship is only one facet of this particular issue.

[ Parent ]
What I will be doing. (4.00 / 6) (#140)
by arcterex on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 04:45:58 PM EST

I honestly didn't know that this sort of thing was going on. I know that things are getting mucked up in this society of overly idiotic PC, but I never guessed that they'd be re-writing history (in a sense).

I'm 25, unmarried and without children. But I would like to plan for the future. So I'm going to be heading to the used bookstores and start collecting the classic stories that I read as a child (that I don't already have somewhere in a box). Dr. Doolittle, Tom Swift (old and new), Hardy Boys, Asop and his fables, Tintin, Asterisk and Obelisk... the works. And when my son or daughter starts to read I'm going to read him those, just like my dad did. When he gets Dr. Doolittle from the library I'm going to offer my original version to him, just in case.

Extreme measures? Maybe. I'm not a redneck of some sort of militia guy hiding away all my stuff from the evil government, just a normal canadian guy. Is this too extreme? Probably. Am I gonna do it anyway? Yup.

Another Canuck! (2.50 / 2) (#141)
by Jonathan Walther on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 05:19:35 PM EST

I also am a 25 year old Canadian; the approaching birth of my first child in 2 months prompted me to check and make sure the books I read and enjoyed as a child will at least be available to my children. I was disgruntled to say the least when I found out what had been done to the books. Fortunately many of the "childrens" books I read a child are usually categorized as adult now, so I can buy them unexpurgated.

I don't think we need to worry about Asterix and Obelix or Tintin being censored, because their copyright holders are in Europe where things haven't deteriorated to such a degree, but I'm buying them anyways. I find it amusing that several here chose to find me a racism promoter. I suppose if they knew my children and wife were brown, they would say I didn't really love them, either.

Chris Lindsay, bite my ass.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
impermanence (4.50 / 6) (#143)
by dirkmuon on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 05:35:15 PM EST

A few ideas:
  1. A work of literature changes over time. The relationship between text and reader is two-way, not one-way: readers ascribe meanings to texts that authors did not, could not imagine. An author's intention may become changed or lost across the years even though the text is fixed. An author's intention becomes, in some sense, irrelevant. We do not read old texts because of an author's intention. We read them because we respond to them in some appealing way.
  2. That most children's literature has a pedagogical component makes it inevitable that well-meaning souls will "revise" or "censor" old texts that contemporary adults may find problematic. Probably this does not represent the best solution. Probably the best solution is the intervention of wise parents to explain the text in contemporary terms.
  3. Of course, the well-meaning souls realize that precious few parents will so invest themselves in their children's cultural education.


More info on banned/challenged books (4.50 / 6) (#148)
by thenigan on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 11:42:11 PM EST

The American Library Association (ALA). Even though the very name of this organization conjures images of silver haired ladies calling for silence at every whisper, the ALA has collected some very interesting information regarding banned and challenged books.

ALA's Freedom to Read Statement - Expresses some key points on censorship and it's ramifications.
Ten Most Challenged Books of 1999
100 Most Challenged Books of the 1990's

Here's a group that is actually doing something about censorship. A lot of people on this site talk a good game, but I can just imagine one of those ancient librarians demanding, "Put up or shut up kid!"

Support Banned Books Week - September 22-29, 2001.


Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Counterarguments to selected challenged books (5.00 / 2) (#170)
by eofpi on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 08:08:59 PM EST

I looked over the last three links, and, off the "100 Most Challenged Books of the 1990s," here are the books that I have read and have counterarguments against any change to:

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This is one of the better books that I have read for school. I had to read it both my freshman and sophomore years in high school (I'm currently a junior). The slavery and racism in the book are necessary for it to be effective for its probable highest purpose--to denounce slavery and racism. Huck has seen that neither the North nor the South are truly equal, so at the end of the book he goes off to the west, where there are no laws, particularly none enforcing racism and/or segregation.

6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. While this book is a difficult read, it is a shockingly realistic tale of the times. Lenny breaks the foreman's son's wife's neck (I've forgotten those characters' names) accidentally because his mental disabilities do not permit fine motor control when he is excited or scared. George has to kill Lenny by shooting him in the back of the head because it is more humane than what the new widower would have done (would have shot Lenny in the gut, which is supposedly a very painful way to die).

15. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine. This series was written for one purpose only (besides the obvious as a source of income for the writer, of course): to thrill the (pre)teen age groups of readers. The stories in this series vary enormously as far as scariness goes: some are almost comical, while a couple of others scared the hell out of me. However, they are not worth censoring, as there is always some highly unlikely seemingly insignificant event or item that plays a critical role in the plot.

40. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It is reflective of the early part of the 20th century in Alabama, and shows that racism was certainly not universal at that time, even in the deep south.

58. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Linda Madaras. I hope I don't start a holy war on the issue of sex education, but I think it should be taught, although whether by parents or teachers is of less importance (both is probably best, but most children and teenagers don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about that sort of thing). The book does not contain any photographs and is not intended to be arousing (in other words, it's neither visual nor textual pornography of either gender).

73. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. I frankly do not see why this is on here. Sure, it has political turmoil, violence, and a police state, but that is not justification in my mind for it making the list. All of the events in that book are either based on factual history of Chilean politics or depict situations that really occurred.

83. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. It has been a long time since I read this, but from what I remember, there is little to even suggest frobbing this work. I think there may have been some violence, and it touched on Huck's father's alcoholism, but those are not justification enough to even try to argue for censorship or editing of this work.

87. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford. This makes about as much sense as archiving to /dev/null. These books don't even have any significant amount of text! Besides that, they enhance visual acuity and other vgrep skills.


IMHO, no work should be censored, edited after first publication (unless editing is done by author, and preferably then only to correct any unintentional spelling and/or grammatical errors that were not caught before publishing), or banned. I could see a bookstore choosing not to stock a particular work (for one thing, there just isn't room at most bookstores for every work ever made, or even every work from the last 50 years), but I fail to see what point banning a book has, especially since it could be argued that (in the US at least) banning a book would be a form of government censorship, thereby violating the first amendment self-evident truth to freedom of press, as the US has a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," (US Constitution, I think).



[ Parent ]
Blackness in the US (3.16 / 6) (#153)
by JohnHopfrog on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 08:45:53 AM EST

By God, Mariah Carey is more white than black - she is just 1/4 black.
I find it really stupid of most americans that anybody who has just a little black in the blood is automatically labelled negro.
I would think that the reason that there such literature is modified is to modify such common misconceptions.
These are attitudes that have persisted over generations - and you learn these things in your childhood.
An effort is being made to change the attitude you grow up with - changing the colors of the black men to blue will not change the childrens appreciation of the show.

The only thing it does is to offend your closed mind.

So long as the story itself is not changed, and so long as the intention of the writer does not get warped, then there is no harm in changing a book -- and there can be gain.

-John

revisionism is not healthy... (5.00 / 1) (#166)
by Danse on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 02:12:32 PM EST

Perhaps we should create new stories rather than revising old ones. Changing books to fit with current beliefs is not a good thing. It can easily cause us to have a distorted view of history when we can no longer read stories that reflect the thinking of those in the past, or when we read stories not knowing how they've been changed from the original. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it and all that...




An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Geek blindness (3.00 / 2) (#172)
by JohnHopfrog on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 03:31:01 PM EST

I notice that these so called "geeks" are subscribing increasingly to the same opinions. The opinions from the creators of sites like this (and slashdot) are being bandied around as personal opinions.
The real world has caught up with us, and its stupidity is finally showing.
I like people who think for themselves - the majority of people against censoring are so blindly, because it is the "geek" thing to do.

-John "freedom of thought" Hopfrog.


[ Parent ]
I agree. (1.00 / 1) (#183)
by traphicone on Mon Feb 26, 2001 at 06:32:28 PM EST

I absolutely agree with this. I have seen countless discussions turn from their topic when someone yells "Freedom of Speech!"

Everyone follows suit... "What!? Someone's opposing Freedom of Speech!?" "Who's against the Freedom of Speech?" "Long live Freedom of Speech!" And half of these people obviously don't even know what the discussion was even about. Drives me absolutely nuts.

Yes, it's something that is important and worth fighting for, but it has also just become an incredibly trendy thing to advocate. I know people who would be up in arms over the abridgings that have been discussed here who would say "I want to be able to read a book as the author intended!" who, in fact, have not read a single book in likely five or more years and who certainly do not plan to pick one up any time soon.

"Generally it's a bad idea to try to correct someone's worldview if you want to remain on good terms with them, no matter how skewed it may be." --Delirium
[ Parent ]

Literary work integrity (4.60 / 5) (#154)
by atomico on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 09:28:21 AM EST

I strongly believe that no literary work should ever be altered, no matter for which alleged reason. Who should think him/herself knows better than the author? If every classic had been changed every time the society values had changed, they would be virtually worthless by now.

Political Correctness is a more recent phenomenon in my country (Spain) than in North America; nevertheless, it is hurting us quite a lot, filling our language with stupid euphemisms. I haven't heard of any changes to classics yet (my childhood classics were of course different), but of "adaptations" of those classics, almost always of null literary value.

By the way, it's a long time since I read 1984, but I think the poor protagonist wasn't paid so "handsomely"...



Disney, Tolkien, Star Wars, and such (3.50 / 2) (#162)
by Elessar on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 07:25:50 AM EST

If you read childrens' classics, you will see that Disney do this a lot. Look, for example, at Tarzan or Aladdin, and you will find that frequent censoring and "Americanization" is being utilised. Fortunately, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" (Tolkien came from South Africa, and was, like any one of us, human.) and George Lucas's "Star Wars: Episode 1" have both escaped the censoring hands of political correctness. But watch out for the LOTR Book 1 movie release in December! This book is kind of too good to be censored, IMO.

Looney Tunes have also fallen victim to censors. (4.50 / 2) (#164)
by meldroc on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 05:26:26 PM EST

Network executive at ABC, CBS, TNT, Cartoon Network hold absolutely nothing sacred. They have cut the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies to shreds in trying to make them politically correct. You might want to take a look atThe Censored Cartoons Page, which has a huge list of all the edits each network has made to each cartoon.

Admittedly, I can understand why some of those scenes are considered offensive (for example, dozens of blackface impressions and other racist moments have been cut out of the Looney Tunes,) but as an adult, I want to be able to choose whether to view edited versions or the cartoons as they were originally released.

Even though these things are offensive, the Looney Tunes just aren't the same without Bugs Bunny or Sylvester crying out "My, oh, my! Tattletale Gray!", or Daffy Duck drinking a can of gasoline then swallowing a lit match.

Fahrenheit 451 (5.00 / 2) (#165)
by lux on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 12:13:34 AM EST

When I was in HS we read Fahrenheit 451. But our versions had been censored. To add insult to injury, there was a forward by Ray Bradbury talking about how he had found that versions being sold to schools had been censored, and had forced the publishers to put the swear words back in...

For some reason this contributed to a distrust of various forms of authority...

Fahrenheit 451 (5.00 / 1) (#180)
by billyoblivion on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 08:38:02 PM EST

This is known as "irony".

I wonder if it's ever been done to 1984?
-- billy oblivion, living in the damaged worlds since 1992
[ Parent ]
Sinterklaas (4.33 / 3) (#171)
by tribbel on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 08:14:48 PM EST

As far as I know nobody has ever painted St. Nicolas' helpers blue. I do know, however, that there have been a few black Nicks with white helpers (uhm. african-dutch and not-so-african-dutch, or whatever).

Sickening. There has been quite a lot of media coverage here about that, but it seems the general public finds it just as disgusting as I do. Not because the fact of having a black saint is something that can't be done, but because changing a dead guy's colour is more or less impossible. I suspect next year this will be less of a 'problem'.

But, there is something even scarier than what is noted above;
it is not his birthday! St. Nicolas allegedly died on the fifth of December.
Hence, we have been celebrating his birthday on the wrong day for
many years. Try that for rewriting history... (I didn't figure this out
until about eight months ago, by the way).

On a more technical note, St. Nicolas is not exactly a 'pre-christmas holiday'. It is christmas in the American sense of the word (i.e. gifts). We don't celebrate christmas with gifts.


Hmmm... (4.50 / 2) (#174)
by BJH on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 10:54:32 AM EST

Just wanted to leap in here with a couple of comments - I work for a publishing house in Japan that, among other things, publishes children's books. It also publishes collections of essays by schoolchildren.

To give an example of how things work, if we're issuing a translated edition of an overseas book, and the translator put in some "objectionable" expressions (of which we have a list - not that the company would ever admit it (and I mean that - if we lose a copy of the list, we're supposed to report it immediately; they're numbered, so if one turns up in the wrong place (say, a reporter's hands), the company can tell whose it is)), then we would usually call the translator and ask if the expression could be replaced with a different term. If the translator objects, then the editor would either spend more time trying to convince them (possibly delaying publication) or just delete or alter the phrase themselves (permitted by the standard contract we have with authors and translators).

In the case of schoolchildren's essays, there have been situations were it has been 'necessary' to go to the child and his/her teacher and ask them if it's all right to change one or two possibly problematic expressions. The teacher sometimes approves this without even consulting the child.

I'm not making judgements one way or the other about these - you decide for yourself if this kind of thing is appropriate or not. Please note, also, that Japanese publication guidelines (as well as publishers' "groupthink") are generally stricter than in many other countries, a holdover from the wartime and postwar restrictions on publications.


--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

I shudder to think... (4.50 / 2) (#177)
by leonbrooks on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 09:07:16 AM EST

What is next? Is Shakespeare's Othello going to become a white man to protect some imaginary peoples sensitivities?
What with the ``chairperoffspring'' that we already have (chairman is a contraction of chair-manager; chairperson is thus a non-sequitur but neverthless contains the dreaded masculine ``son'' so must be expunged), we're running out of literature to completely destroy. We have so-called Bibles portraying God as female or ambisextrous, and with the nasty passages about homosexuality either left out or blanded away - yet the massacres and such are left in, go figure - and there's not many places left to turn for unadulterated literature after that...
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee
Gender and the bible; not what you think. (3.00 / 1) (#182)
by MarkCC on Fri Feb 23, 2001 at 04:19:41 PM EST

We have so-called Bibles portraying God as female or ambisextrous, and with the nasty passages about homosexuality either left out or blanded away - yet the massacres and such are left in, go figure - and there's not many places left to turn for unadulterated literature after that...

Actually, the all-male references to God in the bible are an invention of the translators. If you go back to the original hebrew, God is referred to by a variety of different words, both masculine and feminine. When it was translated into english (through the greek), all of the references were changed to masculine form. In fact, what is probably the most "correct" form is gender neutral; but since in Hebrew, all words are gendered, you end up with the mixed gender references.

Not that many of the altered-gendered translations are particularly good, but they're not really doing anything different from the all-masculine translations: playing with the translation to acheive a sociopolitical goal. (In the case of the early english translations, that goal was to promote the idea of superiority of white skinned european men; in the newer ones, it's generally to acheive some other goal.)

-Mark

[ Parent ]

Aesop Tales (2.00 / 1) (#178)
by eean on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 05:36:18 PM EST

It was my understanding that Aesop was much much older then 300. Like thousands (and thus most likly fictional). I read something by Pluto that mentioned Aesop.

Ian

No one will read this (none / 0) (#184)
by delmoi on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 08:59:39 PM EST

But I think you mean 'Plato', Pluto was a roman god.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Censoring Children's Classics | 184 comments (163 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden)
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