The interventions in Roald Dahl’s work have nothing to do with the “awakening”. The opposition is justified
Bart Eeckhout is the lead commentator. “It’s no coincidence that the interventions on Roald Dahl’s books are happening now, after Netflix took over the foundation that protects his legacy.”
In recent years, hundreds of school boards across the United States have decreed that books containing references to LGBTQ or racism should be removed from classroom libraries. It is as curious as it is telling that this real and profound form of censorship is never the subject of the debate here on cancel culture.
So much for whataboutism, the tendency to stifle a discussion by bringing up a similar point. This article is supposed to be about a British publisher’s decision to adapt Roald Dahl’s children’s books and possibly eliminate the hurtful words. For example, the adjective “thick” should be replaced with “huge”, which would apparently be less offensive. There is now international opposition to these interventions. Well Named. Although the outrage could therefore also focus more broadly on the greater wave of censorship.
Some claim that Roald Dahl himself adapted his work during his lifetime, for example because he also realized that the Oompa Loompas in their original version were enslaved pygmies in Charlie and the chocolate factory could not pass through the bracket. True, but the author himself held the pen. It makes a difference.
Others argue that the foundation that guards Dahl’s legacy carried out the procedures themselves. That’s also true, but it’s no coincidence that the deal is happening now, after Netflix took over the foundation. So this is not a wake-up call, but an industrial giant that wants to sell average products to the masses and avoid all the fuss. It’s not so much reminiscent of progressive moralism, but rather the moral hypersensitivity that you also see in other tech giants such as Facebook or Apple. Anything that impedes profit maximization must be removed.
It is a problem. Roald Dahl may not have been the happiest, most progressive person around, but what matters is that he is an icon of modern children’s literature. He was able to achieve this status precisely because he was generous with caricatures and created malevolent but also ambiguous characters with unprecedented lust. If you’re going to file away the sharp edges of that imagination, then you’re interfering with the essence of the work. For pennies more, Dahl’s unique, spicy flavor is matched to the average rak you’re served at the amusement park.
Times change, sensitivities change with it. Of course, an editor can take it into account, but in keeping with the spirit of the book. Not everything should be immediately banned or deleted. There is also such a thing as parental control. Rather than canceling ‘Jip & Janneke’ by the great Annie MG Schmidt, I myself sometimes turned a mother at the sink into a father while reading. Or did I miss the boring n-word in Pippi Longstocking. Another saved riot.
Jommeke, Suske and Wiske… they have all been modernized over the years. But when the media giants want to tell us about their hypersensitivity, great restraint is in order.
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