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Roald Dahl is Safe (For Now)

How long until making revisions turns into full-blown censorship, and what impact will that have on the creative arts?

Publishers decided last week to revise certain aspects of beloved author Roald Dahl’s books, like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They said the decision was intended to make Dahl’s books more inclusive. The decision sparked controversy and outrage in the literary community, and now, Penguin Random House has changed their minds and will preserve the original texts. ABC reported:

The updates to Dahl’s works under Penguin had meant to be more inclusive, progressive and more acceptable to today’s readers. Phrases like ‘mothers and fathers’ in Dahl’s ‘Matilda,’ first published in 1988, could have been replaced with ‘parents’ while some descriptions of ‘fat’ characters could have been edited or removed entirely. Description of women’s jobs were also subject to change.

Publisher rolls back proposed changes to Roald Dahl books after backlash – ABC News (go.com)

Some might call the original move “progressive revision.” We need literature better suited to today’s more enlightened context. But many pointed out the dangers and pitfalls of this kind of censorial action. Comedian Ricky Gervais chimed in on the issue on Twitter, sharing a serious-looking photo of himself with the caption: “This is me pondering whether they’ll change any of the words I’ve used in my work after I’m dead, to spare those who are fragile and easily offended.”

“Retro-editing” isn’t limited to books. It’s easier now than ever to go back into older movies and TV shows and censor “problematic” material. The question, however, remains: how long until making revisions turns into full-blown, agenda-fueled censorship, and what impact with that have on the creative arts?

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Roald Dahl is Safe (For Now)