100% Human-Generated Content
Yeah, Roald Dahl Isn’t Being “Censored”
I have found myself on one side of a controversy I sincerely tried to avoid, but the outrage surrounding it is inescapable, even weeks later. I’m not even certain it’s a true controversy, it’s more like a marketing campaign that increasingly reminds me of that old chestnut about pornography: I know it when I see it.
And the recent Roald Dahl fuss is just that. You may have heard that he’s been canceled or censored, or crushed by Big Brother’s jackboot, but that is not true, sadly. Some folks wanted to sell some books, and I don’t know if they’ve succeeded yet, but I’d wager they will. You are free to buy Dahl books that have been pruned and tweaked.
If you grew up with only three TV networks, you’d remember how ruthlessly they edited movies. If you don’t remember, take my word for it — they’d cut out the nudity and gore in R-rated 80s sex romps and sci-fi thrillers, and I still managed to watch the unedited versions many times.
I do not think re-editing some of Dahl’s stories to suit the stuffy tastes of modern parents was what George Orwell had in mind when he wrote about the power of the state in his classic sci-fi dystopia 1984. I find it mildly scandalous that such a beautifully written novel is so enthusiastically misunderstood, but that’s a whole other essay, and yes, that’s a threat. I have no doubt Orwell would be relieved to learn that in the future, capitalism thrives, and an author who’s been dead for 33 years is still capable of making incredible sums of money.
When Puffin, the children’s imprint of Penguin Random House, and Dahl’s estate, which includes family members, announced they were scrubbing offensive language from some of Dahl’s most famous books, I immediately thought, “oh, they’re going to end up selling twice as many books.” Because that’s the story, and nothing more, I know there is nothing cooler to a middle-aged man in the 2020s than complaining about “wokeness” on “the interwebs” but gently erasing words like “fat” and “ugly” from Roald Dahl’s prose and then selling those newly-printed adaptations to uptight parents is just business. Nothing more, Jesus Christ.