Should publishers censor classic books written long ago to protect people from getting their feelings hurt? Some people think so.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Ronni.

Ronni: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So, I’m going to say his name wrong. Roald Doll. Do you know who this is?

Ronni: I know who this is, but I don’t know if that is the correct pronunciation, but I’m going to go with it. It sounds right.

Brittany: Which is funny because until today I thought it was Ronald. I’ve been calling him Ronald Doll for my entire life, so he’s a very popular children’s author. Even if you don’t know his name, I guarantee you’ve heard of something he’s written. So, he died a long time ago in 1990, but he wrote books like Matilda, which is great, I liked the movie that came out in the nineties, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, by James Excellence. Yes. Isn’t it a good one, James and The Giant Peach, that one always weirded me out as a kid, but it’s still a good book. And then he wrote, what is it, BFG? I think it was Giant. Yeah, my third-graders read that. So, that was the first book I ever, excuse me, read with my third-grade student. So, that one’s important to me. But this is a just cherished beloved children’s author, and if you haven’t read some of his books, I think they’re great for kids that are around our listeners’ age, and maybe that means parents reading to the younger ones, but really just fun, feel-good books. But there’s a big debate in the news right now. I don’t know, Ronni, if you’ve been following this or not.

Ronni: I did hear a little bit about this. Yes.

Brittany: So, it’s crazy. So, someone noticed that the publishers of the book, so that’s like the author writes the book and then sends it to a publisher, and they’re the ones that help put it in book form and distribute it and all that. So, the publisher of the book changed some of the books and just kind of did it quietly, but so if there were any references to somebody’s weight or mental health or their gender or their race, things were just changed because the publishers thought they were offensive. Right. This goes back to this wokeness culture if we don’t want to offend anybody. Nobody can be offended, but people are getting really upset at this. And I think that there’s a good reason for people to be upset about this because the authors write these books and they write them a specific way for a reason. It’s their art, and I don’t think we should be changing it, but more so than that, I think it’s a very slippery slope, as they say when it comes to this idea of censorship, and that’s telling people what they can and can’t say. And it’s especially bad when the author can’t defend himself because he’s dead. So just some things they changed. If you’ve watched it, it’s funny, the movie is called Willy Wonka in the Charlotte Factory or Chocolate Factory, but the book. It was called Charlie.

Ronni: But then there was a newer movie that came out more recently, and then I think that one’s called Charlie and Chalk Factory.

Brittany: What’s funny you say more recently, that movie was 20 years ago almost. Isn’t that weird?

Ronni: Oh, was it?

Brittany: Yeah, the newer, I think it was 2005 or six, so not quite, maybe 15.

Ronni: Okay, still.

Brittany: Isn’t that crazy? I keep saying that too. And it’s like, oh, our listeners weren’t even born yet. So, there’s a character in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory called Augustus Gloop, if you guys remember him, he’s the kid who almost drowns in the chocolate. And so that book, the book was published in 1964, and in the book they call him Enormously Fat if you’ve seen the movie, it’s very exaggerated. Well, they changed out. They took out fat and just put enormous because they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, which is funny to me because enormous.

Ronni: Still so enormous is better.

Brittany: I kind of feel like that’s worse because enormous still is telling people, okay, if I say enormous, I think you know that what they’re saying is he’s fat. Right?

Ronni: And this to me feels worse, I have to admit.

Brittany: But I agree. It’s just so silly. And then there’s another book called Witches. I also loved the movies growing up. There was like, do you remember the movie? Oh, I never

Ronni: Oh, I never saw it. No.

Brittany: It’s like, this is going to sound weird. It’s like witches who turn kids into mice, but then the kids will end. I don’t know. It’s a very, I don’t know, but it was about in the book, it’s like this supernatural, meaning this woman, I think she’s a witch or something. She’s pretending to be an ordinary woman, and I think in the book, she’s like a cashier at a supermarket or something. Oh, sorry. It’s not just one woman. I think it’s a bunch of ’em. And they’re like, so they’re secretly witches, but they are masquerading as real people. So, in the books, they were cashiers or typing letter for businessmen. All of a sudden the books came out and it was like they’re top scientists running businesses.

Ronni: Trying to make it sound like the women had jobs. I see.

Brittany: Yes. And is it that big a deal? No, that one to me is a little less ridiculous than the weight one, but still, it’s so not a big deal that you have to wonder why are we changing the writer’s words. He wrote these words. It’s not nice to change them when he’s not around to defend himself. So, these little things are just so silly to me because they’re not that big of a deal. I think Ronni makes a great point that enormous is a lot meaner than just saying the kid was kind of bad. Right. It’s so funny. So, Ronni, I wanted to get your opinion on this. What do you think about this? Should we be censoring older books? Because they may be what they say, and I’m saying this in quotes, culturally insensitive, meaning it you need to respect what might offend other people.

Ronni: No, I definitely don’t. And I think that it is against what the artist originally wrote, and I don’t think that we should, I mean, I’ve always been a big fan of history, so, I don’t think that we should look back in time through the lens of now. So, just because things were done differently in the past or words were used differently in the past, I don’t think that we should feel the need that we have to change the words of the past in order to fit now. But can I chime in with an only slightly side tangent that is a little bit contrarian to what we’re saying here, or before I get to my contrarian point, by the way, listeners contrarian just means that I’m going to make a point that is an opposite of the point that we’re making? I’m going to argue it a little bit.

Brittany: And the root word is mean.

Ronni: Yes. You brought up a point earlier, which I think is important, that it goes against how the author wrote it and that it’s being done secretly. It’s not a choice that readers are making when they go and buy the book. They’re not saying, Hey, I want this rewritten version. I think it’s possible for it to be labeled as This is the rewritten version, or this is the culturally sensitive version, and give people the choice to read the original or the new one. It’s just like when you were a kid, did you ever read the Abridged Illustrated classics of great novels? Like Great Expectations, but you saw them, right? They were the white hardcover books.

Brittany: I’ve read abridged versions of longer books. My favorite book is Counted Monte Christo, and the Real one is 3000 pages, and I read a 500-page one.

Ronni: So, they had a series of books and they were much smaller than that, and they were Hard Rock and they were illustrated and they were really big when I was a kid. So books like that, keep a lot of the same storyline as the original one, but obviously, it’s been way edited and way abridged to make it much shorter. That’s a different story. Also, this one’s going to be a little bit controversial so I know that movies and TV shows, right? There’s a lot of shows that are not appropriate for kids, and there are streaming services out there that will let you cut out certain scenes or words or different things from movies. And so you can watch just the abridged diversion. You can be able to filter that and sensor that. And I would say we actually have a lot of listeners who use these apps to be able to make content appropriate for their kids. And so I want to talk about the difference in that because we’re talking about changing literature and that that’s not a good idea to make it more culturally sensitive. But at the same time, we have a lot of listeners who will change TV shows and films to make them more appropriate for their kids’ age levels. And I think the main thing here is with permission with you knowing what you’re getting into. So if we were going to make these books and change them and have the culturally sensitive version, but also have the original version and then allow people to choose which version they want to purchase, I’m a little bit more with that just as I’m okay with if you want to watch a PG13 movie with your kids, but you don’t really feel like it’s appropriate with your kids and you want to put it through a streaming service that will cut out the bad scenes, I’m okay with that happening too because you know that it is altered from the original. Does that make sense?

Brittany: Yes. And I think you’re talking about things like VidAngel, which I know my family uses.

Ronni: That’s exactly what I was talking about VidAngel.

Brittany: And I know that’s a great streaming site that we’ll edit some things out. And I think that’s a great point because that’s a choice. You make the choice to edit that out, whereas the books now if they’re just printed with that and you didn’t get one before, you’re not going to have a choice. I think that’s a great point.

Ronni: Yes. That’s the difference. Yeah.

Brittany: Another thing I want to bring up that I think is so funny is the same people who are talking about how it’s good that we’re censoring these books are the same people who get mad when you censor books. There’s this big push, I can’t remember what books they were banning and they weren’t really banning them, but these books, they weren’t allowed in schools or something. And these woke people got so mad, but then when they want to censor something, it’s completely fine.

Ronni: Well, that’s actually one of the reasons why I brought up VidAngel because I came from Hollywood and that world, and I know there were a lot of people among my peers when I lived there who were very upset about VidAngel.

Brittany: Yes, and your mother. There was something like that too. Yeah.

Ronni: They were very upset with it. So, in my mind, I’m thinking I very much remember that world when those people were very upset at something like VidAngel calling that censorship. So, I really think it just comes down to being aware of it and being able to choose.

Brittany: Yeah, I think that’s such a great point. Another one I want to make because this problem happened with, I love the book To Kill a Mockingbird is a lot of people are taking these things out, not it kind of insult history, even if there’s words we don’t use or things like saying fat or something like that, or even talking about the women working at a cashier in a supermarket when these books were written, these were jobs women had. And that doesn’t make it like, yeah, I’m so glad now that women are top scientists in this or that, but that’s how the world was then. And I think it erases history because I think it’s important to know where we came from and even the language people use, even if it’s to learn things like, oh, I’m so glad we don’t use those words anymore. But I think we’re taking away history. And I think that’s a big problem in our culture right now is we don’t want anyone to get offended, and we’re only looking through things through the lens of our eyes today. And we know certain things are wrong now, but it’s just silly to me because you can’t pretend something didn’t happen. Things happen. And so I think it’s so important that we don’t forget that. Right. And I think the other thing is that just censorship is dangerous, but I want to highlight what Ronni said. Censorship is dangerous when you don’t have a choice about it. Censorship is bad when some big authority figure says, we’re not going to let you make the choice of whether or not you want to see this. This is the way it’s going to be. And so I think this is a really interesting thing to think about. This has been coming up a lot in society today, and I know there were things I used to stream on the internet shows that weren’t taken certain episodes off because people got offended. And it’s just so weird to me and it scares me. But again, I love Ronni, that you brought up the point that if it’s a choice, it’s not bad at all. So, we will wrap it up there. As always, thank you for listening, guys, and don’t forget to like and share and subscribe to the podcast. And Ronni, until next time, we’ll talk to you soon.

Ronni: All right, see you soon.