Monday, January 10, 2011

The One About Changing History

I'm always curious as to why folks try so hard to change history. The first time I remember being incensed by it is back the the 80's when Turner obtained the Hanna-Barbera catalogs and began systematically re-coloring, re-voicing, or shelving altogether, episodes of Tom and Jerry that may have contained characters that were less than "politically correct". Mammy Two Shoes was given a new voice, the cannibals were set on the shelf and scenes with characters in black face were edited out all together. I'm a bit of a cartoon buff, although Hanna-Barbera was never my thing, I was (and still am) more than annoyed that the "art" of a generation (or two, or three) was altered in the name of "political correctness".
These so called "offensive" cartoons were drawn in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's and that language, those depictions were part of the time and the culture. It doesn't make them "right" in doesn't make them less offensive to some, but they are a record of the history of the time. Removing the images and/or altering the language is not going to magically make that history disappear.

The same thing is going on again, this time with Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" This time the idea is to remove the N-word (who am I kidding? the word is "nigger") from the text and replace it with the word "slave". Sadly, these words are not synonyms.
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It is the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening."  - Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn is not just a work of fiction, it is in many senses a historical record. It may not reflect that past in the best light, none the less, it is a reflection. 

I was surprised when I started buying books for the Eggroll. Many of the childhood stories I remember have been altered to be "gentler" or more politically correct. The first one that comes to mind is Little Red Riding Hood. Did you know that the woodsman lets the wolf escape? Yeah, me neither. 
I wonder how it is our children are to learn from the past if we continue to change it. We tell them, and ourselves for that matter, that the past is something to be valued, and something to be learned from. And yet, we allow the changes or in some cases make those changes ourselves. To what end?

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