Arts in the Schools

Making the Arts Safe: More Works That Need Censoring

As many of you probably already know, Alabama publisher NewSouth Inc. plans to release censored versions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, replacing the words "nigger" and "Injun" with "slave" and "Indian," respectively. They're doing this because, as we all know, ideas, philosophies, and messages don't matter nearly as much as the specific words used to express them. Indeed, the dreaded n-word is much like the word "Voldemort" in the Harry Potter novels; if used enough times in any context, a huge black cloud will belch forth from the underworld and envelope the earth as we now know it, reverting us back to pre-Civil War days when slavery was legal. Words are magical like that, you know.

And that's why NewSouth Inc. is not only right in censoring Twain's great American novels, but we've also thought of some other art forms that could frankly use a little censoring, themselves. Hopefully one day we'll have erased all unpleasantness from our accounts of history both fictional and non-fictional, and our precious little snowflake children need never experience traumatic emotions like sadness, empathy, or a desire to make the world a better place, ever again.

Roots Roots was a mini-series based on Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It was first released in 1977, and unlike most televised mini-series gained much critical acclaim and respect, becoming a nationwide event watched by more people than any other show at the time. It still lives on in reruns and DVD sales. All that's just fine and dandy, but have you ever actually watched any of it? It's awfully mean-spirited. It almost seems like white people in general are painted in an unfavorable light. There's constant n-bomb usage, a few whippings, and even a rape. All of this material is inappropriate for children. When our kids are watching generations of kidnapping, slavery, torture, racial harassment, lynchings, rape, and murder, we don't want them to feel uncomfortable, do we? No, better to soften the content in Roots by changing the n-word to something like "nipper" or "naughty-pants". We should also change the whippings to something more palatable like an unfairly one-sided pillow fight, and the rape scene should be changed to a consensual romance. Wouldn't it be so much nicer for kids to see Tom Moore take Kizzy out on a nice dinner-and-dancing date? We've also noticed how split-down-racial-lines the casting was; if ever there is a remake, we'd like to see some of the slaves played by white people and some of the slave owners played by African-Americans. Diversity is important, after all!

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John Seaborn Gray