May 13, 2023

When Censorship Infringes on Authenticity

Today I found out that classic books are being rewritten to accommodate modern sensitivities.

After reviewing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, editors altered the description of Augustus Gloop to "enormous" instead of "enormously fat." In the new edition of Witches, a supernatural female posing as an ordinary woman may be working as a "top scientist or running a business" instead of as a "cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman."

- Theara Coleman, 'Offensive' books that have been rewritten, The Week

Even the James Bond series by Ian Fleming has been rewritten. What's next? Where will the line be drawn?

By doing this, we are taking away the stories from the context they were written in. We're removing the raw details that glimpse on the realities of those periods. We're stripping away authenticity.

And instead of a healthy conversation that might sprout from these stories, discussions on the realities of decades ago, we are removing them entirely. Tucked away, denied of existence.

It also brings to mind a Stoic position: what we consider offensive offends us only because we let them. We attach malice to the words, and let them dictate how we feel.

Fat is fat. Thin is thin. These are words that describe reality. What is. They become offensive only if we attach malice.

Have we become so soft that we have to be protected from "offensive" classic literary works?