COMMENT: The outrage over the changes to the Roald Dahl books has been blown out of proportion. But it does raise some uncomfortable questions of corporate ownership of work, moral double standards, and the power to censor.
Thanks a lot mate. Here I am trying to catch up with the various shit-shows hitting the arts and now what happens? Everybody’s up in arms about Roald Dahl’s books being given the sensitivity reader treatment. And since one of the principal tenets of this blogs is being anti-censorship and pro-artistic freedom, I need to weigh into this, as this is a censorship issue.
Like many censorship debates, a lot of the commentary is misleading. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either a full rewrite of beloved classic works to appease the wokie feminazis, or a long-overdue reform to make the works relevant to a modern audience. Al is usually the case, the truth somewhere in between – and a lot more boring. What it has done, however, is lift a lid on just how much power publishers have. They might not have done anything particularly dramatic, but they could go a lot further if they wanted. And there don’t seem to be any checks or balances.
None of what I’m saying is intended to be a dig as Roald Dahl’s literary estate. I don’t know who’s responsible for the thumbs up or thumbs down, but to date they seem to have a pretty relaxed attitude to adaptations of the books. They have ranged from very faithful depictions to major retellings, and the various visions on screen and stage have ranged from excellent to abominable to just weird. That’s okay: the great ones live on in memory, the terrible ones are forgotten, and nobody is ever put off the books. This, however, is complicated by rights recently being acquired by Netflix. It’s not clear if Netflix has any powers or influence that they didn’t have previously, but it would explain a few things if they have. I will return to this later.Continue reading