Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The censorship of the 'N' word from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' -changing the word from 'nigger' to 'slave' is not only censoring a word today and for the future by reflecting current norms, but isn't it also revising history? Isn't it, no pun intended, whitewashing it? Should kids and adults who read it now, with the understanding of how heinous a word it is, shouldn't they understand that word's impact? The casual degradation the word imparted (and still imparts)? I guess I'm afraid that if people who've never read the book before see the more sanitized descriptor word 'slave' they might draw conclusions about the time and the people that are too kindly.

There are interesting takes on the censorship question here at Roof Beam Reader and here at The Guardian. There's also a very interesting post by Michael Chabon on the dilemma of reading an uncensored Huck Fin to his nine and seven year old kid. Yikes. I'm not there yet with my kids but I'm getting close. What will I do?

Buried a bit under the debate of Huck's censorship came another tale of censorship: Canada's radio watchdog is banning playing "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits for the use of the term "faggot"

When I was a kid in the late 70's my sister and her friends would tell each other to not be so 'gay.' My sister and I would tease each other and when one of us did something corny or lame the other would say 'you are so gay' and laugh.

Kids don't know anything (or, as my immigrant mom got a kick out of saying, 'their asses from their elbows') but they are eager to try to sound grown up. Calling someone gay at that time, whatever the person meant, was completely acceptable. I went to a catholic school and I'm pretty sure my friends and I called each other gay or gaylord often (as well as 'retard' 'doofus', 'dyke' and other epithets) with never a condemenatory word from an adult in a cossack or habit.

I'm not saying it was right, I'm saying it was history. According to societal norms, that was not wrong. Societal norms are notoriously shitty. Drowning old spinsters who made medicinal teas in the middle ages, otherwise known as 'Not Suffering a Witch to Live' was also a societal norm. Doesn't make it right. Again, I say, it just makes it history.

I've always hated that stupid song, even in 1985 when I was a bit of a Sting fan and those graphics, man they were CUTTING EDGE, so I'd love to say, lucky bloody Canadian's never having to hear it again. But I can't. It's art. It's a song told from a character's perspective and this guy (I think he's the shorter moving guy made out of rhombuses) is a jack ass and a narrow minded bigot. That's who he is. It's no one's job to make art 'good' or 'safe' with a giant Magic Censorship Eraser.


  1. I read about this a couple weeks ago. The whole situation makes me want to poke my eyes out and blow out my ear drums. I think it's madness to cover up our history by replacing "nigger" with a less offensive word. News flash: the white men who started this country were assholes! Our children should be aware of this fact. Using a euphemism is a disservice to them and the progress we have made this far in human rights (so much further to go still).

    On the other hand, there are individuals whose sensitivities are so overwhelming they miss out on classic literature. Placing them in bubbles sounds like a promising alternative to their whining. Sure I'm all about shocking people and shoving things down their reluctant throats, but I know I don't like to be pushed. I'm pretty stubborn as well. So, for the sake of decreasing the ignorance in the country, providing a censored edition of Huck Finn might not be an entirely awful idea.


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