We like to look back on the past with a self-assured smile and a pat on the back. People were stupid back then, using the word “nigger” and thinking some people were better than others merely for being from a higher “class”.
To underline our own perfection we ignore the blunders of the past and we ignore the fact that they didn’t think of these things as prejudices but merely as the way the world was.
The story of Pippi Longbottoms has been censured due to a story in which Pippi travels to Africa and becomes the leader of some black people – also referred to as “Niggers” in the story.
I’m very sure Astrid Lindgren, the author, didn’t have some grand, white power plan with it. She wanted to have fun with this people she’d merely heard of, much the same way as the Indians in Peter Pan are as stereotypical as stereotypes get. Much like how Tintin treats the Africans in the first Tintin volume.
Were they racist?
But that’s how things were back then. Who are we to change history? And if we did it would only lessen our own victory over previous prejudices.
By forcing our own culture on other historical periods we create a bubble around ourselves and we believe that our culture is older than it is.
Truth is that one day people may look at our television shows and go “omg, they said ‘people of color’! That is so racist!”
If not that you can bet yo’ sweet ass that it’ll be something else – and probably something totally unexpected, too. Maybe even something you thought was a-okay.
This is one of the reasons I love Madmen so much. It was hard for them to get to add all of the smoking, but for it to be an accurate characterization of its time they had to bring on the smoking. They probably had a smoke blaster in the back room. Ready to go.
They didn’t censure it like they censured Lucky Luke. So what if it’s for children? Children are easily swayed but not that easily. And if you wanted Lucky Luke to stop smoking then fine, but the Indian’s peace pipe?! Seriously?!
We’re trying to rewrite history so it’ll suit our picture of the world best.
But things weren’t always as they are now and they won’t stay this way either. Already we look back at the beginning of the 0’s and think “gosh, how could we think the economy would hold?” in the same way as people judge those of the 1920’s.
But on a scale of 1-100 with “human” ranking above all, we rate very highly on the “stupid scale”.
I guess there’s just no hope for us. How are we to learn from history if we’d rather change it to make everything we do seem like the most natural thing in the world, making it ok to never progress or analyze whether what we do is okay?
Remember the Romans. Their empire lasted longer than ours, yet their civilization crumbled.
Our western unity is quite new and, in my opinion, not beyond its starting point yet.
And remember the Damsel in Distress, the midieval woman waiting in the tower for a white knight – a tale mostly sprung from the 18th/19th century’s romantic view of the past.
What are your feelings on this “political correction” of literature from other time periods? Do you think it’s harmless or will it have consequences? Are there books from your own country that have been modified in this way?