Thursday, February 24, 2011

Huck Finn: it maketh a mock

So, a few weeks back* I posted about the new bowdlerized edition of HUCK FINN, and how I look askance at the project -- I understand their motivations, but it's a slippery slope (just look at the DOCTOR DOLITTLE books) and those who start down that path rarely end well.

Although they do sometimes produce unintentionally hilarious results, as in two 'politically correct' collections of nursery rhymes I picked up years ago which never fail to bemuse me: POSITIVELY MOTHER GOOSE and FATHER GANDER NURSURY RHYMES. The latter adds a second verse to nursery rhymes to make them end happily (e.g., JACK & JILL), while the former rewrites the original in such a way that their original point is entirely lost -- e.g.

"Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider who sat down beside her
And brightened Miss Muffet's whole day"

Now thanks to the latest issue of THE FUNNY TIMES (March 2011, page 4), I'm reminded more than ever of the power of mockery to deflate censorship. Here's someone else's take on the bowdlerizing of HUCK FINN that's more succinct and eloquent than I cd ever hope to be (although be warned that the questions at the bottom of the cartoon contain some offensive language; might want to skip those):

I'm mightily impressed by how Bolling, the cartoonist, keeps trumping himself panel after panel -- this is not a set-up for a pay-off at the end, like most strips, but pure gold all the way through. I was particularly taken with "Why, it's African-American Jim!" and "Well, if it isn't Joe 'Who Happens To Be Native American, But Has Many Other Attributes' ", plus the addition of life preservers and helmets to Huck & Jim on the raft -- that really seemed to nail the mindset of the censors. A friend got the giggles over the Federalist/States' Rights panel. Like I said, good stuff all the way through.

Nor is TOM THE DANCING BUG the only one to have some fun over this; that whole page of FUNNY TIMES is devoted to the Twain censorship flap, and includes various other suggestions, one Inklings-related in the form of a retitled THE LION AND THE WARDROBE -- though whether that one's meant to avoid offending wiccans (a la Xander Harris) or anti-witch Xians ('thou shalt not suffer . . . ') is hard to say. The latter, I suspect.

Like I said, a slippery slope.

--John R.
current audiobook: THE BOOK OF ALMA
current reading: OSSIAN REVISITED


*cf. my post of January 6th:

I wound up turning off the comments on this post, but shd point out that at least one person took my up on the suggestion in the Update to post further about the topic on his own blog:

1 comment:

Jeremy Edmonds said...

Hi John, did you happen to read down to comments #39 and #41?

So you don't have to go dig them up...

#39: I saw that Larry Wilmore bit last night, and thought he might've been joking. But no: The IMDB lists a 1955 television version of Huck Finn that has no cast listing for Jim.

#41: (response to #39) They just gave Jim's lines to Arwen.

Thought you would get a chuckle!