December 01, 2005

Save the World on Your Own Time, Mom

Kyrie O'Connor says that CS Lewis's The Horse and His Boy is too politically incorrect to be made into a movie without heavy bowdlerization. She's probably right, though my recollection is that the Saracen slurs run through the other books, too. (It's been awhile since I've read them, I admit.) At any rate, the passages she quotes seem pretty tame as such things go.

So what can you do if your kids want to read this book before Hollywood makes it safe for what we hope are their tender, unobjectionable sensibilities? Burn it! Just kidding. Here's what you tell them:

The man who wrote this book wrote a lot of great stories. But they were great when they were complicated and magical, when his imagination took him into places and stories that were close to his heart.

In his time, people thought it was amusing to make fun of other cultures. We don't. Read the stories, ask questions, and remember that the person who wrote this story was altogether too human.

Stop rolling your eyes, Junior. I mean it...

(via Bookslut.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at December 1, 2005 05:41 PM | TrackBack

political correctness is the modern word for censorship. so basically, politically correct is the "pc" way of saying censored. i say step on a few toes and introduce them to the concept of opinion differences. shatter a few fragile hearts beating in turtle necks at starbucks counters and the world may start to get a little better. america is turning into a sterile land of touchy-feely nailbiters supressing feelings to avoid ridicule. we're not politicians, so why should we worry about the accuracy of things political? a school somewhere recently suspended a girl for passing out candycanes in homeroom. the reason? it symbolized christmas and of course, any mention of a holiday affiliated with christianity is taboo in modern society. we welcome with muslims, buddists and any other fruitcake religion with open arms while banishing the one our country was founded on. believe it or not, at my job, we're not allowed to say merry christmas, but rather the politically correct happy holidays. i have never said the phrase and never will. i pass out merry christmases to all ears willing to hear. this is american and it is a national holiday. i don't care if you are anton lavey, whether or not you like christmas, it is still a day of the year. okay, i'm ranting and must stop.

merry frickin christmas.

luke black.

Posted by: luke black at December 2, 2005 12:17 AM

Is that Bill O'Rielly above me?

I always get a kick out of it when people say, "I know this isn't P.C., but...", when what they actually mean is, "Yes, I'm a racist, but I'm telling you in advance, so you should respect me for my candor and admire me because I live on the edge".

I celebrate Christmas because it's a great excuse to get together with the family and have fun.

As for all that virgin birth crap... That never happened and that's why the nativity shouldn't be displayed on public school/government property.

When it comes to privately owned stores and your front yard, I could give a rat's ass. Let your Jesus-freak flag fly brother.

Warning: I know the previous message wasn't P.C., but...

I supply my own irony.

Posted by: Tim at December 2, 2005 12:53 AM

I can't figure out which part of Luke's post is most retarded. That was a few seconds of my life that I'll never get back...

Posted by: Amy 80 at December 2, 2005 02:02 AM

well amy, my post can't be any more preposterous than your own because you just supported my revolt by using the pc hot button word...retarded! i'm so glad you used a derrogatory remark that would have your liberal friends gasping and shuddering in the corner. if you cats are into calling midgets "vertically challenged," retarded people "mentally challenged," refusing to use the term "black person," and opting for "african american," thats fine. political correctness is nothing more than social-circle conformity invented to make one feel more intelligent than the "sad sap" who doesn't know better. refraining to voice something that you feel due to societys perception of what is acceptable is nonsensical. however, purposefully avoiding certain verbage to spare ones feelings is something I am in full support of. rudeness/hatefullness and political correctness are not the same thing. if you want to allow society to dictate what is suitable for discussion, then fall in line.. someone has to. enjoy free speech while you still have it. luke black.

Posted by: luke black at December 2, 2005 05:31 AM

Luke Black,
"i say step on a few toes and introduce them to the concept of opinion differences." Opinion differences like choosing to call someone retarded instead of mentally challenged? Who are you to judge if someone is using a term to conform to what society thinks is "pc" rather than to spare someone's feelings, which you are in full support of?

You said yourself that "rudeness/hatefulness [which I'm pretty sure means the same as hate] and [not using] political correctness are not the same thing".. so shut up and accept that maybe using a term like happy holidays is less alienating in a corporation or whereever you work than saying merry christmas, or happy kwanzaa for that matter. It's not all about being politically correct. No one is banishing the religion on which your precious U.S. was founded, you've still got every kid in America chanting "Under God" every morning in the pledge of allegiance and "In God We Trust" plastered on every piece of currency. We live in a country where many different religions are practiced, give it a rest.

Posted by: Marie at December 2, 2005 09:46 AM

but words like retarded are not derragatory. it's simply a word meaning slow or incabable of advancement. words like christmas, retarded and black are not negative whatsoever. hey, i'm not hoping to convince anyone here to turn their back on political correctness. america is the most pc nation around and i dont expect anything to change. we will continue to grow more stifled, supressed and censored with each passing year. a prepetual state of degredation is inevetible.

Posted by: luke black at December 2, 2005 01:13 PM

My theory:

In a country of 250,000,000 people, some of those people will suck.

Don't get all up in arms about the country moving in this direction or that direction some retard wants to ban a childrens book. You can still say whatever you want. Some people might be offended. Same as it ever was.

Posted by: josh at December 2, 2005 01:36 PM

I am on this whole old literature kick these days, especially with turn of the century comics. I came across a huge compilation of old Baltimore Sun comics that all seem to revolve around a couple of themes: some kid who's a scaliwag or some old codger who wants to get something over on someone. Real eye turners, they have horseless carriages, 11 year olds getting drunk, freighters as the preferred choice of travel, steamer chests and the like. They are also full of overt racism, really scapegoating anyone who is not a white male.

Reading this stuff is like a trip back in time, all the technology is slow and involves steam engines and all every minority and female is an object of ridicule. It's crass, brazen, and obnoxious, and it really puts a perspective on how far we have come as a culture.

Political correctness, for me, always comes back to the old saying: "It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice". If people want to use words like retarded, black, midget, whatever, who is to say they are wrong to do so. Words are words, people have freedom of speech and the concept of a social contract that requires courtesy in any way does not exist. The respect of people around them is theirs to lose.

That said, it is the sign of an enlightened individual to not feel the need to have to use these words. Some people cannot seem to get over the urge to want to put down other races, talk about how women are such bad drivers, go on about old people still having driver's licenses, etc. Whatever. If people really want to live in America circa 1900 it is their right to put themselves there.

The part about this assertion of antiquarian views on social relations is that it really is a form of scapegoating. When someone has just got to point out someone else is inferior in conversation or make another class of people out to be characteristically inept at certain things, those biases are not without consequence. You have to look hard, but it's not tough to find old cartoons depicting lynch mobs, calls for cleansing the slums, idealization of the KKK, etc. There's a sliding slope there, and eventually ideas about other people do become beliefs that are acted upon.

I'm not saying someone who feels like they have to call people a midget is necessarily going to be part of a lynch mob one day purging all small people from the cities. But people lacking a level of internal self control that this is such a big issue for them probably are vulnerable to all sorts of social maladies that the progressive movement has worked for a century to put behind us as a nation. People who really feel the need to 'call them as they are' and somehow equate this with truth should realize that everything is a matter of perspective, and (in the long run) that perspective has a tendency to come back around.


Posted by: Mike at December 2, 2005 02:53 PM

Enough about the retarded black midgets, let's get back to those saucy Saracens!

Posted by: Wesley at December 2, 2005 03:04 PM

Ok, I didn't call you retarded. I said your comment was. I was in no way making fun of a group of people or even referring to one. Obviously your hatred of all things different from you has affected your reading skills.

Posted by: Amy 80 at December 2, 2005 03:25 PM

You can call it political correctness or politeness, or a way of a avoiding a future lawsuit, but the truth is that our culture has gone euphemism-happy. Sometimes the euphemisms are intended to spare the tender feelings of others, but just as often they are used as self-justifying, passive-aggressive polemic, e.g., you say "choice" or "life" when everybody knows you're really talking about abortion. So why can't we just admit we're referring to abortion? And everybody knows that a "holiday tree" is really a Christmas tree. But we stick to euphemisms anyway: it's like watching a David Mamet film on TBS, where every other word is a dubbed-in "fudge." It's great if you don't mind, but it's understandable that some people start to find it irritating after a while.

The celebration of Christmas has a history in our culture and its symbols reflect this history even when they are occur in secular settings. Even if you're not Christian, or religious in an any way, it does no harm to face the fact that Christmas is Christmas, and a euphemism won't change history in any case. It's a Christmas tree. It is. Get used to it. (Ironically, of course, "holiday" derives from holy day - so maybe the right euphemism for Merry Christmas should be "Happy Days!" To which the response could be a thumbs up and an "ayyyyy!")

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 2, 2005 04:14 PM

"Ok, I didn't call you retarded. I said your comment was."

But, Amy, by even using the word "retarded" you are furthering a cruel and hateful stereotype of those who are mentally differently-abled. Why, even in physics we no longer speak of "advanced" and "retarded" potentials of electromagnetic fields. Now it's "privleged" and "special needs" potentials. I'm afraid it's two hours of public self-criticism for you tonight, young lady.

Back to the Saracens. I saw that article in the Chronicle and shook my head over the description of the smelly city of the Calormen. Because, like, cities of low industrial level in hot climates never stink. Anybody who says they do is a p00pyheaded old racist.

By the way, O'Connor's suggestion of a parental warning, so to speak, on C.S. Lewis has been taken up by Warner Bros., who draft Whoopie Goldberg to introduce their old Looney Toons on DVD. Whoopie shows up to scold us, lest we accidentally laugh at the wrong thing. As documented by Lileks here:

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 2, 2005 04:17 PM

By the way, I had to modify the above comment to conform with the directives of the Conformity Enforcement Committee (i.e., the software told me I head questionable content). Substitution of zeroes for o's cleared the matter up. I'm so glad that faceless, unaccountable, arbitrary software is looking out for my welfare.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 2, 2005 04:20 PM

I'm sorry about that, Angie. It's the spam filter, and that word must have ended up banned because of some scatology-oriented porn site's url. Ironic in this context, I know...

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 2, 2005 04:23 PM

I totally understand what you're getting at. I know that it's all a bit over done with be pc. I don't think there's a need to be so worried all the time. I'm certainly not Christian but I still tell people merry christmas or whatever they prefer. It doesn't matter to me what a person believes or if it's different from my own. I don't even care if someone prefers hearing happy holidays. I honestly don't lose any sleep over it. My comments were really on directed at Luke. I understand what he was saying, I get that he's tired of the euphemisms, it's just not necessary to get so angry about it. It's the way it is whether we like it or not.

Posted by: Amy 80 at December 2, 2005 04:52 PM

I have got to start proof reading my comments before I post them. I think I managed about one coherent sentence in that...oops.

Posted by: Amy 80 at December 2, 2005 04:57 PM

If you think that review is PC, check out the vitriol spewed up by kid's author Philip Pullman concerning 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe':

"One of the most poisonous things I've ever read" "sadomasochistic relish for violence" etc...


Posted by: marc w. at December 2, 2005 05:20 PM

I don't see a fundamental change in our society that makes us any more prone to euphamism.

Nobody says "holiday tree" unless it's a tree bought with tax money; in which case it's just to detract from the fact that that is a wildly inapropriate use of tax money. Anybody who buys it themselves calls it a Christmas tree.

People don't say "abortion" because it's a taboo subject, but it's always been that way. People don't say, "I'm going to go home and [fudge] my wife" either. People say "I'm going to go to the restroom." Really? To take a nap?

Posted by: josh at December 2, 2005 05:37 PM

Yeah, Josh, but you know what: people call it a Christmas tree even when it is bought with public money. Because it *is* a Christmas tree. What do we gain from pretending that it's not? The impluse to steer clear of plain language may not be the worst thing in the world, but when people ridicule it they have a point, especially with regard to banal issues like what we should call a Christmas tree.

I don't think we're more prone to euphemism than in earlier times, though the contexts where we feel it most important to avoid saying what we mean have gradually shifted. But I think a case could be made that American society is and always has been a bit more euphemism-focused than other cultures because of our Puritan beginnings. The vaguely magical idea that renaming something can actually alter reality is a persistent, deeply engraved cultural hallmark and it is a pronounced characteristic of contemporary politics.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 2, 2005 06:05 PM

The whole Christmas/Holiday tree debate is quite ridiculous, considering that the only holiday that I know of that even uses a decorated tree as a symbol is Christmas, and it really is, simply a Christmas tree. I don't know where Mr. Black works, but I'm going to guess it's some sort of national corporation/chain, or just a business that wishes to do its best not to leave anyone out or offend someone.. Now that itself may be ridiculous and over-pc, like Wal-Mart removing the word Christmas from all of its stores and marketing, but it comes with the territory. If you want to be free to say what you want, don't work somewhere that is going to strive to be politically correct in order to please everyone.

George Carlin's book "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops" is a very amusing book pretty much based on the overuse of euphemisms in America. He writes:

"The one thing euphemisms all have in common is that they soften language. They portray reality as less vivid. And I've noticed Americans have a problem with reality; they prefer to avoid the truth and not look it in the eye. I think it's the one of the consequences of being fat and prosperous and too comfortable. So, naturally, as time has passed, and we've grown fatter and more prosperous, the language has gotten worse."

Sounds about right.

Posted by: Marie at December 2, 2005 06:53 PM

Yeah Marie (and George C. and George O.): I think that is exactly right.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at December 2, 2005 07:00 PM

In 1992 it was illegal to portray a homeless person on TV as anything but a Rhodes Scholar or misunderstood genius poet/painter. Also all homeless people were white, all doctors were black, all judges were women, and every group of highschool friends included a guy in a wheelchair. That was back when yoou could only get AIDS from blood transfusions.

I think we're gatting better.

Posted by: josh at December 2, 2005 08:28 PM

all valid points. i love it when the good dr. jumps in to write a few prescriptions. i can always count on this board for a nice, partially-heated debate. internet anonymity pulls away the veils of apprehension to reveal true, unadulterated opinions that may be suppressed in our face to face "real world." the majority of posters on this board seem more intellectually inclined than the average joe. well, either that or they're thesaurus bloggers. i assume our congregation can be attributed to an intellectual appreciation for dr. franks brilliant lyrics. i've found that most mtx fans are either: a. suckers for killer hooks, or, 2. dumbstruck with appreciation by Frank's complicated lyrics dripping with irony and wry sarcasm. well, there’s also D. the bitter, broken-hearted listening in awe to a song that seems as if it were written just for them. all of this political correctness has been accumulating into my subconscious throughout the year and Christmas is always the pinnacle of my repulsion. let's just burn the tree, throw up an aluminum pole and settle down to a nice round of "feats of strength" while airing grievances to those we love. festivus for the rest of us.

p.s. dr. frank, great point about the holy day-holiday history. if only the p.c.-ers knew what they were shoving down peoples throats.

luke black.

Posted by: luke black at December 3, 2005 01:13 AM

The problem is that people want everyone to be their friends. Why the hell do they want that?

Posted by: Mike McColgan at December 3, 2005 05:28 AM

Politically correct speech is an attempt to force a certain bland homogeneity on us all. It isn't about feelings of empathy for the targets of typical abuse. PC is all about some people assuaging their own guilt.
We must not say black if we truly mean African American yet we are okay with saying white. Perhaps I find white to be offensive,not to mention as accurately descriptive as black.
There is nothing at all wrong with being kind, caring or empathetic. Our world would be a much better place if we could but empathize a bit more. PC is not about empathy though. It doesn't ask that we feel anything, but insists that we pretend to think a certain way in order to appear as though we care.
Shall we burn books that we find offensive? There are plenty of books that we could force our own narrow views onto. We could throw away all of our history because so much of it is from times when racist or sexist ideas were not only accepted but were considered the norm.
Yes, we could throw away the knowledge gained from humans having lived through those times. We could refuse to learn from the past as we certainly don't need the past or history. We have political correctness and no need for history.
I have read the entire Narnia series with my seven year old. We have yet to really teach him about racism and he doesn't generally recognize it as such. He certainly didn't see it in these books as it isn't on his radar yet. We have discussed acceptance of people who seem different and have discussed prejudice in broad terms. I am confident that as he grows, he will come to understand racism and recognize it. He will also be strong enough so that he doesn't somehow become racist because he reads about it in a book of fiction. Perhaps, when he comes back to the Narnia series, a little older/wiser, he will recognize the racism and will choose to learn from it.
What if, instead of crying foul all the time, we took these instances to grow and become better people? What if we didn't jump at every chance to become rightously indignant and offended but instead actually worked to make things better. You can paint a turd gold, but pretty or not, it's still a turd. Pretty outsides can hide ugly insides and vice versa.

Posted by: sam hull at December 3, 2005 04:56 PM

I was sorta thinking of comnenting, but if we're into commenting about the ability to comment, well, let's not get me started.

Posted by: Gary Farber at December 4, 2005 03:57 AM

**p.s. dr. frank, great point about the holy day-holiday history. if only the p.c.-ers knew what they were shoving down peoples throats.

luke black.**

But that's the thing. I can't speak for we, the P.C-ers but I will speak for myself...I'm not sticking anything down anybody's throat. You have to stop acting like you're the victim because I'm sick of your confusing holidays. A fat man delivers presents to a couple billion houses in one night because Jesus was born 2,000-something years ago? He wasn't even born in winter. Also, a bunny gives us eggs because Jesus died 2,005 years ago? America shuts down for your holidays. We get it. The Christians are in charge. It's your fault I have to spend two week's salary every year on presents for my family instead of...well, whatever else I would spend my money on (we'll say giving it to charity). I have to listen to a freaking prayer every week before my NASCAR races for Christ's sake. Don't you dare act like I'm shoving anything down anybody's throat. I'm just sick of people flaunting their righteousness with their bumper magnets and their Jesus-fish with the word TRUTH in it. (BTW repetition doesn't make something true. Only facts can do that) The most popular Christmas decorations in my neighborhood over the past five years have been lighted crosses. Not Santas. Not reindeer. Not "holiday" trees. Crosses! That's so frickin' lame.

The only time I get to force my point of view down anybody's throat is during science class.


Posted by: Tim at December 5, 2005 07:15 AM

it's not my fault that you blow your cash on christmas presents. you have a mind of your own presumably control your own life. it seems a bit moronic that you admittedly spend money in celebration of something, which you don't even believe. if you are so adverse to the recognition of christ's birth, why do you spend money on gifts that are a symbolic tribute to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that jesus received? if you don't like truth, you don't like anything because truth is not black and white, but derived from faith. i can't prove to you that god created the universe, just as you can't prove to me that subatomic particles swirled into a massive explosion that placed us here today. you have your perception of truth and i have mine, but when it comes down to it, we're both going on blind faith. If america’s recognition of Christmas bothers you so badly, stop participating, save your money and get a job that doesn’t give you the day off. I would recommend maybe an air traffic controller or a hotel desk-clerk.

And you don't "have" to listen to prayers during your nascar adventures. the only thing you have to do is live and die, everything else is optional.

luke black.

Posted by: luke black at December 7, 2005 01:22 AM

I'm probably wrong and I refuse to do the research on this, but weren't the tree and the presents stolen from the Pagan holiday in celebration the winter solstice?

Unfortunately, I do have to listen to "today's invocation" if I want to here "the most famous words in motorsports...Gentlemen..." because they run in conjunction during the pre-race telecast. I could put my TV on mute, but then the CC would kick in and I would have to read it to know when they're done. That would be worse. Instead I'm forced to cover my ears and scream "la, la, la, I can't hear you" before I get to hear them fire up their engines.

The Colbert Report had a great piece on the War Against Christmas on Monday. Search the web for it.

Also, here's a pretty good comic that roughly describes how I feel.

If that doesn't work, it's under Holidays #2 of 23.

Here's the part that makes me a real dick. How long were Mary and Joseph married?...and he never tapped that? He must have been gay. Does that make Mary the first recorded beard in history? I'll bet you Jesus looked an awful lot like the stable-boy.

I wasn't going to go on this long, but now I can't stop.

I accept that not only did Jesus exist, but that he was also a great man who deserves to be celebrated for what he taught us about peace, love and understanding. I hate the circus that has been made out of his "birthday". I also don't believe for a second that he actually walked on water (could he also tell me what card I just pulled out of the deck?), healed the sick; unless he had exceptional knowledge in medicine, or turned water into wine without using the same fermentation processes used by everybody else.

Great man - Deserves recognition - Tone down the BS a little.

Posted by: Tim at December 7, 2005 11:41 PM

Why I (josh) love Christmas as explained by Leonard Peikoff:

"Christmas in America is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously.

In fact, Christmas as we celebrate it today is a 19th-century American invention. The freedom and prosperity of post-Civil War America created the happiest nation in history. The result was the desire to celebrate, to revel in the goods and pleasures of life on earth. Christmas (which was not a federal holiday until 1870) became the leading American outlet for this feeling.

Historically, people have always celebrated the winter solstice as the time when the days begin to lengthen, indicating the earth's return to life. Ancient Romans feasted and reveled during the festival of Saturnalia. Early Christians condemned these Roman celebrations -- they were waiting for the end of the world and had only scorn for earthly pleasures. By the fourth century, the pagans were worshipping the god of the sun on December 25, and the Christians came to a decision: if you can't stop 'em, join 'em. They claimed (contrary to known fact) that the date was Jesus' birthday, and usurped the solstice holiday for their Church...

Then came the major developments of 19th-century capitalism: industrialization, urbanization, the triumph of science -- all of it leading to easy transportation, efficient mail delivery, the widespread publishing of books and magazines, new inventions making life comfortable and exciting, and the rise of entrepreneurs who understood that the way to make a profit was to produce something good and sell it to a mass market.

For the first time, the giving of gifts became a major feature of Christmas. Early Christians denounced gift-giving as a Roman practice, and Puritans called it diabolical. But Americans were not to be deterred. Thanks to capitalism, there was enough wealth to make gifts possible, a great productive apparatus to advertise them and make them available cheaply, and a country so content that men wanted to reach out to their friends and express their enjoyment of life. The whole country took with glee to giving gifts on an unprecedented scale.

Santa Claus is a thoroughly American invention. There was a St. Nicholas long ago and a feeble holiday connected with him (on December 5). In 1822, an American named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem about a visit from St. Nick. It was Moore (and a few other New Yorkers) who invented St. Nick's physical appearance and personality, came up with the idea that Santa travels on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down the chimney, stuffs toys in the kids' stockings, then goes back to the North Pole.

Of course, the Puritans denounced Santa as the Anti-Christ, because he pushed Jesus to the background. Furthermore, Santa implicitly rejected the whole Christian ethics. He did not denounce the rich and demand that they give everything to the poor; on the contrary, he gave gifts to rich and poor children alike. Nor is Santa a champion of Christian mercy or unconditional love. On the contrary, he is for justice -- Santa gives only to good children, not to bad ones.

All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by American culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness."


Posted by: josh at December 8, 2005 05:28 PM