Last Thursday night John found the 1982 movie “Porky’s” on one of our movie channels. Keep in mind, in 82, I was 12 and what I remember of this movie is a blur because it was rated R and I am pretty sure I only saw fragments of it. I knew it would be stupid, but I thought it would be funny. Nope.
Within the first few minutes I was concerned that I heard something, I wasn’t really paying attention, a couple more minutes and I knew I heard something. That something was the n word. The boy is “corrected” and that was quickly followed with an ethnic slur for another character that was Jewish. At this point we were done. Some may argue that it was a different time and that the movie was set in the 50’s, but it seemed that very serious matters were being thrown in with silliness and it only seemed offensive, stupid and far from funny.
At this point I decided to read, which is obviously and always the better choice. I downloaded the book, “Verify” by Joelle Charbonneau. As I read this book I was reminded of “1984” by George Orwell and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. In “Verify” words have been eliminated from speech and paper is banned, including books. Books have been digitized. (Hmmm, kind of ironic that I was reading the digital version). Don’t worry, the story has heroes, people that recognize the benefit of printed material, one being that print cannot be altered as easily as digital. Think about it, if someone doesn’t like what is printed they might be able to mark it out with a sharpie, but it doesn’t disappear and the alteration is obvious. With digital, an algorithm could pick all the things thought offensive, taboo, dated, etc. and make it disappear. Eventually these “corrected” items could essentially lead to the disappearance of ideas or words. In this book, the title is one such word. Verify – make sure or demonstrate that (something) is true, accurate, or justified.
I am not a fan of censorship, with that being said, there is a reason I have not discussed Dr. Seuss with you. On Seuss’s birthday the business that “preserves and protects” the author’s legacy announced that 6 titles will no longer be printed. Dr. Seuss Enterprises made this decision after months of discussion and input from teachers, academics and specialists in the field. A year ago, one of the 6 titles was considered “Most Highly Recommended” now it is listed as “Weeded”, which means, “weeded due to out-of-date-content or newer editions. Purchase/retain not recommended.”
Where do I stand, hmmm, like I said I do not condone censorship. I do not think Seuss’s work should be altered, but I can agree with discontinuing printing it. Not all books last forever and that is okay, they write more every day. In Verify WWII is erased from history, with the justification that they didn’t want their citizens to feel any conflict or to even know that it ever existed.
That might sound similar to what some are feeling about the destruction of Confederate statues, will we lose our history? Hmmm, I think even more importantly we learn the real history. “An overwhelming majority of Confederate memorials weren’t erected in the years directly following the Civil War. Instead, most were put up decades later. Nor were they built just to commemorate fallen generals and soldiers; they were installed as symbols of white supremacy during periods of U.S. history when Black Americans’ civil rights were aggressively under attack.” – Ryan Best, a journalist for FiveThirtyEight.
Like the movie “Porky’s”, the images in Seuss’s books illustrate a different time, or better yet, history. Do we want to lose our history to make people feel more protected or at ease like they did in “Verify”? I can see this issue in black and white, because when we look at real history it becomes obvious.
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