by Nathan Greppi

There are many generations who, during their childhood, grew up with such children's fiction classics as How the Grinch Stole Christmas! or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even those who have not read the books have often seen movies based on them. Unfortunately, in the very countries from which these classics originated, they are increasingly being targeted by extremist proponents of cancel culture.

Cambridge University puts books on the banned list

In October 2021, it was researchers at Homerton College, one of the colleges of the University of Cambridge, who had evaluated more than 10,000 children's book titles to apply trigger warnings, that is, warnings that the content of the works could "hurt readers without warning." Usually these "at-risk" readers belong to some minority. To give examples, among the texts in question are Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, accused of stereotyping American Indians, and several books by Dr. Seuss, the author of the Grinch, guilty of "cultural insensitivity" for how blacks are portrayed. The same fell to Bandit Jim Crow, a short story by Frank L. Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Censorship: a rampant "fad"

It is not only in the United Kingdom that such things happen. In March 2021, one of the titles in the "Captain Underpants" series, which has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, was withdrawn from sale over allegations of racism. To be precise, it is the 2010 graphic novel The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, which was withdrawn after Billy Kim, an American citizen of Korean descent, launched a petition on to urge the publisher Scholastic to apologize for the stereotypes contained in the volume. After the removal from the publisher's website, series author Dav Pilkey also apologized because the book would contain "harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist images," and would be "harmful to my Asian readers."

They do not fare so much better in Australia, where the book Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, famous author of The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, has been taken off the shelves of the ALDI chain store because the term "slut" is found there.

Already in 2019, several similar cases in non-English-speaking countries had emerged in an investigation by "Il Foglio." At that time, a kindergarten in Barcelona had banned more than 200 fairy tale titles containing "toxic stereotypes": among them Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty in the Woods. And in Sweden several institutions banned, on charges of racism, a classic of their literature such as Pippi Longstocking.

Some even resort to burning at the stake

While the above countries are limited to simple censorship and banning, in Canada unwelcome books are literally burned at the stake: it happened in 2019, when 30 Catholic schools in southern Ontario destroyed some 4,715 children's texts. Prominent among them were Tintin, Asterix and Lucky Luke comics, which were accused of promoting stereotypes about indigenous peoples.

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Staying within the framework of French-Belgian comics, softer but still noticeable censorship had also happened to a Smurfs album, which was about black smurfs who had been infected with a disease that turned them into zombie-like creatures. The album was retouched so that the black smurf on the cover turned purple.

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Giornalista pubblicista, ha scritto per le testate MosaicoCultweek and Il Giornale Off. Laureato in Beni culturali (Università degli Studi di Milano) e laureato magistrale in Giornalismo, cultura editoriale e comunicazione multimediale (Università di Parma).