The 1970s was a decade of social and cultural change in Britain, marked by economic crisis, political turmoil, industrial unrest, and rising youth culture. It was also a decade of creative expression and experimentation in television and literature, especially for children with groundbreaking shows like ‘Tiswas on a Saturday morning, that I personally enjoyed.
British 1970s TV shows were often daring, provocative, and irreverent, reflecting the mood of the times. They pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on screen, using humour, satire, violence, sex, and slang to challenge the status quo. Some of these shows are still considered classics today, while others have been banned or censored for being too controversial.
One of the most influential writers of children’s literature in the 1970s was Roald Dahl. Dahl was a British novelist whose books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. Dahl has been called “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”.
Dahl’s books were often dark, imaginative, and humorous, using fantasy, magic, adventure, and wordplay to captivate young readers. His books also challenged censorship by depicting characters who were cruel, greedy, or wicked as well as characters who were brave, kind or clever. His books often featured themes such as revenge, justice, empowerment, and transformation.
Recently, his wondeful books have been edited for containing words and images that could be deemed offensive or insensitive by some modern audiences. For example, The Witches, one of his most popular and acclaimed books, has been changed to remove or soften the Grand High Witch’s physical appearance and speech, which were seen as reinforcing negative stereotypes of women and disabilities.
While I understand and respect the intention behind these changes, I believe that they are completely unnecessary, and even harmful to Roald Dahl’s legacy and vision.
Dahl’s books reflected the social and cultural context of his time and they should not be judged by today’s standards.
Dahl was a product of his generation, which used language and humour that might seem insensitive or inappropriate by today’s standards, but were not intended to harm or offend anyone.
He was born in 1916 in Wales to Norwegian parents and grew up in a multicultural environment. He served as a fighter pilot in World War II and witnessed many horrors and tragedies. He also worked as a spy for Britain during the war and later became a successful writer for adults before turning to children’s literature.
These experiences shaped his worldview and style as an author. He had a dark and cynical view of human nature and authority figures, which he expressed through his villains who were often cruel, greedy, dishonest, or corrupt. He also had a playful and rebellious streak that he channeled through his heroes who were often mischievous, clever, brave, or kind-hearted. He used language creatively and inventively to create memorable names (such as Willy Wonka), catchy songs (such as the Oompa-Loompa songs), funny insults (such as Miss Trunchbull calling Matilda “a wart”), or amusing descriptions (such as Mr Twit having bits of food stuck in his beard).
He also used humour as a way of coping with the harsh realities of life and entertaining his readers. He did not shy away from topics such as death (such as James’ parents being eaten by a rhinoceros), violence (such as Miss Trunchbull throwing children out of windows), or horror (such as the Grand High Witch turning children into mice). However, he did not intend to scare or traumatise his readers; rather he wanted to challenge them, empower them, and make them laugh. He once said: “A little nonsense now
and then is relished by
the wisest men.”
Therefore, I think it is utter bollocks (to use a common 1970s word I heard everywhere at the time)
to judge Roald Dahl’s Books by today’s standards and change them to suit some people’s preferences.
By doing so, we are erasing his original vision and creativity, and depriving future generations of enjoying his stories as they were meant to be enjoyed.
We are also ignoring the historical and cultural context of his time, which influenced his work and made him who he was.
Roald Dahl was not perfect; he had flaws and prejudices like anyone else.
But he was also brilliant; he had imagination, talent,
and courage like few others.
He wrote books that have inspired millions of people around the world; books that have taught us valuable lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage, justice, and love.
We should celebrate him for what he gave us; not condemn him for what he did not know. We should appreciate him for what he was; not criticise him for what he was not doing by 2023 standards.
We should read him with an open mind;
not with a closed heart.
We should enjoy him with a sense of wonder;
not with a sense of guilt.
We should love him with gratitude; not with resentment.
That is how we honor Roald Dahl; that is how we keep his spirit alive.
Next we will be editing the Bible. Again.