The classics, edited for the sensitive reader

With the revelation that Roald Dahl's classic children's works like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have undergone posthumous sensitivity butchering, one can only wonder exactly how the censors will handle other prominent works of art from history.

First, as to Dahl, it is true that, like many a writer, he was a relatively unpleasant human to be around.  But to the nine-year-old enthralled by Willie Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas — sorry, the Oompish peoples of the Loompa ethnographic subset —  it has no — and should have no — bearing.

As publishers around the globe are hiring "sensitivity readers" by the locally sourced, sustainably harvested wicker basketful, checking in on their progress may be a good idea in order to prepare for what one will find at the local book store — whom are we kidding? on Amazon — in the coming months.

  • It was the best of times for the 1%, it was the worst of times for the historically oppressed and marginalized workers of France.
  • As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic potential source of protein, thereby contributing to a meatless future.
  • When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: becoming an anti-racist ally and constantly checking my white privilege.
  • Happy families are all alike; unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way, but both oppress and minimize the suffering of their trans members.
  • It is in no way, shape, or form a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  • The man who happened to be in black fled across the desert, and the Second Amendment fanatic followed.
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  (No need to change that.)
  • Call me They.
  • The person with a uterus from whose vaginal canal I emerged died today.  Or maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure.
  • I am a sick man ...  I am a spiteful man ... And like all men I oppress and attack and ignore others at all times.
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself, sadly unconcerned that she was extending and supporting a negative gender stereotype.

And it seems the sensitivity readers are not stopping at simply changing existing texts; they are also trying to help the world come to terms with entire problematic works.  Try these.

The entire script of "Oedipus Rex": Oedipus was sad.  Oedipus got happy.  Oedipus got sad again.

Nineteen Eighty-Four — at least the copies that are not slated for burning — has had an explanatory foreword added to inform the reader of Winston's delusional state of mind and that, while the methods seem crude to us now in an age of pharmaceuticals, the caring state was only trying to cure his mental illness as best it could.

Animal Farm — banned outright for its anthropomorphism, though the wonderfully positive Brave New World is now mandatory reading as a future guidebook for third-graders.

How about we expand the sensitivity reader concept to the world of art?  Some possible initial reports:

  • A demand has been made for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to be replaced with multiple LED boards constantly looping uplifting secular messages.
  • The Mona Lisa could soon have a subtitle plaque: "You go, Girlboss!"
  • The Venus de Milo is expected to be at least contextualized to acknowledge its incipient ableism and body-shaming aspects.
  • "Guernica" will only be shown to people who have undergone rigorous psychological testing to avoid any triggering events.
  • Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" will now carry a warning about the environmental damage caused by seed oils.

It's funny because it just might as well be true.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Calif. and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at  You can read more of his work at

Image via Pixy.

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