The good news is, as we are periodically reminded, this isn’t the U.K. (Thank-you, George, Tom, John, Paul and Ben!). The bad news is that the totalitarian virus embedded in The Great Stupid is contagious, and far greater threat to civilization than any pandemic. Great Britain has reached a level of unethical literary censorship—for the greater good, to eradicate “WrongThink,” you know—that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
I thought the effort by British publishers to re-write the works of Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming was just a temporary outbreak, and that the miscreants had received so much ridicule and criticism that the madness had been contained. As is so often the case, I was tragically wrong. Now these ethics villains have come for…I can’t believe I am writing this…P.G. Wodehouse.
Penguin Random House has altered what it calls the “unacceptable prose” of some of Wodehouse best works in new editions of his classic Bertie Wooster novels. The publisher also warned readers of “outdated” terms in the books, widely regarded by critics, lovers of humor and aficionados of brilliant writing as immortal classics. Benign upper class twit Bertie Wooster and his brilliant butler Jeeves appear in 35 short stories and eleven novels out of the more than ninety books and two hundred short stories (not to mention plays, musicals, songs and more) authored by Wodehouse ( 1881-1975), so the censors of 20th Century wit and wisdom have a lot of work ahead of them.
The publisher’s disclaimer in the 2023 reissue of Wodehouse’s “Thank-you, Jeeves” notes, “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterizations which you may find outdated. In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.” Morons. This is signature significance and res ipsa loquitur.
“Outdated”? Have these thought-police even read what they presume to “improve”? Wodehouse’s works take place in a fantasy version of British society as far from reality as the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll or Douglas Adams. Who—the hell!-–are these dolts who obviously don’t get the joke to decide what the readers who appreciate P.G.’s genius will find “unacceptable”?
Confronted with their idiocy, Penguin’s defense was that their alterations “do not affect the story,” further proving that those responsible don’t know what they are doing. Wodehouse works are never about “the story,” but in the words, the phrasing, the wit and the author’s unique voice. He is also a far, far more important author and essential contributor to Western culture than Dahl or Fleming, both of whom I’m confident would agree.
If the spawn of Big Brother will come for Wodehouse, can Mark Twain’s demise be far behind?
Clearly not. Meanwhile, what is especially chilling is that this toxic ooze emanating from Woke World is so relentless and pervasive that even slapping down the worst of it seems futile, like an eternal game of Whack-a-Mole in Hell. These awful, brain-washed, tasteless, humorless, dangerous progressive totalitarians just won’t give up until we are all wearing unisex jump suits, standing in line for approved foodstuffs and driving solar-powered cars if it hasn’t been cloudy for too long.
I guess we’ll be permitted to read Toni Morrison novels.
Ah, what rich material this would be for P.G. Wodehouse’s gentle satire! Those who have read his works are almost certainly inoculated against The Great Stupid and its attendant contagions. That may be why the real life admirers of Big Brother want to ruin them.
19 thoughts on “More Big Brother “Whack-A-Mole”: The Woke Censors Come For Jeeves And Bertie”
And before this they came for Laura Ingalls, lest we forget. I have a question, though, in all sincerity. Previously I think you said something to the effect of making changes to fantasy, as they did in the visually dazzling but insufferable writing-wise Rings of Power, was all right because it was fantasy, and the color of a fictional being’s skin really didn’t matter. Why is it now not ok to fiddle with this type of fantasy?
You know, there is talk of a remake of the LOTR movies (masterworks that I think can’t really be improved on) and possibly of a Netflix or Amazon reboot of the Chronicles of Narnia (the first one was great, the second two eh, the series itself hard to adapt). Your thoughts on alteration of them to eliminate thinking that’s now considered outdated? Maybe eliminate Legolas to make Arwen a full-time Fellowship member? How about making Merry a girl? How about changing the Rohirrim to make them less Nordic so that charge at the Pelennor fields doesn’t become a bunch of blond, blue-eyed saviors taking down the African-expy Haradrim? How about expanding still farther on Susan and also Lucy as fighting heroines as good as their brothers? And what to do with the Horse and His Boy? Do we just make Calormen generically European to eliminate the Arab element? Do we make Susan actually love Rabadash but be turned away from him by racist Narnians and Archenlanders?
The movie “Willow” was a favorite of our children, so they were looking forward to the TV series remake… until they saw it was woketized crap from the beginning. I imagine it was no accident (and an unintentional metaphor) that once the diverse group of protagonists was assembled, almost the first thing that happened to them was that the experienced older white guy was killed off.
I remember “Willow”! A (strange) next-door neighbor even named his son “Willow” in honor of the movie! That was George Lucas’s failed attempt at creating a fantasy franchise. The main problem was that he couldn’t find a really good dwarf actor…
The same dwarf actor, Warwick Davis, is in the TV version. Val Kilmer probably wasn’t physically up for a reprise in a series.
Huh… I think nearly every one of the Time Bandits dwarves did excellent.
They did. There are lots of outstanding actors who are little people. But holding down a titular lead requires a special “it” factor. Peter Dinklage has it. Warwick Davis is a fine character actor who almost always is covered by elaborate make-up, as in the “Leprechaun” movies. Not a hero or a lead.
Progressives are so much more effective in their censorship than conservatives are.
Take JK Rowling as an example, there were a lot of Christian groups attempting to ban the Potter books out of libraries, but they never really saw any success, and then there were a lot of progressive outlets that attempted to get the Potter books removed from libraries. Different reasons, different groups, neither were particularly successful. And they weren’t successful because generally, libraries are hard to ideologically capture entirely, and the first amendment in America is robust.
But progressives have, generally, captured publishing houses. And so they’ll release new editions of Huck Finn with all the instances of the slur that shall not be written removed, or quietly retire printing new editions of certain Seuss titles. My collection isn’t all first editions, I’m not made of money, but they’re editions that were printed before the censors got at them. The latest addition to my collection are the original 5e players manuals that still had racial stat differences and racial alignments (that were errata’d out because how dare someone suggest that an orc might have different racial attributes than a gnome) and the original printing of the Spelljammer sourcebook, that still had the background of Hadozees (monkey people) that included them being a former slave race (which was changed because how dare a race associated with slavery be monkeys).
The collection ever grows.
I foresee a time in the future when your collection is seen not as a collection of pre-madness memorabilia but akin to a collection of Nazi relics.
Yes, I’m feeling pessimistic today.
If they’re serious about cleaning up Wodehouse, they’ll have to eliminate almost all the characters, the aunts, the crazy uncles, all the members of the Drones club, the crazy Communists. They should probably eliminate the entire oeuvre. There isn’t a hint of equity anywhere. Frankly, I can’t believe the weenies at Penguin are allowing the issuance of a new edition. You’d think they’d want Wodehouse buried alive.
I can’t wait to see what some publishing house tries to do to Waugh.
It would be nice if the news reports would tell us what the outdated words are, ¿no? Are there racial slurs, derogatory words for women and other minorities? Is it because “Jeeves” is a manservant and no man is a servant of any other man?
I mean, my versions of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huck Finn” have footnotes informing me that “nigger” is considered a racial epithet and is highly offensive but was commonly used in the 1840s and 1850s (and modern day rap lyrics, but . . . .) and Twain was writing in the vernacular of the times, mostly to show how awful the times were. Apparently, I am too dense to figure that out all by myself. I don’t know what the more recent editions say, though. I am certain they have been sterilized.
Apparently Wodehouse frequently referred to “minstrel shows,” among other issues.
The left has been using “1984” as an instruction manual for some time now. They’ve added “Fahrenheit 451” now.
Maybe my less studious classmates weren’t really fudging when they only read the Cliff Notes summaries of classic works, they were just ahead of their time.
“Wodehouse works are never about “the story,”
Absolutely. In Jeeves (and Wooster) the storylines are just farce; it’s the dialog that’s the hook. Laurie and Fry did a great job in the TV series, and it’s still mostly available (YouTube, Amazon), but who knows for how long (download and save while you can). Expect it to be publicly killed off along with the rest of the good offensively silly Brit humour from the Pythons, Atkinson, & etc.
Hugh Lurie did a Wodehouse TV show! Yikes! I need to track that down. Did he play Bertie Wooster?
He sure did. I have all the videos.
When you finish those, you can start on Blackadder.
Thanks boys. I’ll check them out. I snatched a quick look at only a few minutes and found the stuff a little disorienting. Hugh Laurie just strikes me as being too incisive and intelligent to play a Wooster. I think of Bertie as s more than admitted boob. And Laurie spoke so fast. Proper for the time and social class but hard to follow, at least for a Yank. And the Jeeves didn’t “shimmer.” An impossible task, no doubt. I guess the magic of Wodehouse is in his language and imagery, which may not translate onto the stage or screen. Of course, he did write plays. Anyway, I fear the Wodehouse fiction may be best left on the page, which isn’t so bad as that’s where he intended it to reside. The love interest was spectacular.