Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BOOKS: "In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon... but no ashtray"

I don't know if you're familiar with the kids' book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It's more than twenty-five years old and something of a classic. We have a copy, and while I wouldn't say it does the job of lulling young Master Sam off to Sleepyland, he seems to like it. In fact, he's chewing on it right now.

As kids' books go, it's pretty much the height of innocuousness. So no one was more surprised than I to learn of the recent controversy surrounding its re-release.

Publisher HarperCollins has just re-issued the newest edition of the book with a digitally altered photograph of the book's illustrator, Clement Hurd... to remove the cigarette from his mouth.

I don't know which is funnier, the ensuing media kerfuffle lamenting the overly PC age in which we live (and if you want to check out the extent of it, just go to Google and search the keywords "goodnight moon cigarette smoking smoke clement hurd"), or this revised version of the story:

In the great green room there was . . .

A cordless telephone

And a red balloon, non-helium and securely tethered out of toddler reach

And a picture of the cow jumping over the moon, with a warning label never to try this with cattle or indeed any animals without parental supervision

And there were three little bears, roaming freely in their native habitat, secure in their endangered-species status

And two little neutered kittens

And a pair of mittens, purchased from a Cambodian collective

And a little toyhouse with all potential choking hazards fastened in place by six-inch bolts

And a young and humanely captured mouse...

That's all I could cut and paste without feeling guilty. You'll have to read the rest here.

8 comments:

Jennie Smash said...

A few years ago, I bought a VHS copy of the movie Sabrina. One very boring day, I was looking at the cover, trying to figure out what was wrong with it. Of course, they had photoshopped out Bogie's cigarette. He looked freakish without it.

Everyone has gone completely insane. The end.

mcpuke said...

Eh, I think the Bogie example goes too far, but the Goodnight Moon example is OK.

Obviously if you, as a parent, are anti-smoking, the kid shouldnt be influenced by one picture on the back of a kids book, but at the same time, I am all for getting rid of smoking influences in all child activities-- shown on movies/tv/in books/ads in magazines... everything.

Doppelganger said...

I totally agree. What's funny is that, in all this "we must preserve the sanctity of the illustrator photo" kerflap, no one paid any attention to Hurd's daughter, who was only quoted in one article. She said that in later life her dad actually gave up smoking, and if he were alive today he'd probably be glad the cigarette was removed from his photo.

tuckova said...

photos of walt disney are almost always altered to remove the then ever-present cigarette from his hand. he died of lung cancer. i find this kind of alteration a pity because it removes the opportunity to discuss it with your children - that (for example) disney died at 65 because he smoked so much, or that mr.hurd used to smoke but quit, which is a very hard thing to do but good for him. implying that people never did bad things simply because we now think of them as so bad seems short sighted, somehow. to me.

Sven Golly said...

It's a strange kind of poetic justice to alter Walt's image. The Disnification of Disney follows logically - and self-servingly - from Disnified fairy tales, myths, history, and world cultures. Since when is their target market interested in anything real?

landismom said...

I think the best thing about this whole situation is that the altered photo makes Hurd look like he's throwing a gang sign.

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