“We’re making a play at school”, announced my sister one day the minute she came home.
“And I get to write the play script with my best friend!”
Suffice to say, we’re all prolific writers in the family.
The main idea was to stage a play to mark the end of the school year and give all profits to charity. True, they did base the play on one of the oldest dramas in Macedonian literature but gave it their own modern twist.
(For anyone interested, they performed Chorbadzi Teodos. “Chorbadzi” [pronounced – chorbaji] being an archaic word, almost like a title, given to someone rich & well-respected in town, “Teodos” being the name of the main character)
But while watching the play, all I could think about was that plenty has changed ever since the book was written.
And ever since the language in the book was last reviewed.
If it was ever reviewed in the first place.
With chorbadzi being one of the least offensive words in the play, the book is full of jokes and words that true, were hilarious at the time but might be considered offensive in modern society.
Certain behavior from the book might now be enough to get domestic violence charges. Certain social customs or manners no longer make sense. Certain words used to call the Roma people are no longer socially acceptable.
Don’t get me wrong – the kids didn’t do anything wrong – nor had any intention of doing so! Their play was a big hit!
Now you’re thinking: Well, why did they pick that book? Well, the book on which they based their performance is still on the list of mandatory school reads!
I remember it as a hilarious book I read more than 15 years ago – and it’s a favorite book among many schoolchildren!
And that made me wonder – what happens when language in books becomes outdated?
What happens when books with the honorary intention to educate, become offensive to a multi-colored society?
Should we censor the books children read – or should we leave them to make them more aware, more grateful for the modern society in which they have the privilege to live?
I couldn’t help but be reminded about Mark Twain and the whole drama that followed after censoring the n-word from his novels. Mark Twain was never a racist – nor the author of the book Chorbadzi Teodos ever had something against the Roma people.
Their message was quite the opposite.
But they chose offensive words as their most powerful weapon to make a statement upon the reader.
To stir some emotion.
To teach people not to do the things they’ve witnessed done in that era.
In fact, I remember reading this great article that sometimes, by censoring the book, you betray the message the author wanted to convey in the first place.
Should we do the same?
Last Friday, due to popular demand, there was a re-run of the play.
All of the offensive words were taken out.
All jokes were made neutral.
All of the outfits were slightly changed.
The play is now, finally, socially acceptable.
But will the socially acceptable play – or book, or novel – will ever teach someone something?
Will ever anyone learn anything about life, about social norms or about the right & wrong by reading something that doesn’t stir any emotion?
Are we really helping children by protecting them with censorship – or are we doing the exact opposite of a favor?
Unfortunately for you and for me, only time has the answers to those questions.
What do you think – should certain books be censored?
Next time, we’ll be taking a look into summer reads! Is there anything YOU’d like me to talk about? Drop us a comment and let us know, we’d be thrilled to hear back from you!