Friday, January 7, 2011
Notes on Pop Culture: Censoring Classics, 'Grey's' Lets Cristina Heal, 'The Middle's' on a Hot Streak
My father gave my 12-year-old son Tom Sawyer for Christmas and my 12-year-old daughter To Kill a Mockingbird. Both books were mentioned this week when news broke that a publisher had sanitized Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer by removing references to the N-word to make it more palatable to be taught in schools.
The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wrote a powerful column decrying the new edition’s changes saying that the "original texts should be sacrosanct intellectual property" and that "tampering with a writer's words underscores both editors' extraordinary hubris and a cavalier attitude embraced by more and more people . . . that all texts are fungible."
“Haven’t we learned by now that removing books from the curriculum just deprives children of exposure to classic works of literature? Worse, it relieves teachers of the fundamental responsibility of putting such books in context – of helping students understand that Huckleberry Finn actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery . . . of using its contested language as an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations in this country. To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities – whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist.”
I told my kids when they started reading their books that the N-word will appear there and we had discussions about the word and about what was going on in the point in American history when their respective novels are set. Unsettled as my explanations may make them, I agree with Kakutani that it’s important to tell children about history so they can understand how very much life has changed since then. I’m looking forward to discussions with the kids about those books and, if my son likes Tom Sawyer, may pick up Huckleberry Finn for him next.
Grey’s Allows Cristina to Heal
I was quite pleased that Grey’s Anatomy gave Cristina Yang the room and the time to heal on her own terms, something which finally occurred in latest episode, “Disarm.” While many shows artificially rush a character through something like mourning, fear or anger because they think the fans can’t handle a slow, stop-start emotional recovery from a trauma, Grey’s allowed Cristina to flail around for 10 episodes – impulsively get married, hang out at the mall, do a cruddy job of bartending at Joe’s -- before finally having the character regain her footing. And it was worth the wait.
I reviewed the episode on CliqueClack TV, and express the hope that the ill-advised Teddy-Denny 2.0 marriage doesn’t cause the show to run off the tracks, plot-wise.
The Middle's on a Hot Streak
From the spot-on satire of parents who have turned over complete control of their lives to their children – running around to three different fast food restaurants to get each child his or her preferred food, allowing the offspring to take over the “big” TV and retreating to other rooms so the children can watch what they want – to the grade school-aged Brick discovering the internet for the first time (because his parents were refusing to cart him to the library every other day) and learning that there aren’t really single people out there waiting to meet him, the latest episode was thoroughly entertaining.
Following on the heels of its excellent dysfunctional Thanksgiving installment and its scathing Christmas episode, where Frankie battled with her parents over how many presents the children should have under the tree, The Middle is having a good run of it lately.
Image credit: New York Times.