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 scriptorial sodomites 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 basket full, checking in on their progress may be a good idea in order to be prepared for what one will find at the local book store – whose kidding? On Amazon – in the coming months.

  • It was the best of times for the 1 percent, 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: the need to become an anti-racist ally and to constantly check 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.
  • 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.  For example, this is now the entire script of Oedipus Rex:

Oedipus was sad.  Oedipus got happy.  Oedipus got sad, again.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – at least the copies 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 has been banned outright for its anthropomorphism, though the wonderfully positive Brave New World is now mandatory reading as a future guidebook for third-graders.

The sensitivity reader concept is also making its way into the world of art with sensitivity viewers being dispatched to museums worldwide.  Their initial reports include:

  • A demand has been made for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to be replaced with multiple LED boards constantly looping uplifting secular messages.
  • 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, but only because it just might as well be true.

PHOTO: DSC01370. Photo by Classroom Camera. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Thomas Buckley

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