Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Santa has apparently given up smoking. He did it without Nicorette gum, the NicoDerm patch, an e-cigarette or one of those scary drugs that pharmaceutical giants bribe doctors to push onto patients by handing out Madonna concert tickets. No, it was done with the strike of a delete button.Well-intentioned Pamela McColl, a 54-year-old Canadian entrepreneur, has taken it upon herself to sanitize the 189-year-old  poem Twas the Night Before Christmas generally attributed to Clement C. Moore. McColl, who is self-published, feels that showing Santa Claus smoking a pipe sets a bad example for children. 

The following lines have been removed from this new version of the classic work: 
"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

The cover of the book tells us that this version of the poem is "Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century."

Another way of looking at it is that this is shameless censorship, the defacing of a historical piece of literature not unlike what Twain scholar Alan Gribben did when he replaced the word "nigger" with "slave" in a combined release of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer

This arrogant reworking of classic writings infuriates me. It scares me. It insults the very work that has come under the politically correct scalpel. Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association sums it up succinctly when she says, "This wasn't a retelling. This wasn't a parody. This wasn't an adaptation. This wasn't a modernization. This wasn't fanfic. This was presenting the original but censoring the content. That kind of expurgation that seeks to prevent others from knowing the original work because of a disapproval of the ideas, the content, is a kind of censorship that we've always disapproved of."

McColl counters that Clement C. Moore was himself against tobacco. Well, apparently not so against it that he didn't choose to stick a pipe in the jolly elf's mouth. Why even present a thing if you so disrespect the creator's vision or creative will, I wonder? 

Why stop with Santa's pipe if we're going to clean up artworks of the past? What about the part where Santa's belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly? Isn't that promoting childhood obesity? Is that line the next one on the chopping block? How about fixing that stuff in The Lord of the Flies where the boys turn into savages? That's too ugly a portrayal of human nature. How about the torture in 1984? Nasty! That's gotta go! We certainly can't be setting a good example by leaving all that S and M in the writings by the Marquis de Sade.

 Why stop with the written word? Why not put some clothing on those nudes that Degas painted and have someone Photoshop those women Reubens painted to get them down to a healthy weight? Movies sure could use a good scrubbing, like all the those Scorsese and Tarantino movies where the f-word is flying around, and speaking of Scorsese, that messy gunfight at the end ofTaxi Driver might be teaching kids to express themselves with violence. For all we know, an impressionable mind might find that the D-Day scene inSaving Private Ryan illustrates that war is okay. Snip snip! 

Should we edit all those old movies black and white movies where just about all the characters smoked like chimneys? Let's not forget drinking. Maybe we should send Elliot Ness after the Bible...all that wine business will make the kiddos think drinking is okay.

Hey, why stop with works of art and fiction? How about the unappealing parts of our history? Do history books really need to mention how blacks were lynched, or that we nearly destroyed the native populace of this country? Will we next be cleaning up photographs of dead soldiers dating back to the civil war? Put a Band-aid on the Zapruder film? 

Yes, I'm being smarmy. Yes, I'm disgusted. But works of art express the thoughts, feelings and observations of the those who create them. Unless the creator has agreed to modify them, no one else has a right to meddle, especially if the artist is no longer alive to defend the work that has come under attack. These self-righteous fools ought to realize that they cannot use the delete button to go back in time and change how people once spoke in the south or the fact that pipe smoking was once very popular. Pretending  doesn't change the fact that pipes used to be as common as iPhones. The works by Twain and Moore reflected the realities of the times when they were written, and trying to whitewash them is like trying to rewrite the history of our culture by hiding certain unbecoming details which people like McColl feel expert enough to choose to hide. Fucking with art and history is simply wrong. Oops! Did I say a bad word?

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