There seem to be a lot of TV reboots happening at the moment (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Frasier) and this makes me sad. Yes, these shows were great, but that’s why they should be left alone. I want to remember them as they were, not as a more recent, diluted throwback. What’s more it’s just lazy – why not write something new instead of rehashing old concepts?
This made me think about some academics’ insistence on revising and redacting classic literature to ‘protect’ younger readers or make mature ones more ‘comfortable’ – such as removing the ‘n’ word from books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (or taking these texts out of the curriculum entirely). This sits really badly with me. Erase offensive words and you erase part of history with it. We all know rubbish people and rubbish events existed in the past, as they still do today – it ain’t all pretty and you can’t paint over it.
Twain was only voicing what everyone was thinking at the time (not to mention that Huckleberry Finn is a condemnation of that, not an endorsement). It’s futile to read his works in the context of today; nor should anyone ‘update’ it to suit people’s sensitivities. As a society we need to keep these reminders in literature, film and music so that we don’t revert back to that. It helps us keep our footing.
I do understand the awkwardness and embarrassment that comes from looking back at past behaviour. I think that’s something we feel as individuals, too. I often look back at my old writing and think, crikey, that was a pile of tosh. But lately I’m trying to steer myself to think it’s okay, that was all part of my growing as a writer, and as a person. They were my formative years, and a) without that period of learning I wouldn’t be where I am and b) perhaps it only seems like tosh in comparison to how I write today. One can only hope.