Wes Anderson Wants to Keep Roald Dahl Offensive
Wes Anderson is out at the Venice Film Festival in his candy-cane pinstripe suit, plugging his latest adaptation of a Roald Dahl story. His Fantastic Mr. Fox was a hit back in 2009 and now Anderson is promoting a new 40-minute adaptation of Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.
Anderson isn’t done with Dahl yet. He says he’s completed several other short adaptations of Dahl stories, including The Swan starring Henry Sugar’s Rupert Friend. Dahl books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have proven to be screen-worthy, but it seems like an odd time for Anderson to be doubling down on Dahl, considering how history is treating him.
In 2020, the Dahl family apologized for anti-Semitic remarks that the author made during his lifetime. And earlier this year, Puffin Books announced that it was hiring “sensitivity readers” to take another swing at Dahl books, many of which contain language that some find offensive from a 2023 perspective. Examples of the changes: In The Twits, Mrs. Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly,” upgraded to plain old “beastly.” Oompa Loompas are now gender-neutral. And August Gloop is no longer “fat,” he’s simply “enormous.” In fact, words like “fat,” “ugly,” and “crazy” are being removed from character descriptions across Dahl’s works.
Other changes are harder to explain, such as changing “boys and girls” to “children.” Still more corrections seem to suffer from over-explanation. The Telegraph reported that a paragraph in The Witches explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs now concludes with an entirely new line: 'There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that."
Despite the Dahl estate approving such changes, plenty of creators expressed their dismay.
Count Anderson among the people who find the changes unnecessary — and maybe even offensive themselves. “I’m probably the worst person to ask about this because if you ask me if Renoir should be allowed to touch up one of his pictures, I would say no. It’s done,” Anderson said, according to Deadline. “I don’t even want the artist to modify their work. I understand the motivation for it, but I’m in the school where when the piece of work is done we participate in it. We know it. So I think when it’s done, it’s done.”
“And certainly no one who is not an author should be modifying somebody’s book,” Anderson said. “He’s dead.”
Considering that Anderson has multiple Dahl adaptations in the works, do we think he’ll be censoring his own screenplays to cater to modern sensibilities? Fat chance.