No better way to spark a fire storm than change. There is a proposal to sanitize works of long-dead authors. Whether the cause of anti-censorship, history preservation or the fever dreams of conspiracy addicts, people have protested against editing out racism and xenophobia (among other unpleasant actions and ideas) from literature. HarperCollins was one of the first to see the reactions when Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming were “cleansed.” Passages that referred to weight, gender, race, violence, mental health and more were altered, with some being removed altogether. The publisher thought it was worth it – writers not so much.
Passages from these novels have been “reworked or removed” to elide references to ethnicity or simply to omit physical descriptions altogether. Without having reviewed these texts cited above, it’s hard to tell where changes were needed and where the publishers may have applied an over-abundance of caution. Regardless, many readers have argued that to strip a text of its worst qualities is to dismantle important historical context.
Be that as it may, Agatha Christie’s work got that makeover. There are a number of instances in her books that are blatantly offensive, particularly by modern standards. Christie was notable for stereotypical depictions of Asian people. Also descriptions referencing characters as Nubian, “gypsy,” and “a Jew” have been removed from of her novels.
Like Dahl and Fleming, Christie saw some of her most flagrantly poor word choices changed in her lifetime. The bestseller, “And Then There Were None”, was infamously published in the U.K. based on a British minstrel song repeated in the novel. Even in 1940, the title was too objectionable for publication in the U.S. and the slur was largely removed from the text. As such, there’s a degree of precedent for these new edits.
All things considered, I thought we might take a look at Dame Agatha characters. I chose Miss Marple because of the amazing number of actresses (14) who took on the role. I have whittled it down to the top five who perennially swap positions now and then – with only one surviving all others to be the perfect Marple. Watch for fun and maybe a little something you didn’t know.