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They huffed and they puffed They huffed and they puffed
by Asa Butcher
2008-01-26 10:00:32
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When my daughter was seven-months-old I wrote an article discussing the surrealism of nursery rhymes and the strange messages contained within their prose, but it seems that the world of children's literature is far more volatile than I first imagined. It appears that a story based on the Three Little Pigs fairytale has been rejected by judges on a government agency awards panel because the subject matter could offend Muslims.

According to the BBC, the explanation from the judges was that they "could not recommend this product to the Muslim community… because the use of pigs raises cultural issues". My first reaction to the news story was what about the Jewish community? Once again the world is paying lip service to Muslims, pre-empting more religious outrage, displaying a blinkered ignorance to other faiths that also consider the pig to be an unclean animal.

Judaism dietary laws forbid the eating of flesh of swine or pork in any form, Seventh-day Adventists and some other fundamental Christian denominations also consider pork unclean as food, and, of course, Islam forbids the eating of pork. Muslims are being given constant special treatment concerning their faith, while other denominations are ignored, which I consider to be even worse than kowtowing to one religion.

However, these religions may all consider the pig to be an unclean animal to eat, but what's to stop the creature from appearing in books and films? It is not as though the Three Little Pigs are eating bacon sandwiches or a munching upon a pork chop, plus in the latest versions of the fairytale the Big Bad Wolf doesn't even eat the pigs - they escape to the brick house. The humanisation of animals does strange things to a child's mind, for example how many children would be happy to see a mouse in their bedroom, yet Mickey Mouse is a global phenomenon.

The decision of the judges on the Bett Award panel to suddenly decide that pigs are unsuitable for a children's book is suspicious to me, especially when you consider 1) the Three Little Pigs has been in popular culture for 300 years, and 2) children are inundated with famous pigs, including A.A. Milne's Piglet, Dick King-Smith's Babe, The Muppets' Miss Piggy and Porky Pig. Have the judges made this announcement merely to bring publicity to an award that wouldn't have otherwise appeared on the BBC?

The book at the heart of this controversy is a CD-Rom digital version of the traditional story of the Three Little Pigs, called Three Little Cowboy Builders, is aimed at primary school children, so it will be the parent who decides whether of not to buy it for their child. My daughter has many books in her bedroom, but she doesn't have all the books ever given to her because my wife and I disagreed with their content and quietly removed it. The parent is always going to censor and act as the moral guide for their child, so why did the judges suddenly begin acting as our protector?

There response just confuses me. A book was submitted for their award, but they felt it wasn't suitable, fine. However, why did they have to make their reasons public? They could have found another book to win and leave it at that, with no controversy, no accusations and left those responsible for the book free from having to defend themselves against allegations of racism.

One other twist of the knife from the judges was their attack on the title Three Little Cowboy Builders because they believe that the story could alienate the building trade. No, cowboy builders alienate the building trade, not professional builders, and if the judges truly believe that the book would give children the impression that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs, then pigs have truly taken to the skies.


    
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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-26 11:41:19
To address two of the queries in the above perplexing article, it seems to me that one ought not be too surprised that the judges misguidedly felt compelled to became the children’s protectors and then announce their rationalization publicly, given the brave new world in which we live. Political correctness simply dictated it. To be politically correct is the new civic virtue of our age. Like the “enlightened” Jacobins of old it has to be not only practiced but also publicly worn and announced as a sign of one’s superior stance vis a vis those who are not enlightened and politically correct. It has infiltrated even academia wherein we now have deans on both extremes of the political spectrum who think of themselves as “thought policemen” and guardians of correct thinking and make a mockery of free speech and academic freedom. Alas, few of them have an inkling of how close that comes to political fanaticism and the burning of books that went on in Germany on May 10, 1942. And once the burning of books begins, even if only on a virtual or imaginative level, can the dark ages be far behind? We do live in very interesting times.


Thanos2008-01-26 12:59:58
I must admit that the whole thing with the political correct is crossing the line and it reminds me the burning books as well. A few years ago a company in UK published a book with the political correct tales. In the beginning it made us laugh but when you thought about it more it was scary.


Sand2008-01-26 15:41:30
When you offend Christians and Jews they are rational enough to shrug it off. A small but effective Muslim contingent kills people.


Sand2008-01-27 06:10:23
I can understand, in a peculiar sympathy, why the Muslims might find pork an unsuitable food but I do not understand why pigs, which are merely one member of all the natural animals, should be excluded from all vision or appearance from literature as if they should not exist. After all, the number of cannibals in all human societies is a distinct minority if they exist at all and most people minority consider humans an improper element of diet but I have yet to hear anybody object to people's appearance in pictures and literature on that basis.


Sand2008-01-27 06:16:02
Sorry about that post. It's early morning here and I have yet to have my coffee. It should read:

I can understand, in a peculiar sympathy, why the Muslims might find pork an unsuitable food, but I do not understand why pigs, which are merely one member of all the natural animals, should be excluded from all vision or appearance from literature as if they should not exist. After all, the number of cannibals in all human societies is a distinct minority if they exist at all. Most people consider humans an improper element of diet but I have yet to hear anybody object to people's appearance in pictures and literature on that basis.


Chris2008-01-29 00:31:03
I expect an advocate, speaking for the rights of pigs to be equally and fairly represented in the media, could make a grand case out of all this. I wonder, can a pig become a follower of the God of Ishak and Israel? Can a Pig go to hevean? As an object of savory desire, how do pigs rate among other unclean (najis) beings? Wow, a work the size of the rise and fall of the roman empire could be written around the topic of P.C. Pigdom in our time. As I recall, Wolves -- and dogs in general -- are just as Najis as pigs. I'm not sure what is Najis or clean anymore. Are you?


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