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No Hunches

by Stephen Lautens


July 19, 2002

There's nothing like the classics. Apparently even the classics are nothing like the classics anymore.

A theatre company in England is putting on a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Except it isn't The Hunchback of Notre Dame anymore. After consulting a "disability advisor", the producer decided to change the name of the play from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to The Bellringer of Notre Dame.

The details are sketchy, but the name change was done because the theatre company didn't want to upset people with scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine and in extreme cases, a hunchback.

Now, no one wants to make fun of anyone with a disability, but I sort of thought the whole point of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was to show how someone who is ugly on the outside can be beautiful on the inside. The lesson was so obvious that even Disney got it right in their cartoon.

So I suppose we're going to see a few rewrites of other classics in the future.

Treasure Island is a great story about pirates, but unfortunately one of them is referred to as having a peg leg, which could be considered offensive. There's also someone with an eye patch, which could upset advocates for the visually impaired. The singing of "Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum" will no doubt cause concern among those who are worried that it may encourage teenage drinking.

In keeping with the pirate theme, Peter Pan's arch enemy, Captain Hook, will now have to be referred to as Captain Digitally Challenged. In fact, we may have to do away with pirate references altogether. From now on they will have to be called "Seafaring Entrepreneurs" to avoid the unpleasant stigma associated with the true pirates who recently ran Enron and MCI Worldcom and are now in front of the US Congress pleading the Fifth Amendment.

With the growing acceptance of the Wiccan religion, any negative portrayal of witches or warlocks in books like The Wizard of Oz will likely result in a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. The stereotyping of witches as people who are wicked or lure children into gingerbread houses would certainly create a poisoned work environment for them.

Likewise, the current popularity of TV vampires will require a substantial rewrite of Bram Stoker's Dracula to show the bloodsucker in a more positive light. Remember, vampirism is a condition that also calls for our understanding and support, and not a stake through the heart.

Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein will have to be renamed due to the stigma now attached to his name. Rather than a tale of man's vanity in trying to play God with horrible results, Dr. Victor Frankenstein will be portrayed as a doctor ahead of his time in his commitment to recycling. The title of the new novel will be, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". Frankenstein's monster will also be given new life as a poster boy for organ donation.

There are hundreds of other childhood favourites that may run afoul of modern sensitivities, whether it's Little Women offending the vertically challenged, or The Little Engine That Could making those engines that can't feel inadequate.

I'm not sure where it will all end, but if I were you, I'd head down to the library right away to get them before they're gone.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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