Thursday, June 09, 2005

anachronisms, literature and lost opportunities

We own several of the Harry Potter books. In the UK editions, which have not had the spelling and language "corrected" for US consumers. We'll acquire the rest, for posterity and our immediate entertaintment, next time we're in the UK. Or if that ends up being in the too distant future.
The breaking point of this was of course the infamous "Philosopher's Stone" title transmutation to the "Sorceror's Stone".
One of the dumbest editorial decisions, ever.

So, I was reading Pocahontas (Disneyfied version with pictures) the other night. The Big Kid is in the "pink princess phase".
And there Pocahontas gazes upon the good ship Susan Constant, flying the Union Jack?!?

So, the good news is that The Big Kid now shouts, with glee, "Wrong Flag", everytime we turn that page (which will hopefully be a finite number of times).
The bad news, is What the F... were they thinking?

The story is explictly, and unavoidably set during the reign of King James. Almost a century before the Act of Union.
What could have been a history learning opportunity, for kids seeing an unfamiliar flag, is turned into an egregious error, propagating an historically wrong perspective at a very basic level, just when kids are actually open to learning about these things.
Yes, the Union Jack is more familiar and places the scene into a more immediate context; but it is the wrong context and it really, really grates each time I read the bloody book. And it is so unnecessary.

At least the stupid annoying little pug dog character is historically accurate in context.

I won't start on the characterization, that will have to come after I figure out how to express my disgust at the treatment of Sleeping Beauty and Little Mermaid, which invert the moral of the stories and are bordeline evil in their subversion of motives and appropriate behaviour.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't she a bit young for all of the above (apart from the actual stories)?

9:42 AM  
Blogger Steinn said...

according to her, or me?
She really does pipe out with a "That's the wrong flag" every single time - she has very good memory and vocabulary, and gets very indignant over such things. Don't know where she gets it from.
Pocahontas is a bit violent for her, but that's what her peer group watches and we can only hold her back so much. I drew the line at the Little Match Girl and the Snowqueen though, I can't read those without crying, much less her. And I don't think she'll be ready to look at Nemo again for a long time - we didn't know the beginning and she asked us to turn it off immediately, and she does not like sharks, not one bit.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FAR too young for Nemo! Not the actual stories, but the stuff about the flags - is there any point?

4:41 PM  
Blogger Steinn said...

Yeah, she is; but she is probably also the only one among her cohort who hasn't seen it in its full motherkilling glory... others her age seem completely inured to the actual story, or they simply don't understand it. The level of media exposure, TV and video, that the average kid that age is frightening.

The flag - the point is that it is wrong, and to have it be correct would have been trivial. And Pocahontas is targeted at older kids who could actually take the basic info into their general knowledge base. It irritates me that a basic historical fact like that is done wrong, it takes no effort to find the correct "jack" that a early 17th C english ship would have flown, and for older kids it changes a learning opportunity into subliminal misinformation.
And it is sloppy.

Maybe I just need to learn to let go, or maybe I am making a very fundamental point here about education and why it goes wrong so often...

5:04 PM  

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