Snow White and the PC brigade
Actor Warwick Davis has spoken out against a bizarre decision by a Leicester playhouse to ban all references to dwarfs in its Christmas performance of children’s classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The production team at De Montfort Hall said ‘dwarf’ is not a term that ‘people feel comfortable with’. Davis suspects this is a smokescreen, adding: ‘The profit margins for pantos are not very big and it’s obviously much cheaper to involve schoolchildren than it is to pay lots of professional short actors.’
Regardless of the true reasoning behind the decision, the very fact that the possibility of offence could be used to justify the censoring of artistic works is troubling – even in panto. Not only is it impossible to say what will be offensive beforehand, but just about anything can be offensive to someone. So who cares if somebody is offended? Accepting the idea that we must avoid offending others at all costs means submitting our freedom of expression to an offence-seekers’ veto.
It is becoming impossible to navigate the moral maze set up by censor-happy social authoritarians. Just recently, the University of Tennessee was seriously considering encouraging students to start using gender-neutral pronouns, such as ‘xe, xem and xir’, to reduce the risk of offending people who do not identify with their biological gender. They have since backtracked on the matter, but the fact that it was seriously considered should worry anybody familiar with Orwell’s Newspeak.
Davis has said he felt patronised by the playhouse’s decision – a common reaction when one group decides to take offence on behalf of another. This really betrays how out of touch the PC brigade is. Being politically correct has become a form of public, moral masturbation – it’s now fashionable to be seen to be offended or victimised. While it can be amusing to watch these faux pas unfold, the frequency with which they now occur is worrying. If we allow this censorious behaviour to go unchallenged, we put our individual freedoms at risk.
We must resist this culture of offence-taking. While the cultural libertarians are on the rise, there is still much to be done in breaking the social-authoritarian orthodoxy.
Stephen Beard is a writer based in Liverpool.