We all know it, we all have seen it one way or the other – and we all try to ignore it. Censorship.
It is not the biggest secret on earth, that Americans are usually first when it comes to content and media censorship. May it be their news reports (anyone watched FOX lately) or children’s books.
At least I thought, we were over the entire over-sexualisation after the debate around Disney’s “Little Mermaid” Ariels supposed illicit clothing (swimming around in a shell bra? HELLO?) ebbed away a little. Apparently not… Censorship is still very much alive in the country of liberty, infinite possibilities and sexual repression. I had to learn that today, as I tried to buy one of my favorite books of all time for my Kindle: Philipp Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” Trilogy (“Northern Lights”, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass”).
Some of you might have read it, some might have watched to movie some years ago, that hit the theaters with the title “The Golden Compass”, but most of you have probably never heard of it. It is a shame, that with recent discussions about copyrights and online piracy, publishers censor works and thereby leave users no other choice but to turn to less-legal methods if they wish to obtain an uncensored version of the original work. However, that is another topic. Interesting in this case is, what actually did get censored.
“His Dark Materials” is a book series with a serious religious background, as a matter of fact in Europe it was advised by the church not to give the books to children – because they question religion as we know it. This is of course dangerous! Why? Because people would start to think, and organizations like the church (and governments) can only exist if the majority of their followers refrain from doing just that.
However, to my surprise, that was not the cause for censorship. The website hisdarkmaterials.org gives a pretty accurate comparison of what was censored. The main reason for censorship was – of course – a sexual one.The third book of the series makes some slight references to the protagonist Lyra growing up (puberty) and her therefore awakening sexuality. According to Wikipedia, Pullman “intends [this passage] as a reevaluation of the tale of Adam and Eve. “This so-called original sin is anything but. It’s the thing that makes us fully human.”
Here is named original UK version of the passage in the “Marzipan” chapter:
“As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She found a stirring at the roots of her hair: she found herself breathing faster. She had never been on a roller-coaster, or anything like one, but if she had, she would have recognized the sensations in her breast: they were exciting and frightening at the same time, and she had not the slightest idea why. The sensation continued, and deepened, and changed, as more parts of her body found themselves affected too. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn’t known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, deep in the darkness of the building she felt other doors opening too, and lights coming on. She sat trembling, hugging her knees, hardly daring to breathe, as Mary went on…
This was apparently too sexual for an American children’s book, therefore in the U.S. version it was changed to the following:
“As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn’t known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, she felt the other doors opening deep in the darkness, and lights coming on. She sat trembling as Mary went on…
If you wish to read more about the movie of the first book, and the changes Hollywood felt neccessary to be made in order to make it appropriate for children, read this interesting article. And afterwards, maybe get a copy of the books – not on your kindle, and not from the U.S. if you can help it. If you want the real, uncensored version, buy it from U.K. (Unfortunately, up to now, only censored versions are available for kindle.)