Friday, September 13, 2013

Yet Another Snow White – The Politically Cleansed Version


In the age of Ben Bernanke, hyper-inflation, and dollar candy, it’s a little hard to picture any well-to-do persons being sorely disappointed by a purchase that downs them naught but a mere 25 cents.  Nevertheless, a library bookstore copy of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories did the seemingly impossible by evoking just such a feeling in Your Humble Narrator*, though this feeling is more internally than externally directed.  Put another way, James Finn Garner’s series of “modern tales for our life and times” fostered a powerful sensation in me that more closely resembled self-resentment and shame than anything else, for the simple reason that Politically Correct Bedtime Series is exactly the kind of over-the-top satirical drivel that I would dream up and publish had Garner not beaten me to it by 20 years.  Loaded to the brim with fairy tale Newspeak, political stereotypes, sophomoric humor, and intentionally vapid message stories, this book aims to offend nobody but will offend just about everybody as a consequence.  Like all good satire, it illustrates absurdity by being absurd, treating the silly as though it were serious and shining light on the lunacy that dominates mainstream liberal ‘thought’.

The inside cover of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories informs the reader that it is the “first processed tree carcass” to be released by Garner, “the descendent of dead white European males” and a writer for Chicago Tribune Magazine.  The book’s title is fairly self-explanatory, but for the benefit of the unenlightened, I’ll briefly explain the premise of this compilation.  PCBS, or PC-BS to be more accurate, fancies itself as the solution to hundreds of years of culturally biased and discriminatory stories that did little in effect but perpetuate bigotry through reinforcing racist, sexist, ageist, sizeist, and speciesist stereotypes.  In the words of Garner himself, “When they were first written, the stories on which the following tales are based certainly served their purpose – to entrench the patriarchy, to estrange people from their own natural impulses, to demonize ‘evil’ and ‘reward’ an ‘objective’ ‘good’.”  In contrast to the dark, misleading, and hateful narratives that unwitting and predominantly male parents exploited to pollute the minds of vulnerable children for many eons, the stated purpose of these new bedtime stories is to rectify the dangerous record set by past fairy propaganda on the foundation of more tolerant and culturally diverse fables, whose worldviews will clearly reflect the progressive strides of modern society towards civil equality and peaceful coexistence for those of all statures, species, and classes.  To that end, PC-BS recasts all the most famous fairy tale heroes as environmentally conscious, economically disadvantaged, sexually confused peasants and all the villains as greedy, carnivorous, unhealthy, misogynistic capitalists.  Among the more hilarious of the collection’s 5-minute reads (which number 13 in all) are its portrayals of the three little pigs as indigenous victims of imperialism and Snow White as a feminist crusader against male dominance.  In order to avoid making insensitive or derogatory remarks about members of any downtrodden, historically abused minorities, Garner also makes clever use of a unique and flexible dialect that includes such expressions as “vertically challenged”, “nonhuman animals”, “mobility nonpossessor”, and “kindness-impaired”.  Girls of “greater-than-average physical attractiveness” are called wommons, and characters who would normally die in an indecent story of antiquity are simply “rendered nonviable” here.  Regardless, it’s better to let the book speak for itself than for me to paraphrase it.

- Through the thicket, across the river, and deep, deep in the woods, lived a family of bears – a Papa Bear, a Mama Bear, and a Baby Bear – and they all lived together anthropomorphically in a little cottage as a nuclear family.  They were very sorry about this, of course, since the nuclear family has traditionally served to enslave womyn, instill a self-righteous moralism in its members, and imprint rigid notions of heterosexualist roles onto the next generation.  Nevertheless, they tried to be happy and took steps to avoid these pitfalls, such as naming their offspring the non-gender-specific “Baby.”

- Now, while Chicken Little had a small brain in the physical sense, she did use it to the best of her abilities.  So when she screamed, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” her conclusion was not wrong or stupid or silly, only logically underenhanced.

- “FEE, FIE, FOE, FUM,
“I smell the blood of an English person!
“I’d like to learn about his culture and views on life!
“And share my own perspectives in an open and generous way!”

Much in the manner of Fun with Dick and Jane, the entirety of the book is written at a 5th grade reading level**, but parents would be wise to acknowledge that these so-called bedtime stories aren’t really appropriate for the young uns.  Like that moronic “Go the ___ to Sleep” book that graced bestseller charts for so long before the 50 Shades crap rolled along and like the equally moronic mock-poetry by Dr. Seuss that educators continue to peddle, PC-BS is an adult’s product wrapped in children’s packaging.  Though I would hardly call it distasteful or gratuitous in any situation, the book does have a fair amount of foul language and sexually suggestive material peppered throughout, most of which is implied, as when the Seven Towering Giants adjourn to the sweat lodge to “get in touch with their primitive masculine identities”.

Alas, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories are far from correct and their addictive nature doesn’t lend the series well to the bedtime genre (for that, one should examine The Custom-House by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herodotus’ Histories), but those of a certain age and sense of humor will delight in “some world other than (but certainly not unequal to) our own” that’s uproariously wry and unabashedly crude, and whose sociopolitical battles oddly parallel those of America in the present day.  None of these tales are bound to stand the test of historical endurance, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

* I'm trying to put a dystopian illusion in every post I write now.
** That's another allusion to some dystopian movie not enough people have seen.

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