10 votes

Oh No! The Depressing Truth About the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Workers

46 comments

  1. [20]
    aphoenix (edited ) Link
    I think it's a distressing new fad to examine people from the past and hold them up to scrutiny under the lens of the present. Roald Dahl lived in a very different time and had very few...

    I think it's a distressing new fad to examine people from the past and hold them up to scrutiny under the lens of the present.

    Roald Dahl lived in a very different time and had very few opportunities to learn that the racist things he was taught - the things that were subtly drilled into his head for his entire life - were wrong. He was born a dozen years before Martin Luther King Jr. Hell, he was born before women's suffrage in the UK.

    I don't think "he was a product of his times" is an excuse, but it is a reason and I think the difference between excuses and reasons are important. He wrote and thought racist things, but that was because at the time that he was writing them they were accepted as facts. In the future, you may be judged for doing things like "eating beef" or "driving in a car that consumes fossil fuels". Even now, we're starting to understand that doing these things are problematic, and yet we still do them; imagine if someone dissected your thoughts and beliefs 100 years ago from now and then discounted you as a bad person because you'd done something like drive a car.

    36 votes
    1. [3]
      NaraVara Link Parent
      I think I still prefer it to the distressing old custom of "golden age" thinking where people assume decisions made in the past were wise by default and deserve respect/preservation simply by...

      I think it's a distressing new fad to examine people from the past and hold them up to scrutiny under the lens of the present.

      I think I still prefer it to the distressing old custom of "golden age" thinking where people assume decisions made in the past were wise by default and deserve respect/preservation simply by virtue of being old.

      Puncturing that bubble is a service. It makes it clear that most of the niggling little details about the world we live in have disturbing and unjust origins and need conscious reinvention rather than blind deference.

      He wrote and thought racist things, but that was because at the time that he was writing them they were accepted as facts.

      Not by everyone. And that's the real lesson here. Even though the broader cultural zeitgeist said it was okay to treat people this way, there were always people who thought this was barbaric. People just ignored them or oppressed them. This is an indictment of the system that manufactured these "facts" more than it is an exoneration of the people who accepted those "facts" uncritically. People who spend too much time on 4Chan also think most of this stuff is "fact" but we don't extend this courtesy to them.

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        Whom Link Parent
        Yeah, I think we often fall into this weird pit of confusing the fact that the dominant ideology in the past was violently racist with the idea that anti-racism and anti-racists didn't exist. If...

        Yeah, I think we often fall into this weird pit of confusing the fact that the dominant ideology in the past was violently racist with the idea that anti-racism and anti-racists didn't exist. If we're talking about the UK, the entire history of the Atlantic slave trade and genocide of American Indians is filled with people opposing those things...from religious sources, intellectual ones, and plenty of regular people too. There were plenty of people making objections to racism long before the life of this author, and certainly during it.

        There has never been a time in the development of modern racism where the idea that it was bad did not exist. Racist ideology was domintant, but it was not singular.

        5 votes
        1. NaraVara Link Parent
          It's not just weird, it's depressing. It's functionally looking around at the world we have and saying to yourself "Yeah, this is the best we could have done." It sets such low expectations of...

          It's not just weird, it's depressing. It's functionally looking around at the world we have and saying to yourself "Yeah, this is the best we could have done." It sets such low expectations of ourselves and what we should strive for, both for our own personal conduct as well as our expectations of each other/society.

          Our ancestors made so many mistakes. If we want to make an argument that better things are possible, and explain what "better" looks like from our perspective, the easiest place to go is figure out how many of those choices were mistakes now that we have the benefit of hindsight and work to undo them.

          4 votes
    2. [7]
      Akir Link Parent
      This is but one function of the machine we call "hot takes". Why bother writing deep and nuanced arguements when you could just scratch the surface and yell "old people are racist"? Whatever it...

      This is but one function of the machine we call "hot takes". Why bother writing deep and nuanced arguements when you could just scratch the surface and yell "old people are racist"? Whatever it takes to incite the reader to share it with their circle of friends so the site can make some money in advertisement.

      10 votes
      1. [6]
        aphoenix Link Parent
        You've further nailed it beyond what I wrote; the whole article could be replaced with this: So, in addition to being unfair, it's fundamentally uninteresting.

        You've further nailed it beyond what I wrote; the whole article could be replaced with this:

        In the past, there was a lot more racism. Many books that you like were written in the past.

        So, in addition to being unfair, it's fundamentally uninteresting.

        8 votes
        1. [5]
          Whom Link Parent
          Maybe to you, but I'm very interested and concerned with how much of the art we consume is racist. Whether it was made in the past or right now, that still makes the amount of racist work...

          Maybe to you, but I'm very interested and concerned with how much of the art we consume is racist. Whether it was made in the past or right now, that still makes the amount of racist work influencing us much higher than otherwise.

          Does that mean we should stop paying attention to it? No, not in most cases, if something has been influential then we can't just ignore that, but we should point out what's wrong with it, like this article does.

          3 votes
          1. [4]
            aphoenix Link Parent
            Is this art fundamentally racist because the author (an exceptionally old white man) was racist? In the non-revised versions, the Oompa Loompas were black pygmies that were little better than...

            Is this art fundamentally racist because the author (an exceptionally old white man) was racist? In the non-revised versions, the Oompa Loompas were black pygmies that were little better than slaves; is that actually racist, if it's a throwback to how black people were treated in Victorian times? Note that the novel is a bit of a throwback even for the time of it's publishing (early 60s) and is reputedly intended to have a Victorian / Imperialistic flavour.

            Is everything Kevin Spacey has acted in just a bit sexually predatorial just because he's a predator?

            Are the adventures of Huck Finn racist?

            I think that there's a lot of good things in all of them, and a good understanding of the material is important, but I don't think that understanding is coming through in this article, which to me simply read as 'btw Roald Dahl was super racist'.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              Whom Link Parent
              If your argument is "it's not actually racist" then that pretty much derails the conversation and makes it impossible to discuss the rest. If that's your objection rather than something about how...

              If your argument is "it's not actually racist" then that pretty much derails the conversation and makes it impossible to discuss the rest. If that's your objection rather than something about how we treat old racist things, then I don't really care to talk about that with you.

              I don't have a stake in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I do with how we approach these things in general.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                aphoenix Link Parent
                I have huge issues with racism, but I also have huge issues with how we approach thinking about it as a society, and I think that it takes a more critical eye than what this article has to...

                I have huge issues with racism, but I also have huge issues with how we approach thinking about it as a society, and I think that it takes a more critical eye than what this article has to understand and appreciate the history of race and racial problems.

                I don't think it's right to say "this is a racist book" because it has a depiction of racist things in it; there's much more to it than that.

                We didn't even look at how Wonka's treatment of the Oompa Loompas is portrayed. I would argue it is portrayed very negatively in the books; Wonka is fundamentally creepy, horrifically capitalist, and takes advantage of everyone. In addition, he nearly murders four children. If one thinks he is the good guy, I would think again.

                I'm not saying "does this depict racism" - it obviously does. I'm not saying "is Willy Wonka a racist" - he obviously is. I'm saying does this make the entire art fundamentally racist? Does it say "The oompa loompas (who represent black people) are treated badly and deserve that, because they are worth less than real people?" Does it actually foment racism? Is it saying that racism is good?

                In my reading of the books, I would argue that it does not say that; they are obviously being preyed upon by "the white man", who is just as obviously a complex character.

                Anyways, I guess the long story short is that I also think it's important to think about race and culture, but I didn't find this article thoughtful or critical.

                9 votes
                1. Whom Link Parent
                  Maybe, I don't have a recent enough impression of the story in my mind so I can't comment if it just has racism or if it is racist. I care about what we do with racist things and how we talk about...

                  Maybe, I don't have a recent enough impression of the story in my mind so I can't comment if it just has racism or if it is racist.

                  I care about what we do with racist things and how we talk about them, which is what I replied to originally, but I'll just back out now since I don't have anything to add about racism in the story specifically.

    3. [4]
      hamstergeddon Link Parent
      I wasn't there in the 60s, so maybe I'm just naive, but I feel like you're talking about him as though he lived 200 years ago when literally nobody knew better. This wasn't that long ago. Heck,...

      I wasn't there in the 60s, so maybe I'm just naive, but I feel like you're talking about him as though he lived 200 years ago when literally nobody knew better. This wasn't that long ago. Heck, the movie came out only 5 years after the book did and the filmmakers had the sense/decency not to use Dahl's depiction of the Oompa Loompas. And according to the article he continued to utilize racists stereotypes into the 80s.

      Speaking of which, I was born in the 80s. Homosexuality was no where near as acceptable as it is today. There was a lot of hatred and misunderstanding surrounding it, its connection to AIDS, etc. My parents held those homophobic beliefs and they were passed on to me, but that doesn't mean I get a free pass to utilize ridiculous homosexual stereotypes, use homophobic slurs, etc. Like it did all throughout Dahl's life, society changed and progressed. And with it, so did my views. It doesn't sound like his ever did, sadly, so I'd say he's fair game for criticism.

      And for what it's worth, I think it's totally fair for +100yr society to look back on us now judgmentally for using gas-guzzlers. We know what they're doing to our environment, we've got viable alternatives, and we (as a society) have chosen not to embrace them like we should.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        aphoenix Link Parent
        He was born and started growing up over 100 years ago. In the 80s, he was 70+ years old. You can see that his views did change over the course of his life; read his early work and then read his...

        It doesn't sound like his ever did, sadly, so I'd say he's fair game for criticism.

        He was born and started growing up over 100 years ago. In the 80s, he was 70+ years old. You can see that his views did change over the course of his life; read his early work and then read his later work. You have now just believed that he never changed based on a crap article written by a hack.

        Consider: in the original, the Oompa Loompas were black. In the revised edition, the Oompa Loompas were rewritten to be blonde, hippy-ish caricatures. He made that change; he listened and updated his story, which he had already published successfully based on the feedback. But you've chosen to believe what this guy said, and believe him to be a shit person.

        And that's the problem with this article.

        9 votes
        1. [2]
          Ellimist Link Parent
          I'm glad I'm not crazy. I read and reread the article, feeling like something was off about it. Felt like the author had a hate boner for Roald Dahl and this article appeared to be little more...

          I'm glad I'm not crazy. I read and reread the article, feeling like something was off about it. Felt like the author had a hate boner for Roald Dahl and this article appeared to be little more than a hit piece.

          "Despite what Felicity Dahl implied, Roald Dahl never considered...."

          This part was what really started to send me in that direction.....how the author could completely dismiss what Dahl's widow said is beyond me. She'd likely know the ins and outs of Dahl's plan far better than the author would've and even if she said that simply to cover up Dahl's racism, it still isn't right to go on record that Dahl's wife had no idea what her own husband planned. She was there. Maybe she didn't have input on the writing itself but she was there. The author wasn't.

          But then author cites no sources and only links his own analysis. Just struck me as the author wanting to drum up some clicks for this article and his own analysis.

          3 votes
          1. aphoenix Link Parent
            And now we're chatting about it, and clicking on it more to make points. I was going to make a claim that some of the racist art in the article isn't even from Roald Dahl books, but I don't even...

            Just struck me as the author wanting to drum up some clicks for this article

            And now we're chatting about it, and clicking on it more to make points. I was going to make a claim that some of the racist art in the article isn't even from Roald Dahl books, but I don't even want to give the site or the author any page views anymore. I think that's the case from my memory of yesterday.

            I found this article about a similar topic, which took a more nuanced approach; trying to understand an old, racist imperialist decades after imperialism was considered fashionable, struggling with race in his stories, who at least seems to try to understand.

            This one isn't that much better (you don't get to read the Academic's sources) but at least the work is done by someone who did more than look for things on Wikipedia and doesn't include unrelated racist imagery that is intended to incite.

            4 votes
    4. [3]
      Whom Link Parent
      I hope we do see that day where I'm considered a bad person for driving a car. Defining ourselves against the past by picking apart where things we no longer deem okay seep into our history and...

      I hope we do see that day where I'm considered a bad person for driving a car. Defining ourselves against the past by picking apart where things we no longer deem okay seep into our history and culture is a useful tool for creating a present and a future where we've uprooted those things.

      Why should I care if that means my legacy is a bad one? If I create something important enough that people remember me at all and it has something that's reinforcing things that are no longer okay, by all means shit all over me! I care a whole lot more about their move toward a better world than my legacy when I'm in the ground.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        aphoenix Link Parent
        This article isn't defining our selves against the past, it's defining the past against ourselves, which is different, and not useful. There are also a lot of racists that would be better choices...

        Defining ourselves against the past by picking apart where things we no longer deem okay seep into our history and culture is a useful tool for creating a present and a future where we've uprooted those things.

        This article isn't defining our selves against the past, it's defining the past against ourselves, which is different, and not useful. There are also a lot of racists that would be better choices than Roald Dahl that we could pick to learn about not being racist.

        I think there is a distinction between ignorance and actually being a bad person; one should not be castigated for ignorance. If one is alive, one could be educated; if one is dead, it could simply be remarked that the ignorance was a product of the times. The problem with calling on the racism of a writer who was racist due to ignorance is that of history. If we whitewash history so as to remove authors who were racist, then we end up omitting that history of racism from our culture, and that is itself quite problematic.

        It shouldn't be a surprise or a problem specific to Roald Dahl that he was racist (he was probably sexist, and probably homophobic to boot). Rather, it was a problem with the society at that time. Having an opinion about the way society was at the time accomplishes what you are looking for (picking apart things that we no longer deem okay), without attributing specific awfulness to particular people and holding them responsible.

        Why should I care if that means my legacy is a bad one?

        I can't help you with this question. To me, it is glaringly obvious that we should to be remembered as we exist within a society and not be held to standards that we cannot anticipate or understand, but I'm a moral relativist. To me it seems as if you are a moral universalist, who thinks that there is one particular set of morality that we should be held to, ignorance be damned, and I simply don't agree with it; better arguments have been made than I'm able to give on the matter.

        5 votes
        1. Whom Link Parent
          It's not to learn "oh hey racism is bad," it's to learn "we still have a lot of racist things floating around in our culture that we need to be aware of." It doesn't matter when a book was written...

          It's not to learn "oh hey racism is bad," it's to learn "we still have a lot of racist things floating around in our culture that we need to be aware of." It doesn't matter when a book was written or who the author was in this sense...the work has the same effect either way. It exists in the here and now. Every text that still exists and is passed around between people is just as much a part of right now as it was when it was written. And I hope we can agree that it's worthwhile pointing out racist things now.

          If we whitewash history so as to remove authors who were racist, then we end up omitting that history of racism from our culture, and that is itself quite problematic.

          How is this related? This is explicitly pointing out the racism in our culture, not erasing it. Talking about racism in old things is whitewashing it but ignoring racism in old things...isn't? What?

          Re: Moral relativism...I don't think that's super relevant given my argument. My entire point is based on the here and now and how it is useful in the here and now to examine texts that, again, still exist and influence people in the here and now. If we can agree that racism is bad and the things mentioned in the article are racist, which I assume we can, then it doesn't matter beyond that. Whether that means you should judge the author as a bad person or not is not my concern here, I'm not concerned with legacies.

          3 votes
    5. Ayax28 Link Parent
      But with the same reason we have to be conscious, the writings of the past, although reflect their vision, also can be wrong. It has to be taught with new perspectives. Not banning them, of...

      But with the same reason we have to be conscious, the writings of the past, although reflect their vision, also can be wrong.

      It has to be taught with new perspectives. Not banning them, of course, but letting people know.

      1 vote
    6. tea_and_cats_please Link Parent
      He was also born 46 years after Alexandre Dumas died. Just throwing that out there.

      He was born a dozen years before Martin Luther King Jr. Hell, he was born before women's suffrage in the UK.

      He was also born 46 years after Alexandre Dumas died. Just throwing that out there.

  2. [26]
    acdw Link
    Wow, this reminded me of something I'd completely forgotten. As soon as I started reading it I thought, "Oh right, the Oompa-Loompas were this tribe that Wonka stole from their homes and...

    Wow, this reminded me of something I'd completely forgotten. As soon as I started reading it I thought, "Oh right, the Oompa-Loompas were this tribe that Wonka stole from their homes and repatriated in his factory." The article brings up a lot of other troubling stuff with Dahl as well -- it sucks because his books are great but it seems like he was pretty terrible as a person. I remember now another racist joke in the Great Glass Elevator that disparages Asians.

    I want to elucidate the "it sucks" above -- it sucks, not because I have to care about this stuff, but because I can no longer enjoy Dahl's work -- and that's his fault. He chose to act racist. He chose to write the words he wrote. I just want to make that clear -- it's a similar thing to the #MeToo stuff, it sucks that I can't enjoy these artists' art anymore because they were terrible people.

    I wish the article had gone more into how to rectify the situation -- I think it'd be really interesting to see a Wonka played by Donald Glover, he's a great choice, he's weird and hilarious and can be a little scary, which is Wonka. Though I wonder if recasting old, racist/sexist works to tell the stories of characters of color works? I love the idea, I wonder what other people think.

    3 votes
    1. [22]
      vakieh Link Parent
      He was a fairly regular person by the standards and cultures of where and when he lived. Read Boy and Going Solo, and you can get a bit of insight into who and how he was as a person from his...

      it sucks because his books are great but it seems like he was pretty terrible as a person

      He was a fairly regular person by the standards and cultures of where and when he lived.

      Read Boy and Going Solo, and you can get a bit of insight into who and how he was as a person from his perspective. There's a serious difference between someone choosing to be a racist in a world of racists and someone choosing to be a racist today.

      9 votes
      1. [18]
        acdw Link Parent
        True, but it doesn't make it okay, right? I don't think so, anyway. I guess it's something to figure out in 2019, if that makes sense. Like, it was a different time! seems like a thin excuse for,...

        There's a serious difference between someone choosing to be a racist in a world of racists and someone choosing to be a racist today.

        True, but it doesn't make it okay, right? I don't think so, anyway. I guess it's something to figure out in 2019, if that makes sense. Like, it was a different time! seems like a thin excuse for, say, lynchings. Where's the line on the continuum between them and writing African slaves into a chocolate factory?

        2 votes
        1. [11]
          Pilgrim Link Parent
          Not Op here. That's because you're talking about real world violence versus art reflecting the time period it was created in. It's not a fair comparison. The moral lens that society views the...

          Like, it was a different time! seems like a thin excuse for, say, lynchings.

          Not Op here.

          That's because you're talking about real world violence versus art reflecting the time period it was created in. It's not a fair comparison.

          The moral lens that society views the world with changes as time goes by. It's a tad big-headed of us to think that we, right now, in this moment, have got it 100% right to the exclusion of all past and future moralities.

          Also, it seems sad to me that people limit their choices because of the artist and not the art itself. I think that's a quick way to shrink the world around us until we live in a place that only reflects our own echoes.

          9 votes
          1. [6]
            balooga Link Parent
            I'm a meat-eater! I love a delicious juicy cheeseburger or a rack of barbecue ribs. There's nothing shocking or offensive about that statement, it's absolutely commonplace in 2019. However, today...

            It's a tad big-headed of us to think that we, right now, in this moment, have got it 100% right to the exclusion of all past and future moralities.

            I'm a meat-eater! I love a delicious juicy cheeseburger or a rack of barbecue ribs. There's nothing shocking or offensive about that statement, it's absolutely commonplace in 2019.

            However, today I can observe the cultural tide fluctuating on this topic. Where it will ultimately go, who can be sure? Veganism appears to be on the rise right now. Research is diving deeper into the nature of animal cognition. Exposés have revealed some disturbing, and previously hidden, cruelties endemic in commercial meat production at scale. The Impossible Burger is making headlines as a viable meat alternative (I haven't tried it, personally). More broadly, we're in the midst of a cultural trend of public callouts and shaming that is well-intentioned but frighteningly indiscriminate.

            I don't think it's far fetched to extrapolate from this moment in time and predict a future (let's say 35 years from now, maybe sooner) where carnivorism is considered a barbaric and immoral practice from the unenlightened past.

            Suppose that, right now, I write books that people like. Books in which characters casually enjoy the occasional ham sandwich. Would it be right for a vegan future to dig up my dietary grievances (which are presently mainstream) and use them against me? Would that have any bearing on the quality or enjoyability of my books in their original context? Is it fair to invalidate my work ex post facto because consensus on some ethical issue has shifted over time?

            I don't think it's right to hold past-people to the same standards of current-people. We have to have the maturity to recognize that values are not constant, and the flexibility to judge people in contextually appropriate ways. Roald Dahl's books are still treasures. Don't burn them. Just note the archaic portions as you read them with your kids and they'll grow up with a more informed perspective on where we've come from as a species, and where we ought to go next.

            13 votes
            1. [4]
              Sahasrahla Link Parent
              We can also look to the recent past for an example of this. Growing up in the '90s and into the early '00s I definitely had the impression that we, as in the younger generation, were finally...

              We can also look to the recent past for an example of this. Growing up in the '90s and into the early '00s I definitely had the impression that we, as in the younger generation, were finally right. We knew racism and sexism were wrong, we knew not to discriminate based on religion or national origin, and gay rights were finally mainstream and accepted with gay marriage becoming legally recognized in 2005 (here in Canada at least). Sure the older generation could still be racist or sexist or homophobic, but those points of view were disappearing.

              Looking back on that time only ~15 years in the future though it's clear that there was no "end of history" for morality. For example, the idea of trans rights existed but were far from being well known in the mainstream. I remember in 2006 I was taking a first-year anthropology class and the fact that some cultures had a "third gender" was mentioned. Everyone was surprised—how could there be more than two genders? How would that even work? And this was a room full of idealistic 18–23 year-olds at a large liberal university in a progressive city. Nowadays expressing surprise at the idea of more than two genders would be at best considered ignorant or "problematic" and at worst transphobic.

              So, it's not too hard to imagine that the views and actions of even the most progressive people today will be considered obviously immoral in 50–100 years. Eating meat or dairy, buying products from countries with poor human or workers' rights, driving in hydrocarbon fueled vehicles, owning rental property; any or all of these things which are commonplace and accepted now could be viewed in the future with the same disgust we reserve for the unabashed racists, sexists, homophobes etc. of the past, and people who engage in those actions now could find themselves viewed in the same light.

              8 votes
              1. [3]
                Akir Link Parent
                I hope this isn't too far off topic, but I wonder: do you see morality as linear, where the further we advance the more we refine our morals, or as some kind of spectrum that depends on the values...

                I hope this isn't too far off topic, but I wonder: do you see morality as linear, where the further we advance the more we refine our morals, or as some kind of spectrum that depends on the values of the day?

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  Sahasrahla Link Parent
                  I think it's a bit of each. In our recent history there has been advancement—that is to say, linear progress—on topics such as human rights, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Tracing the change of...

                  I think it's a bit of each. In our recent history there has been advancement—that is to say, linear progress—on topics such as human rights, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Tracing the change of moral thought on race in an American context for instance I think there is a strong argument to be made for a positive trend over time from the abolition of slavery to civil rights through to now with modern thought on race being generally better than how things were even 20 years ago.

                  On a large scale though it's trivially easy to find examples where progress on morality has objectively gone backwards. Take a look at the development of the transatlantic slave trade or the moral thinking that arose before any genocide. Then there's the rise and fall of different cultures and modes of thought. Did Crete under Roman rule have a better view of women's rights than under the Minoans centuries earlier?

                  This question is perhaps unanswerable without also answering the question of if morality is objective or subjective. To that I'd say it's sometimes one and sometimes the other. Personally, I'm pretty unconflicted in arguing that owning a person as property with no rights is objectively bad. For non-refugee immigration however my stance is it's more subjective and depends on the culture and context; I want my own country to be fairly open to immigration but I wouldn't be morally bothered if somewhere else wanted to be much more strict about it.

                  In some ways I think the idea of morality as something that we're getting better at comes from our unique time and place in history. In the west we have spent a few hundred years generally refining and getting better at certain moral ideas which are easy to consider objective. Globally and over a greater time span though there is progress and setbacks, and not everything related to morality can be considered objective. (Though, even if one agrees that some morality is objective and some is subjective, it's much harder to agree on how to assign those classifications.)

                  There are also, especially on a smaller scale, difficulties in working out the practical implementation of generally agreed upon moralities. We can agree that racism is bad, but what about (to take a widely publicized minor incident) a white high school student wearing culturally Asian clothing to a dance? Is considering that immoral when no one would have cared 20 years ago evidence of a further refinement of morality, or is it an example of a misstep where general morality regressed? I think that regardless of one's opinion on that specific case that's the sort of thing that's more subjective. Different places and times will have different ideas about the finer details like that and those ideas can change pretty quickly in shifting cultural winds. If something like that is considered objective linear progress then I think no matter how "moral" we are we'll be in a constant state of considering everything beyond a horizon of just a few years ago to be hopelessly "problematic".

                  2 votes
                  1. Akir Link Parent
                    Honestly I would think that if it's changeable or non-universal, that is a fatal blow to objective morality. From my personal perspective, the idea of objective morality is just bad. Not just...

                    This question is perhaps unanswerable without also answering the question of if morality is objective or subjective. To that I'd say it's sometimes one and sometimes the other.

                    Honestly I would think that if it's changeable or non-universal, that is a fatal blow to objective morality. From my personal perspective, the idea of objective morality is just bad. Not just because I think the idea is bad (I'd rather not get into that at this moment), but because this idea gives people a sense of authority that I think they aught to not have. Take, for instance, people's stance on abortion. The major reason why public opinion doesn't change is because people see it as one of those objective morality issues; there is literally no room to debate under that framework.

                    Well, I've gone off on a tirade. I do appreciate your detailed reply, though. Thank you very much!

                    2 votes
            2. elcuello Link Parent
              Fucking thank you! Have some trust in your own judgment, ethics and morale and pass that knowledge on. By passing on that understanding I give my children the tools to go even further in...

              We have to have the maturity to recognize that values are not constant, and the flexibility to judge people in contextually appropriate ways. Roald Dahl's books are still treasures. Don't burn them. Just note the archaic portions as you read them with your kids and they'll grow up with a more informed perspective on where we've come from as a species, and where we ought to go next.

              Fucking thank you! Have some trust in your own judgment, ethics and morale and pass that knowledge on. By passing on that understanding I give my children the tools to go even further in understanding the world and in this case racism.

              1 vote
          2. [3]
            acdw Link Parent
            Great point, thank you for the nuance. I made an unfair comparison. I absolutely agree, actually, at least in my head. My feelings might have a different story, as my comment attests to. I'm...

            That's because you're talking about real world violence versus art reflecting the time period it was created in. It's not a fair comparison.

            Great point, thank you for the nuance. I made an unfair comparison.

            It's a tad big-headed of us to think that we, right now, in this moment, have got it 100% right to the exclusion of all past and future moralities.

            I absolutely agree, actually, at least in my head. My feelings might have a different story, as my comment attests to. I'm reading this book right now that pokes holes in the progressive social theory where we're continually moving "forward" morally, or toward a more perfect world, which is something I'd always taken for granted. So my thoughts and feelings on this are moving, but you're right that we don't have it all figured out, and probably never will.

            However, I think there's got to be some kind of moral framework that is fairly consistent, right? I feel like something like the rights to one's own body, maybe, or something like that. I don't know. But I do think that dehumanizing groups of people is immoral no matter what the rest of the moral framework of the time may be.

            Also, it seems sad to me that people limit their choices because of the artist and not the art itself. I think that's a quick way to shrink the world around us until we live in a place that only reflects our own echoes.

            This is something my mind has been changing on within the past few years, as well. I'm used to thinking that "only the art matters," and the artist, once they make the art and publish it, no longer have anything to do with it -- they give it away to the rest of humanity to do with as they please. Which absolves the art itself from any sins or personal failings of the artist. Lately though, I've started coming around to a thinking where the context does matter, like the depiction of the Oompa-Loompas in Dahl's original Willy Wonka are harmful because it actively dehumanizes a group of people, and says it's okay that Wonka enslaves them, tests products on them, and generally treats them as his property, because they're being fed and they "have it better than they did in Africa," which goes back to the thing you said about being big-headed to think we have the 100% right morality. England of Dahl's time very much thought that, and that's where a lot of their colonizing came from. So it's important to understand the art in the context of the artist.

            I guess the thing I'm trying to say is that I don't agree with outright censorship of these problematic works -- like that Warner Brothers warning in front of some of their cartoons that contextualizes the art without erasing it. Again, context is really important. However, in Dahl's (and Louis C.K.'s, and R. Kelly's, and Woody Allen's, and the other artists who've been cropping up unsavorily lately) case, the artist still gets royalties from the sale of the art. I don't want to support someone who says such things, so I don't want to buy the art in question. I think of it more as a boycott than a censorship thing.

            5 votes
            1. [2]
              Pilgrim Link Parent
              What an excellent and thoughtful comment! It's a tricky subject for sure. I think you already hit on the happy middle-ground: This is asking a lot of the reader/viewer but it is the best way I...

              What an excellent and thoughtful comment!

              It's a tricky subject for sure. I think you already hit on the happy middle-ground:

              understand the art in the context of the artist.

              This is asking a lot of the reader/viewer but it is the best way I think.

              In order for use to understand the art in the context of the artist we must both look at work in the context of our current time, but also look at it in the context of the time period it was created in. In order to do that we must already know about that time period, and if not, then learn a lot about it. It's a lot but I have found throughout my life that my understanding and ability to enjoy the world around me is increased dramatically by learning about the history behind it.

              4 votes
              1. acdw Link Parent
                Absolutely, 100%. I think that producers and consumers of art are in a conversation with one another, and that the best art results, really, in two producers -- that is, the artist and the...

                This is asking a lot of the reader/viewer but it is the best way I think.

                Absolutely, 100%. I think that producers and consumers of art are in a conversation with one another, and that the best art results, really, in two producers -- that is, the artist and the audience both form the art, cooperatively. So I agree with you about how the knowledge of our own culture and that of the artist is important, even necessary, to the understanding of art. I think of it as seeing everything as clearly and completely as possible. Sometimes that means I won't really want to correspond with an artist's work anymore, which is the case with the people I mentioned in my previous comment. But that doesn't make their art not art, just as what they've done doesn't make them not people. But by not engaging with their art, I'm un-condoning their other actions. But that's my journey. Others feel differently.

                Thank you for the complement on my comment! I thought yours was excellent as well, that's why I took so much time responding to it.

                1 vote
          3. Grand0rbiter (edited ) Link Parent
            I agree, but there are exceptions. I'll never support or listen to anything that Varg puts out. Even if it doesn't talk about white supremacy explicitly. But i don't know if it fits because he is...

            I agree, but there are exceptions.

            I'll never support or listen to anything that Varg puts out. Even if it doesn't talk about white supremacy explicitly.

            But i don't know if it fits because he is still alive and still a nazi.

            1 vote
        2. [6]
          Spel Link Parent
          The problem with labelling him as a terrible person and not taking into account the time period he lived in is that in all likelihood you yourself and contemporary writers/etc that you enjoy will...

          True, but it doesn't make it okay, right? I don't think so, anyway.

          The problem with labelling him as a terrible person and not taking into account the time period he lived in is that in all likelihood you yourself and contemporary writers/etc that you enjoy will be viewed in the same way in the future (unless you believe that we've somehow reached the end of history and our morals will never change again).

          That means that the only reason you don't dissaprove of contemporary artists is that you don't know better yet because of the society you live in. Is that really any different from Dahl not knowing better because of the society he lived in?

          6 votes
          1. [5]
            acdw Link Parent
            You know, that's a good point. I'm assuming there's an objective morality -- but isn't there? I don't know, I see what you're saying but at the same time I feel like it veers close to moral...

            You know, that's a good point. I'm assuming there's an objective morality -- but isn't there? I don't know, I see what you're saying but at the same time I feel like it veers close to moral relativism.

            EDIT: like maybe Dahl isn't a bad person, that's not accurate or fair to him for what you said. But he could've also realized, even given his time, that people are people and sub-humanizing groups of them is wrong. I mean, my grandfather was roughly a contemporary of Dahl's, and grew up in Mississippi, but he figured out while serving in Korea that the color of someone's skin has no bearing on their worth as a human being.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              balooga Link Parent
              I'd be curious to see the objective morality you're describing and understand exactly how it's defined. What makes it objective? I'd love to have a framework that was clearly applicable to every...

              I'd be curious to see the objective morality you're describing and understand exactly how it's defined. What makes it objective?

              I'd love to have a framework that was clearly applicable to every situation, that remained constant across decades and centuries and longer, that humanity could unanimously standardize and submit to. In my experience and understanding of history, that neither exists nor is even possible.

              4 votes
              1. acdw Link Parent
                I would be too, to be honest. I'm not saying there necessarily is one, but that I feel there should be one. Ideally, it would be something along the lines of "Don't hurt other people if you can...

                I'd be curious to see the objective morality you're describing and understand exactly how it's defined. What makes it objective?

                I would be too, to be honest. I'm not saying there necessarily is one, but that I feel there should be one. Ideally, it would be something along the lines of "Don't hurt other people if you can help it," or maybe another variation of the Golden Rule. But you're right -- I'm not sure if a constant framework exists or is possible.

            2. [2]
              Ellimist Link Parent
              I have to wonder if the difference is that, by the time of the Korean War, the US Army had integrated and abolished discrimination based on race while the Royal Air Corp might've been less...

              I have to wonder if the difference is that, by the time of the Korean War, the US Army had integrated and abolished discrimination based on race while the Royal Air Corp might've been less integrated during Dahl's service? If I remember correctly, the British military was considerably more integrated than the US military, at the same time, although whites still held the vast majority of officer and command positions.

              1. acdw Link Parent
                I doubt it, though I have not researched it, simply because the Army is uneven in seniority among races now (I ended up researching it, check under the "Active Duty Army by Branch and...

                I doubt it, though I have not researched it, simply because the Army is uneven in seniority among races now (I ended up researching it, check under the "Active Duty Army by Branch and Race/Ethnicity" chart and the table below it).

      2. [3]
        AVo Link Parent
        If you really think about it, it's an opt in vs opt out issue. Being a racist back then, when the world was racist means you had to opt out of being racist. Being a racist now, means you had to...

        If you really think about it, it's an opt in vs opt out issue. Being a racist back then, when the world was racist means you had to opt out of being racist. Being a racist now, means you had to opt in.

        2 votes
        1. Atvelonis Link Parent
          I only agree with this in a superficial sense. We can both agree that blatant racism/discrimination is, by and large, an extremely socially unacceptable behavior to exhibit in today's world....

          I only agree with this in a superficial sense. We can both agree that blatant racism/discrimination is, by and large, an extremely socially unacceptable behavior to exhibit in today's world. However, that doesn't mean that racism as a whole is an "opt-in" phenomenon. The most common problems we're facing today in terms of racial divides can be categorized as some form of microaggression, which, to varying degrees, still have very negative effects on the psyches of targeted persons. They are also much more difficult to prove, and, importantly in the context of this discussion, difficult to notice in oneself.

          We all hold a ton of implicit biases about people and the groups to which they belong; while not as openly harmful as, say, Jim Crow, these biases are still very much an aspect of racism that needs to be discussed. I personally think it's a little disingenuous to suggest that they are necessarily deactivated in every person by default unless they consciously will themselves to become a racist. I grew up in a pretty liberal area, but still fall prey to stereotyping and the like more than I should. I can only imagine that it's worse for people in regions of the world where egalitarianism is less of a focus; racism, in some form, is still very much the norm for a lot of people these days.

          1 vote
        2. teaearlgraycold Link Parent
          Most people interact with a small set of people. I would guess that almost all racists today were raised in a neighborhood of racists. For them it's an opt-out, too.

          Most people interact with a small set of people. I would guess that almost all racists today were raised in a neighborhood of racists. For them it's an opt-out, too.

    2. [3]
      Micycle_the_Bichael Link Parent
      This is how I feel about H.P Lovecraft. The man wrote some incredible books/stories and helped define one of my favorite subsets of sci-fi/horror. Then a while back someone mentioned how insanely...

      This is how I feel about H.P Lovecraft. The man wrote some incredible books/stories and helped define one of my favorite subsets of sci-fi/horror. Then a while back someone mentioned how insanely racist he was and it was like glass-shattering. On rereading, I can't help but see all of the racist messages in his works. It is really sad and depressing. I'm not sure how to deal with it yet, its something I'm still wrestling with internally and talking about with people (specifically friends who are not white and/or who are immigrants). I don't have an answer or much more to add, just my similar experience with another famous offer.

      2 votes
      1. no_exit Link Parent
        I really enjoyed Victor LaValle's take on Lovecraft, The Ballad of Black Tom, which subverts the racist elements of the mythos in a pretty powerful way for a 'pulp'-y book.

        I really enjoyed Victor LaValle's take on Lovecraft, The Ballad of Black Tom, which subverts the racist elements of the mythos in a pretty powerful way for a 'pulp'-y book.

      2. Pilgrim Link Parent
        You don't throw out an apple because it has a bad spot, you just cut out the bad spot or eat around it.

        You don't throw out an apple because it has a bad spot, you just cut out the bad spot or eat around it.