Love at first sight was the stuff of fairy tales, once upon a time, but perhaps no longer.
Ladybird has used sensitivity readers to reexamine some of its children’s books, and fairy stories have proven problematic.
The publisher’s back catalogue includes fiction and educational material based on classic tales like Cinderella and Snow White, and the characters and plots in these stories are understood to be potentially troubling for inclusion experts.
Handsome princes - and beautiful princesses falling for them at first sight - have been deemed problematic by sensitivity readers advising on offensive content, due to the privilege given to physical attractiveness. Outdated or harmful elements in fairy tales, according to publishing insiders, may also include characters presuming each other’s pronouns or social class, and a lack of diversity among blonde-haired and blue-eyed protagonists.
Ladybird, a Penguin-owned imprint known for producing books for young children, has not commented on the sensitivity reads, or whether passages will be altered if they contain tropes and descriptions which could be seen as offensive or outdated.
Love at first sight一见钟情：
While a commonplace plot device in fairy tales, love at first sight is problematic because the swooning of characters - like Cinderella - before they have properly spoken to their beloved is necessarily provoked by physical attractiveness, and therefore privileges beauty over character traits, and getting to know people. This may suggest to young readers that the beautiful are entitled to a happy ending, and, depending on the characters depicted falling in love - typically a white, heterosexual man and woman - that only a certain demographic is considered beautiful and worthy of this romantic happiness.
There are further problems with beauty for sensitivity readers, as the stock phrases “handsome prince” and “beautiful princess” make physical attractiveness the defining and most laudable trait of the main characters in fairy tales. It is feared that these tropes, seen in stories from Rapunzel to Sleeping Beauty, may suggest to children that good looks alone make someone worthy of attention.
Just as a character falling in love at first sight has been raised as an issue, so has the characters’ presumption of gender pronouns at first sight. It is understood that it is not desirable in texts to have a princess use the term “man” upon seeing a prince for the first time, for example, before the characters have been shown to getting to know one another.
In Snow White and numerous other fairy tales, the protagonists are often described as either a “prince” or “princess”. Concerns have been raised by some sensitivity experts that this may suggest to children that what is important about these characters is their social rank, and that social rank in general is what makes people important.
Just as the “good” characters are so often paragons of youthful beauty, the “baddies” in fairy tales are often depicted as wizened old crones and witches, including the villain in Snow White. Concerns have been raised that this is an ageist association of evil with being old.
It is understood from insiders that concerns have also been raised about the lack of racial variety among protagonists in books of fairy stories, which often show princesses as white, and with golden hair and blue eyes.
The dependency of fairy tale princesses on their various princes has been raised as a concern, with sensitivity readers suggesting that heroines should have more agency and not rely on male characters for their happiness and safety. The trope of characters longing to be transformed - Cinderella into a princess, the Beast into a handsome prince - has also been flagged as problematic, as it suggests to children that they may only be happy if they are not themselves but something famed as more desirable.
Sensitivity readers were consulted to make revisions to some of the books, in which passages relating to weight, mental health, gender and race were altered. The use of sensitivity readers, say people in the industry, has increased since 2020, prompted by calls for more institutional inclusion and diversity following the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota Black man, at the hands of police.
文章解释了为何“敏感读者”引发出版行业震动（cause a stir），包括邦德系列、英国杰出儿童文学作家罗尔德·达尔（Roald Dahl）的多部儿童文学作品都遭遇删改。报道列举了支持者和反对者两方面的理由，双方莫衷一是。
此前，管理达尔版权和商标的罗尔德·达尔故事公司（Roald Dahl Story Company）表示，该公司和海雀书屋合作审查了达尔的作品，确保“所有孩子今天仍能享受他精彩的故事和笔下的人物”。但这些改动还是引起了众多作家、组织以及读者的愤怒。
The case of Dahl's children's books — which include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Fabulous Mr. Fox and Matilda, written decades ago — prompted a vocal backlash among some authors.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has now waded into the Dahl controversy, speaking out against the move to update the books. When asked at a press briefing whether it is right to censor children's books, Sunak's spokesperson employed Dahl's own terminology, saying: "When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the Prime Minister agrees with the BFG that you shouldn't 'gobblefunk around with words.' It's important that works of literature and fiction are preserved and not airbrushed."