It seems to him “sexist and extremely insulting” that the Big Bad Wolf warns him of the danger of entering the forest and, when he pounces on her to devour her, “cries out for the deliberate invasion of his personal space.” This is Red Riding Hood in ‘Politically correct children’s stories’ (1994), by the humorist James Finn Garner. Has as many readings as readers. For some, it is the parody of political correctness taken to the extreme; for others, the humorous updating of classic discriminatory, moralistic and obsolete tales; and many praise his social criticism. “We have the opportunity – and the obligation – to rethink these stories” to reflect “the time in which we live,” says the comedian. And it asks for suggestions to rectify “inadvertently sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, intellectualist, socio-economic, ethnocentric, phallocentric, heteropatriarchal or discriminatory attitudes due to age, appearance, physical capacity, size, species or others not mentioned …”. His satire is today reality.
“Art is not a mirror to reflect the world but a hammer to hit it,” wrote Mayakovsky.
Museums unload pictures, harassed by those who see them as too insinuating, realistic, sweetened, evident… The traditional stories are reinvented: ‘La principesa’, ‘Thumbelina’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Bello y Bestia’, ‘The little duck that was not ugly (it was not a duckling) ‘… bras are painted on mermaids. Uncomfortable realities are camouflaged with euphemisms and redundancies. Everything repeats. According to Plutarch in ‘Parallel Lives’, Julius Caesar blamed Pompeii for Publius Clodius Pulcro’s wishing to approach her: “It is not enough that Caesar’s wife be honest, she must appear so.”
“Art is not a submission, but a conquest”, writes André Malraux in 1934. But he tries to adjust all power to his cause. It does not always succeed. The Russian avant-gardes confronting tsarist and bourgeois art in the early 20th century are also not content with communism, which considers them elitist. For Hitler, the artistic movements of those years are ‘degenerate art’, ‘entartete kunst’, which confiscates and resells to finance Nazism. In Spain, in the middle of the 20th century, what was politically correct was imposed by Francoism and the Church blessed it. For the Benedictine Germán Prado, the novels are “infected litter, siren songs, harpy voices, poorly disguised in the literary garb of a plot of sinful love affairs.”
In 1959, the Jesuit Ángel Ayala lashed out: «Cinema is the greatest calamity that has fallen on the world since Adam here. More calamity than the universal flood, than the European war, than the world war and the atomic bomb ».
Ideology versus aesthetics
‘Il Braghettone’. This is how Daniel Volterra has gone down in history, who, in 1565 and by order of Pius IV, covered with shorts the nudes of the ‘Last Judgment’ of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo. It is one of many. In 1573, the Inquisition forced the Veronese to rename the ‘Holy Supper’ as ‘Food at Levy’s house’ because the diners seemed unworthy to him: “Do you think it is appropriate that jesters, drunkards, Germans are painted at the Last Supper of Our Lord armed, dwarves and other similar vulgarities? ». No need to go that far. In 1969, the Kunsthalle Bern of Switzerland required Dorothy Lannone to cover the genitals of ‘The Ecstatic Unit’ to expose it. In 1999, then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani sues the Brooklyn Museum of Art for exhibiting ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ by Chris Ofili, made with elephant droppings and escorted by cuttings of female buttocks from pornographic magazines. The Barbican Center in London in 2014 vetoed the installation of the South African Bett Bailey, who denounces the 19th century ‘human zoos’ with black, live and caged models, due to the social rejection it generates. The Leopold Museum in Vienna accepts in 2018 the exhibition of the expressionist Egon Schiele, which centers in Germany and the United Kingdom dismiss as pornographic.
In a display about Troy, the British Museum warned that some pieces depicted violent scenes
The Art Gallery of Manchester withdraws in 2018 ‘Hylas and the Nymphs’, by John William Waterhouse, to reflect on the role of women in art; yields to those who denounce the nudity of the models in the painting. At the opposite pole, the New York Met refuses to pick up Balthus’ ‘Thérèse dreaming’ (1938), a puberty leaning back showing underwear, that some see too suggestive. “By exhibiting this work for the masses, the Met gives a romantic vision of voyeurism and the reification of minors,” reads the protest led by Mia Merrit. The British Museum puts the band-aid over the wound. In November 2019, the exhibition ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’ warns the visitor that the exhibited pieces contain violent scenes. On the same dates, Cambridge University removes Frans Snyders’ ‘The Bird Market’ from the canteen, because its dead and butchered animals bother non-carnivores.
“Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to hit it,” warned the poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky a century ago. Frédéric Durand seems to agree when suing Facebook in 2011, for deactivating his account after hanging on the wall ‘The origin of the world’, by Gustave Courbet: a vulva in the foreground considered a great exponent of 19th-century realism. The French Justice admits in 2018 “a lack” of the social network by not giving “reasonable notice” or “reasons for deactivation», But without relating it to painting. An economic settlement settles the lawsuit against Facebook, which, in turn, has had to ban content that instigates discrimination and hatred, yielding to the advertising boycott of 160 companies that has caused it to crash in the Stock Market.
Sport and cinema
The owner of the Washington Redskins has also backed down. In 2013 Daniel Snyder said he would “never” rename his football team. “They can capitalize it, if they want,” he challenged. Pressured by sponsors like Nike and Pepsi, he announced in early June “a comprehensive review” of the name, in response to “recent events” in the country and community views. In the last years, criticism forced him to change the team’s anthem and the costumes of the cheerleaders, who imitated the rain dance with feathers on their heads.
James Bond promoters don’t budge. Does the new 007 have to be a black or a woman? Difficult choice between two politically correct candidates: Which one to choose? Some defend that he is a man since 1962 and the politically correct thing is to maintain the tradition; the same one that offends the supporters of a 007 with a license to kill. The producer Bárbara Broccoli does not see a dilemma. “It can be any color, but it’s a man.” Changing the sex of an iconic character is “harmful” to women. “We are more interesting than that,” she maintains, and calls for the creation of strong female characters. The Disney factory manufactures and adapts them to the conveniences of the moment: it transforms the red-haired princess Ariel from ‘The Little Mermaid’ into a flesh and blood heroine, played by the African-American Halle Bailey, and makes a box.
It’s another censorship
“We live the sacralization of what is right, which seems to lead us to a Neopuritanism. There is a worrying change in the sense of morality, which is now nausea and scandal ». For Gregorio Luri, philosopher, pedagogue, writer “and above all teacher”, the politically correct has three ingredients. “The enthusiasm for a better world -which Kundera considers the opium of the people in communism-, the control of language and fear, which frightens but does not convince and pushes us to Victorian hypocrisy: we do one thing in the street and another at home”. Feeling prevails over reason, he admits. But empathy seems suspicious and dangerous to me. A scammer empathizes first and take advantage of your weaknesses. And Machiavelli is an empath who manages the feeling of wonder.
He discovers behind the politically correct “an adolescent peterpanism that refuses to face an adult life.” A trend from the United States, where certain universities reject great philosophers for their biased view of culture, he points out. «In our society, if you are not a victim, you are nobody. That gives you political visibility and a certain bull to be immoral. The bad thing is that the true victims, the genuine ones, do not even have time to protest and are not helped. Victimhood continually demands new veins, “and anyone is suspicious.” More than a dictatorship, he points out, “it is a dictablanda, a prior internal censorship like the nihil obstat of religious books.” But nature will prevail, she thinks.
«It is a movement with so many internal contradictions that it will end up confronting itself. His excesses will collapse him and everything will be reduced to the essential: respect for others, exquisite care for nature, inviolability of the home … ». Luri glimpses the start of political correctness in a phrase from ‘Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus’, by Mary Shelley. “The monster begs: ‘Grant me happiness, and I will be virtuous again.’ Until then it was virtue that led to happiness, not the contrary as it happens now ». And remember that the author’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, says in ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1792) “that reason does not have sex, and I believe that it does not have a race either.”