Banned Books Awareness: Winnie-the-Pooh

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Winnie-the-Pooh is an illustrated children’s series written by A.A. Milne in the 1920’s which chronicled the lighthearted adventures of Christopher Robin and his animal friends in Ashdown Forest. The dialogue in the beloved books is often philosophic and inspirational.

The books have been translated into many languages and spawned numerous theatre and film adaptations, becoming one of Disney’s most popular franchises, after acquiring it in 1961. Pooh’s legacy in popular culture is world-wide. He is so popular in Poland and Budapest that streets have been named after him.

I had reported back in a March edition of the Banned Books Awareness series that Charlotte’s Web was banned in a United Kingdom school, along with Winnie the Pooh and The Three Little Pigs, because the books might offend Muslim students and their parents. The Muslim Council of Britain formally requested an end to the “well-intentioned but misguided” policy, and for all titles to be returned to classroom shelves.  They went on record as stating that it is a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Koranic instruction or law that Muslims are not allowed to eat pork.

Unfortunately this wasn’t an isolated case.

Winnie-the-Pooh finds himself at number 22 on the American Library Association’s 100 most-banned classics list. Yes, you read that correctly- number 22. Aside from the case in England, the books, and related characters, have also been criticized in the United States, and most notably in Russia, and Turkey.

A State-controlled Turkish television station banned the films because of scenes that included Piglet. TV TRT made the decision on the aforementioned interpretation that the pig for Muslims is considered a “notorious character,” the Associated Foreign Press reported. First the station considered cutting all scenes with Piglet, but afterwards gave up the idea and pulled the show entirely. Private channels still broadcast the cartoon, though, and the videos are freely on sale.

A school district in Napa, California even went so far as to ban clothing of the characters in support of an overly-strict dress code. Redwood Middle School’s “Appropriate Attire Policy” sent a 14-year-old girl to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems because of her Tigger-embroidered socks.

The same parent group in Kansas that objected to Charlotte’s Web in 2006 also cited the talking animals of Winnie-the-Pooh as being an insult to God in public arguments during their quest to ban the novel by E.B. White.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal in 2009, Russia’s Justice Ministry placed the book on a list of banned material and labeled it pro-Nazi because a depiction of Winnie-the-Pooh wearing a swastika was discovered among the personal possessions of a known political extremist. If one extremist was in possession, the local courts concluded, then it stood to reason that others may follow suit; so they sent a request to the State department to add the book to a 400+ itemized list of politically-subversive topics.

And to think I was merely making a sarcastic joke last week when I chimed in that the pant-less Winnie-the-Pooh might be next on censor’s cross-hairs after the sexually-motivated banning of Where’s Waldo.

To call a book immoral, one must be willing to see those same faults in themselves. The fact that there are still groups around the world who find fault in literature for the reasons listed is truly the real joke.

Sources: American Library Association, Yahoo News, ACLU, Wall Street Journal, Moscow Times, AFP

© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

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