Politically Correct Bedtime Stories #Sundayreading

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times is a book by James Finn Garner, published in 1994, in which Garner satirizes the trend toward political correctnessand censorship of children’s literature, with an emphasis on humour and parody. The bulk of the book consists of fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and Snow White, rewritten so that they supposedly represent what a “politically correct” adult would consider a good and moral tale for children.

The revisions include extensive usage of politically correct buzzwords (and parodies thereof), deliberately stiff moralizing dialogue and narration, inclusion of modern concepts and objects (such as health spasmineral water, and automobiles), and often feature a plot twist that reverses the roles of the heroes and villains of the story (for example, the woodsman in Little Red Riding Hood is seen by Red Riding Hood not as a heroic saviour but as a “sexist” and “speciesist” interloper, and Snow White’s evil stepmother ends up with a positive portrayal while the prince and the seven dwarves are portrayed as chauvinistic).

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories was Garner’s first published book (or, in the words of his similarly satirical biography blurb from the book, “his first processed tree carcass”). More than 2.5 million copies have been sold in the United States and it has since been translated into 20 languages. Garner wrote two follow-up books: Once upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season,the latter book satirizing political correctness during the Christmas holiday season. In 1998, the three books were compiled into an omnibus collection called Politically Correct, the Ultimate Storybook. All editions of the Politically Correct titles are currently out of print.

James Finn Garner
(distributed for open access by the author)
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHESFar away, in a time long past, there lived a traveling tailor who found himself in an unfamiliar country. Now, tailors who move from place to place normally keep to themselves and are careful not to overstep the bounds of local decency. This tailor, though, was overly gregarious and decorum-impaired, and soon he was at a local inn, abusing alcohol, invading the personal space of the female employees, and telling unenlightened stories about tinkers,dung-gatherers, and other tradespeople.The innkeeper complained to the police, who grabbed the tailor and dragged him in front of the emperor. As you might expect, a lifetime of belief in the absolute legitimacy of the monarchy and in the inherent superiority of males had turned the emperor into a vain and wisdom-challenged tyrant. The tailor noticed these traits and decided to use them to his advantage.

The emperor asked, “Do you have any last request before I banish you from my domain forever?”

The tailor replied, “Only that your majesty allow me the honor of Grafting a new royal wardrobe. For I have brought with me a special fabric that is so rare and fine that it can be seen only by certain people – the type of people you’d want to have in -your realm – people who are politically correct, morally righteous, intellectually astute, culturally tolerant, and who don’t smoke, drink, laugh at sexist jokes, watch too much television, listen to country music, or barbecue.”

After a moment’s thought, the emperor agreed to this request. He was flattered by the fascist and testosterone-heavy idea that the empire and its inhabitants existed only to make him look good. It would be like having a trophy wife and multiplying that feeling by 100,000.

Of course, no such rarefied fabric existed. Years of living outside the bounds of normal society had forced the tailor to develop his own moral code that obliged him to swindle and embarrass the emperor in the name of independent craftspeople everywhere. So, as he diligently labored, he was able to convince the emperor that he was cutting and sewing pieces of fabric that, in the strictest objective sense of reality, didn’t exist.

When the tailor announced that he was finished, the emperor looked at his new robes in the mirror. As he stood there, naked as the day he was born, one could see how years of exploiting the peasantry had turned his body into an ugly mass of puffy white flesh. The emperor, of course, saw this too, but pretended that he could sec the beautiful, politically correct robes. To show off his new splendor, he ordered a parade to be held the next day.

On the following morning, his subjects lined the streets for the big parade. Word had spread about the emperor’s new clothes that only enlightened people with healthy lifestyles could see, and everyone was determined to be more right-minded than his or her neighbor.

The parade began with great hoopla. As the emperor marched his pale, bloated, patriarchal carcass down the street, everyone loudly oohed and ahed at his beautiful new clothes. All except one small boy, who shouted:
“The emperor is naked!”

The parade stopped. The emperor paused. A hush fell over the crowd, until one quick-thinking peasant shouted: “No, he isn’t. The emperor is merely endorsing a clothing-optional lifestyle!”

A cheer went up from the crowd, and the throngs stripped off their clothes and danced in the sun, as Nature had intended. The country was clothing optional from that day forward, and the tailor, deprived of any livelihood, packed up his needle and thread and was never heard from again.

(Any resemblance to the country, its rulers, its policy decisions, its judiciary and its people is clearly a complete figment of your imagination, and you should be ashamed of harbouring such unworthy thoughts)

When beauty is rendered as a tool to assert and/or negotiate spaces.

by Minakshee Rode

In a place like Pune University, whenever I look around, particularly, at the post graduate students studying English Literature, Caste and gender studies, one question always bothers me: what do we expect our mind-sets to be?

Students are learning just rhetoric and politically correct language specifically in terms of caste. Despite many attempts our educational system is still unable to make them sensitive enough to try to relate the personal with the theory, as students are not ready to unlearn their prejudices and assumptions about the non-Brahmin population.

First generation dalit female students, who have migrated to metropolitan universities from across various classes; have no touch of and knowledge about the casteism disguised in the elitist culture of these universities. This is not very easily visible, but practiced so vehemently in almost each and every classroom of the campus. In this post, I will highlight the negotiations and assertions which dalit girls intentionally and unintentionally have to make in these spaces. These processes sometimes results in higher level of confidence and sometimes it can come across as arrogance of dalit girls. Well, the reception to this change is not pleasant, confidence is treated as arrogance and stigmatized as another instance of negative caste stereotype.

At first if we look at the classroom structure at the Post Graduate level; we can clearly see class based groups are formed irrespective of castes. But slowly caste comes to the fore when the fees have to be paid or the scholarship dates are displayed on the notice board. This period is thoughest for dalit girls who don’t have any visible caste identity, most don’t want to disclose their caste identities. Because of the politically correct atmosphere on the campus, the so called upper caste female students cannot express the unease and plain disgust for fellow dalit students openly, so they slowly start excluding dalit girls from the group (if there are any at all) and activities. Many of us hear this common phrasing of a sentence addressed to us: “you don’t look like your caste or you are different, you don’t represent your caste as such”, from those who make attempts to speak to dalit girls.

So, some very basic questions: what must a dalit girl look like? More importantly what is the image of a dalit girl in their mind? What makes dalit girls so different from other students? After making several efforts at interacting with the upper caste, elite girl students, from all my years on the campus, here are a few responses that I have gathered:

Dalit girls may not be getting married so their parents have sent them here.

These girls don’t have a sense of clothing, have no sense of wearing the right make up, and manners are useless.

They are caught up in the wrong place; and they can never match up to our standards.

They don’t speak politely, and are very direct (rude).

They can speak neither good English nor pure Marathi.

Their eating habits/tastes are gross.

They are not feminine enough.

They don’t belong to our culture.

They are different and so on…

What do these resposnes reveal then ?

Read more


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October 2022
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