Bea-No! Roald Dahl censors now take a hatchet to beloved British comic book Beano ahead of milestone anniversary

23 July 2023, 22:15

Beano Comic Library small book
The Beano is the latest classic work being updated through the use of sensitivity readers. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Sensitivity readers who were slammed for their rewriting of Roald Dahl classics are now turning their hand to beloved comic book The Beano.

Inclusive Minds are helping the comic's publishers update the almost-untouched character by adding five new characters named Harsha, Mandi, Khadija, Mahira and Stevie Starr to the Bash Street Kids.

The changes were made quietly ahead of The Beano's 85th birthday with the help of the literary consultants - months after they were at the centre of a censorship storm over rewritten versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

It is the latest change after classic Beano characters Fatty and Spotty were no longer described using those descriptors despite their long history.

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Fatty's fact-file now reads: "Frederick Brown’s nickname was Fatty until 2021 when our readers told us we should change it - so we did".

The comic will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year
The comic will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year. Picture: Alamy

Mike Stirling, creative director of The Beano, hit back at those troubled by the cultural staple's "woke" turn.

He told The Times: "We have never seen that as a pejorative term".

Mr Stirling, 48, added; "It's awareness and being awake to things. What would be easy to do would be to sleepwalk and keep The Beano the way it had always been done for ever.

"When we make a new character, [Inclusive Minds] connect us with an ambassador who advises us. That allows us to get the details right in terms of clothes they are wearing and cultural celebrations their family might get involved in."

In the interview, he also described the classic characters as "completely anachronistic" despite being beloved by millions.

The consultants were involved when Roald Dahl's publishers were criticised for sanitising the language in his books, including removing every reference to the word 'fat', in a bid to make them more inclusive.

Publishers Puffin brought in sensitivity readers to adapt the beloved novels to make sure they "can continue to be enjoyed by all today".

Roald Dahl's classic stories were also heavily edited when the sensitivity readers were called in
Roald Dahl's classic stories were also heavily edited when the sensitivity readers were called in. Picture: Alamy

That included taking out many references to characters' appearance, including removing any reference to the word 'fat', the Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now called 'enormous'.

Included among the many other edits identified by the paper are a witch posing as a cashier in a supermarket in The Witches now being "a top scientist", an "attractive middle aged lady" in Esio Trot now being "a kind middle aged lady".

The title character in The BFG does not wear a black cloak any more and characters cannot turn "white with fear" - the words "black" and "white" have been cut out.