The great cultural disease of the twenty-first century has claimed another victim. Political correctness, after ushering in the “Common Era” and seen off witches’ black attire, has now invaded the world of Thomas the Tank Engine. Hit Entertainment, the company producing Thomas the Tank Engine TV shows and books, has announced that Christmas is to be officially axed from the show in a bid to remain politically correct. Christmas trees are set to become “holiday trees”, Christmas holidays converted to “winter holidays” and the Fat Controller is under imminent threat. It seems one of the Western world’s most longstanding traditions is no longer acceptable.
This is a move that makes perfect sense for Hit Entertainment. Wanting to make the DVD more marketable all year round, replacing the Christmas tree with the season-less winter tree is an obvious first step.
But what makes this move all the worse is the indecisive, nudge nudge wink wink approach it perpetuates. It would be one thing to scrap the episode in question (which is, unfortunately for Hit Entertainment, all about Christmas) out of concern at the offense it may cause. But it is a weak and feeble excuse of a solution to not so subtly make reference to the very things they believe to be so insensitive. There is not a single child who will view this episode and fail to make the connection between the “winter tree” and the rather similar tall green leafy object in their living room that they know to have some connection to a deep rooted cultural and religious event. Such a move can only dilute any festive spirit the uncensored version may once have had (and perplex a few non-politically correct six-year-olds).
It begs the question, who is this really for? Are there people out there genuinely offended by Santa Claus, Christmas Lights, and a festival based on goodwill and giving? It is one thing to take offence when your own culture is under attack. It is quite another to feel insulted at the very presence of someone else’s.
Likewise, tolerance does not equate to denial. Respecting someone else’s background does not require the minimisation of one’s own culture to the point where one is almost embarrassed it existed in the first place. Such a view of the world is artificial beyond belief. Portraying to children their cultural background as something to be shunned and watered down reduces the sparkle of the Christmas holidays to a dim and quickly exhausted flicker.
Indeed there is something Orwellian about such a world view. The world’s cultural intrigue and traditions reduced to a pervasive blandness for fear of upsetting anyone in the smallest way possible. However it seems that in a bid to become a tolerant and accepting society we have become exactly the opposite.