Planes, Trains and Automobiles… and Huck Finn

I laugh every time I evenĀ think about the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” What a hilarious scene when Steve Martin and John Candy have to share a motel room, or when Candy unsuccessfully tries to take off his jacket while driving.

With family visiting from afar several years ago, I rented the movie and we settled down for a delightful evening of comedy and popcorn.

Soon, I heard Steve Martin utter the F word and was surprised that I hadn’t remembered. Then he issued a string of F this and F that. I was sitting next to my 80-year-old mother-in-law and lamely said, “Well, I sure don’t remember the movie having this language.”

And that’s when I realized I had never seen the movie theatre version. Instead, I had come to love the movie on TV and during long-distance flights. I loved the edited version.

I thought of my movie conundrum this week amid the controversy over the editing of the N word in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” For a new edition of the book (which is in the public domain), an Auburn University professor has edited out the N word, which appears 219 times.

Many schools stopped teaching the book because of the offensive language, causing the professor to say, “It is a shame that a single word can form such an impediment to students enjoying the greatness of the narratives and the sharpness of their social critique.”

The publisher noted that other editions faithfully replicate Twain’s text, and this is simply an optionĀ for those uncomfortable with requiring students to read a text that could be so hurtful.

While some critics act as if this is a travesty, it’s not the end of the world to have a version that may well provide Huck Finn a longer shelf life as a literary work taught in schools.

Now if I could just get a copy of the “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” version that I love.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books, Visual Communication

2 Comments on “Planes, Trains and Automobiles… and Huck Finn”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    I have to admit, I’m a little surprised to see a communications scholar praise the censorship of Huck Finn. While I’m glad that uncensored versions of the book are still available, the stance that changing Twain’s text will somehow make the book more acceptable in the classroom is a bit troubling (and perhaps that this argument may be true is what’s most troubling). After all, in many cases the books that have garnered the harshest criticism have also provided the most value and “teachable moments” (e.g. Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, The Grapes of Wrath, and 1984, to name just a few). Imagine if the offensive ideas in these books were changed or censored; high school reading lists would look quite different and the content of the classes simply wouldn’t be as provocative of thoughts, discussion, and emotion. Bottom line: isn’t that what great literature is all about?

  2. Paul Parsons Says:

    During my years with UPI and The Associated Press, my writing underwent editing all the time. So I don’t view a word — especially the N word — as sacrosanct. The word is far more offensive in today’s society than it was in Twain’s. Today, we edit films for different audiences. We abridge dictionaries. We create children’s editions of classics because the classics, as written, are over their heads. None of these constitute censorship, which in its genuine meaning refers to government action against speech. To me, this is a case of an editor wanting to make Twain’s work more accessible to a wider audience. The omission of the N word, in my view, doesn’t change the provocative ideas of the original work, and it’s those ideas — not the N word — that make “Huck Finn” great literature.

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