From the Audio/Visual Department and Library of Oberlin College to students and faculty:
We have made several changes to the way books are read, movies will be viewed, and music will be listened to. These changes will not take effect until September 2021. Changing the titles and content of works of art is something we don’t take lightly. But it is something we take.
Note: In order to effect these changes, it is necessary that the library be closed during what was once known as Student Orientation but will now be known as Student Assimilation.
P. C. Bookbinder
Marsha Norman’s ’Night, Gestational Parent
The original title of Ms. Norman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play was—please excuse the language—’Night, Mother. However, we have changed the title so as not to offend those children who were born without mothers. We considered ’Night, Nurturer, but this did not necessarily imply a biological connection, and it was also quite difficult to say. After having watched Non-Birthing Parent of the Bride, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, we came up with the above title. And the movie Meet the Parents will now be called Meet the Progenitors. The classic children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies is now called Heather Has One Birthing Guardian and One Non-Birthing Guardian.
Peter Sellers in The World of Henry ______
We thought of changing the title—warning: the next few words contain graphic content—The World of Henry Orient to The World of Henry Non-Occidental but opted to leave the final word blank. Similarly, the classic spaghetti Western (we apologize to our readers of Italian descent—perhaps the term should be “pasta-based movie that takes place in the occupied territories”) Once upon a Time in the West will now be called Once upon a Time in the Neither Here nor There. Hermann Hesse’s short novel Journey to the East is now called Journey Away from the West. East-West, the classic album by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, is now called West-East.
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Cisgender Male
After having changed Richard Wright’s Black Boy to Black Youth Who Identifies as Male and Native Son to Indigenous Son, we thought it appropriate to change the title of Ellison’s classic novel. Similarly, Brecht’s play The Good Person of Szechwan has been changed back to The Good Man of Szechwan so that we could change it to The Good Person Woman of Szechwan and then again to The Good Person of Szechwan. We still don’t know what to do with Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown.
The Merry Spouses of Windsor
After having retitled Death of a Salesman to Death of a Salesperson, we then changed The Merchant of Venice to The Businessperson of Venice. We rejected changing Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus to Us Andronicus and Coriol, respectively. However, since back in Shakespeare’s day the women characters were played by men, we had no trouble changing The Merry Wives of Windsor. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” will now be called “The Spouse of Bath’s Tale.” It is now The Eternal Spouse, by Dostoyevsky. This applies to “girlfriend” and “boyfriend,” too. Thus the Smiths’ song is now “Partner in a Coma” and the Angels’ song is “My Partner Who Identifies as Male’s Back.”
“(There Is a Rose in) Latinx Harlem”
Spanish Harlem has nothing to do with Spain. Therefore the song “Spanish Harlem” has been retitled. “Latinx” is obviously more gender-neutral than “Latino” or “Latina,” even though the lyrics in the song clearly specify that the rose is a she (or that the rose believes she is a she). The David Mamet movie The Spanish Prisoner will remain The Spanish Prisoner, and The Spanish Main will remain The Spanish Main. Some people do not know how to pronounce the word “Latinx.” It is not pronounced “la-tinks.” Sphinx, we remind you, is not pronounced “sphin-ex.” In order to avoid confusion, some words ending with the letter x have now been stripped of their final letter. Thus, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is now just Space. Latex, which sort of looks like Latinx, is now “late.” And the word “simplex” is simply “simple.”
Ted Heller is a New York–based writer