Goosebumps Is Now Being Censored, But There’s A Catch
R.L. Stine is making edits to past Goosebumps books to remove language regarding race, body types, and violence
One of the weirdest things about literature is that certain bits of literary drama seem to repeat themselves over time. For example, back in the early 1800s, Thomas Bowdler began releasing special versions of William Shakespeare’s plays where he had removed various references he considered lewd or otherwise inappropriate for young children to hear. More recently, Deadline reports that after Penguin Publishing made the controversial decision to re-release censored versions of texts from Roald Dahl (author of classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda), author R.L. Stine is now making similar edits to Goosebumps, his famous line of children-friendly spooky books.
As you might imagine, this news has many Goosebumps fans and those from the wilder world of literature upset. Bowdler’s attempts to sanitize Shakespeare were met with almost universal derision, and to this day, “bowdlerization” is a pejorative term for unnecessarily censoring the offensive parts of a book. While it’s an open secret that both Roald Dahl and R.L. Stine have used certain words and phrases that have aged poorly over time, many fans worry that trying to create more politically-correct versions of these stories might end up accidentally removing some of the magic that made these stories so special to begin with (James Bond fans are worried about some of these same kinds of edits).
The good news for fans of Goosebumps is that it is R.L. Stine himself who is doing these edits, meaning it is already different from what happened with both William Shakespeare and Roald Dahl (both of whom had their works edited for offensive content long after they were dead). Of course, Stine might be doing this as a preventative measure: the only reason Penguin was interested in editing Dahl’s stories is that they worried that leaving the text as is might hurt future sales. So it’s possible that Stine is just being proactive about editing in order to protect his bottom line, but looking at some of the edits, it seems more like the prolific horror author (some put him in the same league as Stephen King) is focusing more on protecting his legacy by removing certain content.
For example, one Goosebumps change involves a line from Bride of the Living Dummy where a villain was described as knocking a young girl out with “a love tap.” Stine has now changed that scene so that she is knocked out by a magical spell instead. The author likely made this edit because he didn’t like the blunt physical violence against a young character, and he may be aware of the fact that “love tap” is sometimes used as a euphemism for things like spousal abuse.
Of course, that’s nothing compared to the original line in the 1996 Goosebumps book Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns, where a character is described as an “African-American” whose strutting moves are likened to “the rappers on MTV videos.” Stine now simply describes the character as having brown skin and strutting while he walks, and it’s tough to argue that this is an improvement because the original line was so cringe-worthy. Then again, it’s not like modern teenagers are actually watching any videos on MTV, so Stine’s edits may be helping to make these stories more modern even as he makes them less offensive.