This week, The Beano, “last survivor of the golden age of comics”, is celebrating its 85th birthday, says Craig Brown in the Daily Mail. But in recent years the Bash Street Kids gang has been given a makeover: Fatty has been renamed Freddy; Spotty has become Scotty. And the veterans have been joined by Mandira, “a nervous girl whose anxieties are used to highlight mental health problems”. The teachers, meanwhile – “once passionate users of the slipper and/or cane” – have been “forcibly re-educated” to make them, according to the editor, more “sympathetic and nurturing” to their pupils.
The Beano’s staff now take advice from Inclusive Minds, the consultancy that masterminded the recent removal of offensive language from Roald Dahl’s books. As far as I’m concerned, the best 85th birthday celebration would be for The Beano to reprint the memorable story that begins with a “teacher in his mortarboard hanging head-first from a rope attached to the classroom ceiling”. Instead, of course, we’ll get something that “sets a good example” and that’s more fitting to modern sensibilities. “And no one will laugh at all.”