A short story by David Walliams about a Chinese boy is to be removed from one of his books after it was criticised for depicting “harmful stereotypes”.
Publisher HarperCollins confirmed the story would not be in the new edition of The World’s Worst Children.
It will be published in March 2022 without the story Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong, with a new story replacing it.
Who is the character?
The story was included in Walliams book The World’s Worst Children. It portrayed Brian as a “swot” who wore thick glasses and whose favourite subject was maths.
The anthology is described on Walliams website as: “A wickedly funny and wonderfully surreal collection of ten stories about ten delightfully dreadful children, The World’s Worst Children is David Walliams’ unique take on the classic cautionary tale.”
Illustrated by Tony Ross, the book was first published by HarperCollins Children’s in May 2016 and featured characters such as Dribbling Drew and Nigel Nit-Boy, sparking a number of sequels and spin-offs.
Who is Georgie Ma and what did she say about the character?
Walliams’ bestselling anthology was criticised earlier this year by writer and podcaster Georgie Ma for including the tale about a boy who was a “total and utter swot”.
Ms Ma, who has a podcast called Chinese Chippy Girl, said on Instagram the story was “normalising casual racism from an early age” and criticised Ross’ illustration of the character.
She said: “You can see it’s just got the stereotypical small eyes, and the glasses, and it’s just complete casual racism. It just reminds me of the comics that white supremacists have telling Chinese people to go back to China.”
In a post on the social media platform she spoke of wanting fairer representation for the East and Southeast Asian community (ESEA).
She said: “We were open and honest with HarperCollins. We want fairer representation to the wider ESEA community and we feel books that educate kids on diversity should be done fairly rather than joking on harmful sterotypes.”
Ma added to The Bookseller: “Wong and wrong are two words that are commonly used in playgrounds to pick on someone if their surname is Wong.”
What did the publisher HarperCollins say?
After meeting Ma along with a representative of the Asian Leadership Collective, the book’s publisher HarperCollins Children’s agreed to replace the story.
A statement from the publisher said: “In consultation with our author and illustrator we can confirm that a new story will be written to replace Brian Wong in future editions of The World’s Worst Children.
“The update will be scheduled at the next reprint as part of an ongoing commitment to regularly reviewing content.”
Although Walliams has been asked for comment he has not spoken about the decision.
Has Walliams faced controversy before?
Walliams and his Little Britain co-star Matt Lucas apologised last year after criticism over their use of blackface make-up in some sketches on the show.
In the series, Walliams sported black make-up and a large afro wig to play the overweight black woman Desiree DeVere.
The programme was removed from Netflix, BBC iPlayer and BritBox in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests around the world following the death of George Floyd in the US.
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