Good Morning Britain presenter Richard Madeley has dismissed “ridiculous” claims that beloved children’s author Enid Blyton is racist, sexist and homophobic.
Madeley and the programme’s presenting team discussed Blyton in the wake of news that the Royal Mint axed plans for a commemorative coin featuring the creator of Noddy and The Famous Five, fearing a potential backlash.
The Mail on Sunday reported on the minutes of an advisory committee meeting in December 2016, at which it was claimed that Blyton “is known to have been a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”.
Madeley described his sadness at the revelations, saying it is wrong to judge Blyton, who died in 1968, by “the standards of today”.
The Royal Mint has refused to put Enid Blyton's face on a commemorative coin after being known to be a ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and ‘homophobe’, according to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) August 27, 2019
Are they right or should this best-selling writer still be celebrated? pic.twitter.com/ZJT6vVmMAi
The 63-year-old broadcaster said: “If you were to draw a line in 1955 and go backwards from there, you could pretty much pick up anybody.
“Based on our modern values and what we think is acceptable today, you could pick almost anybody on what they said, what they thought, words that they used.
“Obviously there are lines to be crossed, such as fascism, Hitler, Mussolini, etc, but there are social lines that have changed and you can't judge people by the standards of today.
“So actually, I think personally, to call Enid Blyton homophobic is ridiculous. To say that she was anti-woman or anti-feminist... what about Malory Towers? What about George in The Famous Five? These were strong girls. Very, very strong girls.”
Madeley said he had re-read some of Blyton’s writing on Monday night and couldn’t “detect a line” that could be criticised as homophobic, racist or sexist.
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Author Matt Haig was one of many to join the debate on social media, writing that Blyton was criticised for racism during her life, rather than merely through a modern lens.
So lazy this idea that ‘well everyone was racist in the olden days’. No. Not always. Not to the same degree. Not with such obsession.— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) August 27, 2019
Sorry if it puts a dent in your childhood memories (I loved her books too) but there are reams of publicly available material out there that, put together, make a pretty watertight case that Enid Blyton was a nasty piece of work.— Paul Martinovic (@paulmartinovic) August 27, 2019
The Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry, however, tweeted in defence of Blyton and echoed Madeley’s concerns about discussing the past through the tolerant prism of today.
My childhood was often very unhappy (to put it mildly!).— Michelle Dewberry (@MichelleDewbs) August 27, 2019
Books gave me much needed escapism & happiness. Alongside #RoaldDahl #EnidBlyton was my fave writer.
Refusing this coin is wrong. It denies the joy she gave to many.
Stop censoring yesterday based on today’s standards. https://t.co/rbFwVTXFPs
Madeley is a regular guest presenter on Good Morning Britain and is currently covering for Piers Morgan during the summer months.