A David Walliams story about a Chinese boy is to be removed from one of his children’s books after criticism that it contained “harmful stereotypes”.
A new edition of The World’s Worst Children will be released next year without the story Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong.
The move comes after podcaster Georgie Ma complained the book was “normalising jokes on minorities from a young age”.
Following their meeting with Ma, the story’s publishers confirmed that it would be replaced.
The book told the stories of ten different characters, including Nigel Nit-Boy, Grubby Gertrude, and Bertha the Blubberer. It sold over 450,000 copies in the UK when it was released in 2016, and two sequels and other spin-offs have since been released.
“After consulting with our author and illustrator [Tony Ross], we can confirm that a new storey will be written to replace ‘Brian Wong’ in future editions of The World’s Worst Children,” HarperCollins Children’s said in a statement.
“As part of an ongoing commitment to regularly reviewing content, the update will be scheduled at the next reprint.”
‘Chinese culture is misrepresented’
Speaking to The Bookseller, Ma explained: “‘Wong’ and ‘wrong’ are two words that are commonly used in playgrounds to pick on someone if their surname is Wong.
“Even in the manner in which Brian has been depicted. He wears glasses, he looks like a nerd, he has small eyes… all of these are negative stereotypes.”
“The overall character plays on the model minority myth that Chinese people are nerdy, swotty, and good at maths, we’re not confrontational, and we’re high achievers,” she added.
It was simply depressing to read about it. Personally, because I have a toddler, I don’t want her to be exposed to stories in which Chinese culture is misrepresented.”
Ma said she was “grateful” to the publishers for “listening and taking action” after criticising the character on Instagram earlier this year.
Little Britain apology
Walliams, who rose to fame on the sketch show Little Britain before becoming a well-known children’s author, has not responded.
Last year, he and his TV writing partner Matt Lucas apologised for playing characters from different ethnic backgrounds in the popular BBC series.
They used blackface make-up in some of the sketches, and the show was removed from BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and BritBox after new complaints surfaced.
The duo apologised and said they were “very sorry” and “regretted that we played characters of other races.”