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They're A Page Right Out Of History -- Can't We Leave Them There?

(AP)
Times change and so do social mores, but we shouldn't run around trying to change the past to fit the present. Just because technology allows us to fool around with much of our history doesn't make it a good idea. Ted Turner ran into a great deal of opposition during his attempts to colorize classic black-and-white motion pictures. The thinking, I suppose, was that films like the Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane might be even better shown in full Technicolor. Thankfully that silly trend has ended.

But the extent to which we're going in order to erase any memory of cigarettes from our national memory is steamrolling right ahead. We're now scrubbing our cartoons:

Turner Broadcasting is scouring more than 1,500 classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including old favorites Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, to edit out scenes that glamorize smoking.

The review was triggered by a complaint to British media regulator Ofcom by one viewer who took offense to two episodes of Tom and Jerry shown on the Boomerang channel, a corporate sibling of Time Warner Inc.-owned Turner Broadcasting.

The Flintstones, along with so many other icons of their era, once pitched Winston cigarettes in televised ads before they were banned in 1961. Yes, that's Fred and Barney taking a Winston break and hawking the tag line – "a Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should." But it was a part of life in America at the time, a reflection of how we thought and what we knew. Nobody's forcing anyone to run these shows today.

It calls to mind the recent mini-furor caused when a publishing company digitally altered the picture of Clement Hurd, author of the children's classic book, "Goodnight Moon," removing the cigarette that was held in his hand for decades of sales. From the New York Times:

In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand.

HarperCollins said it made the change to avoid the appearance of encouraging smoking and did so with the permission of the illustrator's estate. But Mr. Hurd's son, also a children's book illustrator and author, said he felt pressured to allow it. And the move has touched off something of a tempest in the nursery, with some children's booksellers expressing outrage. One has even mounted a campaign to have the original picture restored.

I'm not sure there are a whole lot of parents out there who would advocate more cigarette imagery being beamed toward their children. But do we really need to run around altering images when we could just leave them where they belong -- to history?