David Walliams book removes character after criticism over stereotypes

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Photo credit: BBC One/Wall To Wall
Photo credit: BBC One/Wall To Wall

David Walliams' children book will have a Chinese character removed from it, following criticism over harmful stereotypes.

First released in 2016 and illustrated by Tony Ross, The World's Worst Children featured ten cautionary tales centred on different characters, one of which was Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong.

The character of Brian received backlash, and earlier this year, Georgie Ma (aka Chinese Chippy Girl), the Asian Leadership Collective, and Marvel star Benedict Wong spoke with publisher HarperCollins about their concerns about the book.

Photo credit: BBC One/Wall To Wall
Photo credit: BBC One/Wall To Wall

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The rhyming of 'Wong' with 'wrong' (a common racist joke) and problematic stereotypes about East and Southeast Asian people in addition to how Brian is illustrated were some of the issues raised about how the character was portrayed in the book.

HarperCollins said in a statement: "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."

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Speaking to The Bookseller, Ma explained: "The overall character plays on the model minority myth where Chinese people are nerdy, swotty, and good at maths, we're not confrontational, and we're high achievers. It was just really disappointing to read about that.

"Personally for me, because I have a toddler, I don't want her being absorbed in these stories where Chinese culture is misrepresented.

"I feel there are more stories within the book that need reviewing, but this is just the start... I want this to be a learning for all authors who write stories based on marginalised communities, to do their research, and seek guidance such as sensitivity reads. Especially if they are not from that community."

Digital Spy has reached out to David Walliams' rep for further comment.

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