"In the first edition of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the Oompa-Loompas were members of an African tribe displaced by Willy Wonka to the northern industrial hinterland. Not quite so funny anymore that his workers worship him like a god, is it? Or that he keeps them scrupulously isolated from the general population? Or that he pays them in cocoa beans? For the second edition in 1973, Dahl changed the Oompa-Loompas from black pygmies into “rosy-white” creatures with long “golden-brown” hair. The 1971 movie made them orange-skinned with green hair. Loompaland is a complicated place." ("How to Read a Racist Book to Your Children," NYTimes)
Strange* to think that the NYTimes intelligentsia categorizes a fiction which depicts a group of people working in (wage?) slavery as somehow pleasant if they're orange-and-green and magical, but "not so funny anymore" if they're brown-skinned, and African. (That is, if they're placed in actual history.) Why should it have been funny to begin with? The imaginative capacity of genre is such that it makes the symbolic and the imaginative able to stand in for the material, which is why there are so many debates about the "meaning" of whatever comic book adaptation has the box office busy at any given point in the year. My impression is that official liberal culture sanctions one of two reactions to the politics in & of genre - one is the sort of heartfelt, betcha-didn't-know conscientiousness of this piece linked to above; the other is a kind of j'accuse toward whatever cultural object offends with this "uncovered" or "spotlighted" shortcoming - the equivalent of that Wonder Showzen clip of the kid shouting "That's racist!"
Lest I not be clear for anyone reading this, I'm not even trying to be judgmental so much as descriptive of this tendency; my aim is to sketch out the tendencies of the educated intelligentsia of the imperial center - that which structures the "scripts" we have for cultural debates. I'm also not trying to be a puritan myself when I ask "why should it have been funny to begin with." It's a sincere question rather than a rhetorical one.
* No, not really.