Seriously, No One’s Canceling Dr. Seuss. WTF Is Wrong With You People?
Republicans are experts at maintaining simultaneous contradictory positions. They insist that Democrats have “abandoned" the working-class, by which they mean white truckers in diners. Yet, the GOP is obsessed with so-called “cancel culture," the sort of culture war you wage when the economy is booming and 500,000 Americans haven't died in a pandemic. What passes for modern conservative intelligentsia won't let up on the topic, which brings us to the supposed “cancellation" of Dr. Seuss.
Conservative commentator Liz Peek wondered in a Fox News op-ed if the "attacks against Dr. Seuss" would prove the tipping point .... to what exactly? That's unclear. How dumb will our history be if kids in the future are taught that the cancellation of Dr. Seuss was some world-altering event like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand?
If you haven't heard, Dr. Seuss is being canceled. The same boneheads who claim that the "mister" in Mr. Potato Head is overly "exclusive," that Aunt Jemima syrup encouraged racial stereotyping, that math is a vestige of White supremacy and that gender reveal parties are "transphobic," want you to find racism in the pages of "Hop on Pop."
OK, first place, Aunt Jemima objectively "encouraged racial stereotyping." That's just a fact. Peek should at least admit she's pro racial stereotypes rather than pose as a syrup purist. More to the point, no one's cancelling Dr. Seuss. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" will still air every holiday season, and periodically someone will produce a failed move remake and a misguided musical. You're also free to buy The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. That is the extent to which Dr. Seuss impacts your life in a demonstrable way.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which I assume is connected somehow to the author, announced today that it will cease publication of six of his books because they "portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong." The books are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat's Quizzer. You have probably not read these books except the first two.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: There's this cancel culture trying to cancel Dr. Seuss now. How far are they going to take this?… https://t.co/CacMLY9WmL— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1614693183.0
The “boneheads" at Dr. Seuss Enterprises voluntarily made this decision after consultation with a panel of experts, including educators. Dr. Seuss Enterprises can refuse to publish its own books. This is America. You can't cancel yourself.
MarketWatch detailed the offensive content in the forbidden six.
The problematic pictures, which were flagged in a 2019 study published in the journal "Research on Diversity in Youth Literature," include a Japanese character referred to as "a Japanese" in "The Cat's Quizzer" drawn with a bright yellow face and standing on what appears to be Mount Fuji. In "If I Ran a Zoo," a white man says he is going to put a person of color wearing a turban on display in his zoo.
Oh, there's more:
In fact, the researchers paged through 50 Dr. Seuss books, and found that 43 out of 45 characters of color had "characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism." What's more, the two "African" characters drawn in these books displayed anti-Black characteristics, often with men of color presented in "subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles," according to the report.
Companies have always made content decisions based on the audience they want to reach. CBS literally cancelled all their "rural" comedies in the early 1970s. The replacements for "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Green Acres," "Petticoat Junction," and "Hee Haw" were shows that very serious people today would consider "woke": "All in the Family," "Maude," and "M*A*S*H."
This is how the Museum of Broadcast Communications describes the so-called "rural purge":
By the late 1960s, … many viewers, especially young ones, were rejecting [rural-themed] shows as irrelevant to modern times. Mayberry's total isolation from contemporary problems was part of its appeal, but more than a decade of media coverage of the civil rights movement had brought about a change in the popular image of the small Southern town. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., was set on a U.S. Marine base between 1964 and 1969, but neither Gomer nor any of his fellow Marines ever mentioned the war in Vietnam. CBS executives, afraid of losing the lucrative youth demographic, purged their schedule of hit shows that were drawing huge but older-skewing audiences.
Maybe CBS revising its programming was what helped reelect Richard Nixon, but it seemed like most Americans accepted this as a business decision and went on with their lives. William F. Buckley at the National Review didn't whine about the loss of "Hee Haw." Conservatives were more concerned with Vietnam protesters and integrated neighbors.
Ben Shapiro, who is Ben Shapiro's idea of a smart person, announced on Twitter that he was rushing out to buy “all the Dr. Seuss volumes for the kids before the woke book burners can get to them all." He's misrepresenting the facts, of course, but that's how he makes a living. If he were alive in 1971, he would've bought up bootleg films of “Petticoat Junction" and “Green Acres" in defiance of the “rural purge."
Theodor Seuss Geisel, who did not hold a doctorate, was born 117 years ago today. Not everything he created will endure. The average life expectancy is less than 80 years. There's not enough time to read, hear, or watch every form of popular entertainment created in human history. Some stuff's gonna fade. That's not cancel culture. It's Newton's second law of artistic thermodynamics. If you're desperate to keep racist content that the publishers have denounced as racist, you're not standing up for “free speech." You are just hopelessly racist.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."