| G. Michael Dobbs
I find the political hysteria in reaction to the company in charge of the legacy of Dr. Seuss deciding to pull a number of books from their publishing schedule because of racist images to be predictable.
After all, the company has the right to do so and is undoubtedly responding to criticism that these cartoon images are not acceptable today as part of a books aimed at children.
I would think that both liberals and conservatives would agree that a company that owns intellectual property deemed unacceptable by modern standards has the right to stop distributing that property.
Of course, this latest move has been deemed part of “cancel culture.” It’s provided plenty of fodder for critics.
To make matters worse, Hasbro initially announced it would be dropping the word “mister” from its iconic toy “Mister Potato Head.” It has since explained the character kids make would still be known as “Mister Potato Head,” but the brand would be “Potato Head.”
The statement that was posted on the website operated by Dr. Seuss Enterprises said, “Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.
“We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: ‘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.’ These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
The books will still exist. No one is burning them. It’s simply difficult to put a disclaimer on them that would allow adults reading the books to attempt to explain why these images are there.
It’s too bad that two of the books were inspired by the illustrator’s childhood in Springfield.
This is not the first time an image from one of the illustrator’s books has caused an issue. An image from “And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street” had to be removed from the Dr. Seuss Museum in 2018, sparking some controversy. Mayor Domenic Sarno released the following statement after last week’s announcement, “In the spirit of acceptance and friendship, I will respect Dr. Seuss Enterprises request/decision based on what is perceived to be culturally insensitive depictions. We will all now move forward to highlight all the good Springfield’s own Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss has done and continues to do in promoting and making reading fun and enjoyable for all our children and their families no matter what creed, color, culture or background. We must always remember and never forget, if you can’t read, you can’t succeed. I look forward to our Museums and Dr. Seuss Enterprises continued beneficial partnership with the one and only in the world Dr. Seuss Museum right here in our Springfield.”
The simple fact is our popular culture from the start of this republic has been littered with racist and sexist images and stereotypes. Looking at advertisements, movies, books, comic strips, comic books, radios shows and audio recordings from the past 150 years presents a minefield of issues.
As a movie guy, I’ve found it’s difficult to avoid being confronted by imagery and subjects that are simply wrong. Times have changed and for the better.
Understanding the context of the era in which something was produced is important. The problem is providing that context for adults is one thing and for children it’s something completely different.
Children should not have to be exposed to negative images about race or gender. It’s as simple as that. Can’t we agree to that?