I stay out of the drama as best I can, especially the political drama. However, when it forces itself into my area of discussion (and there are those shoving politics into as many aspects of our lives–especially our entertainment choices–as possible) I’m dragged kicking into the discussion. Dr. Seuss is one such example.
The pen name of Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss is a huge part of our culture. His works have influenced others, been the subject of parody, and even had some really terrible movies made that were worse than the half-hour cartoons that better adapted the stories. His characters have had two TV series, the animated The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That and the Henson Productions puppet series The Wubbulous World Of Dr. Seuss. And of course his books have been popular with kids and the parents who grew up with them as well.
On the internet, we can’t have nice things.
The credit (or blame depending on your perspective) for Dr. Seuss being removed from the “Read Across America Day” events and being ignored by President Joe Biden despite even Obama praising Seuss’s work on the event scheduled on his birthday and typically involving dressing up as the characters (my cousin’s kids did that this year) goes to an article stating that even The Sneeches isn’t anti-racism for daring to suggest race doesn’t matter and ignoring power struggle issues that will not only go over kids heads but wouldn’t matter if that structure was change by people ignoring or changing stupid rules so like the Sneeches we can all be one race. Personally I’m not into tattoos, stars or otherwise, anyway. The fallout has also led the Seuss estate to stop publishing six books that supposedly promote racism. Well, since I can find videos of some of these on YouTube being read for kids (obviously before the controversy so hopefully it’s still up when you read this) we can look at these together and find out if they’re really problematic and how easy it is to fix…considering I couldn’t find a lot of information as to WHY these six books were chosen. Prepare for some guesswork. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to do this article in rhyme. You’re welcome.
And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (originally published: 1937)
This is the only one I’ve actually read in the six books on this list, but it was a long time ago. I also saw it in a special TNT had celebrating Seuss’s work. The story follows Marco, a boy whose dad wants him to find something interesting to discuss on the way home. When all he has to work with is a horse-drawn wagon his mind slowly builds a short parade with zebras, elephants, a band, and more.
Apparently that more includes a “Chinese man with sticks”. And therein lies the supposed problem. The Chinese man is wearing garb they were often depicted in at the time, down to the hairstyle. These are all outdated, unless they still dress like this in some remove village. And I guess some printings (not seen in the originally chosen video) has the man as yellow as the bunny rabbits coming out of the magician’s hat, another stereotype but one not based on race or culture. This video has him NOT yellow and maybe a costume change would be fine, but I don’t see a huge problem otherwise. They still do use chopsticks in China.
If I Ran The Zoo (1950)
One of two books where a boy reimagines something fun with weird new animals (it would be followed up with a different boy in 1956’s If I Ran The Circus) this kid visits a zoo and tries to think up some wild animals. I think we all stopped at the “helpers who wear their eyes in a slant” carrying the latest animal in a cage on top of their heads. Yeah, this one isn’t such an easy fix without rewriting the author’s words. It’s a bit harder to defend granted but it’s also hard to toss out a book that, like the first one on our list, encourages a child to use their imagination.
McElligot’s Pool (1947)
Looks like they’re picking on poor Marco again. I have to feel sorry for the lad. This time Marco decides to go fishing in a pool that’s rather small and tends to serve as a dumping ground. However, Marco decides to consider the pool being connected somehow to the sea and a bunch of strange fish that may be looking to die by having Marco catch him. Yeah, the boy’s weird but in all the best way. As to why this is a sin against humanity? I’m guessing the Eskimo fish since apparently referring to the Inuit people…though while searching that name out I found it’s more of a blanket term for a number of tribes living in arctic regions. You know, like Asian is a blanket term for anyone with narrow eyes even though some of those countries outright hate some of the other countries under the banner. If anything, the groups lumped into Eskimo probably get along better than the groups lumped into Asian. This is why racial compartmentalizing is stupid and we should have stopped this nonsense years ago. I’m pro-HUMAN race.
These are also the same people who don’t realize “Latinix” is considered an insult by Latinos and keep using it because…I’m not even sure where it came from.
On Beyond Zebra! (1955)
Do you know how many videos I had to go through to find a video that not only had the actual letters created for this story but wasn’t being read by someone boring? I could find one or the other but both was a challenge. I mean, why would you not showcase the letters in a story about creating new letters? (I guess new animals wasn’t enough for the good Dr..) Oddly Seuss doesn’t use the letters in the actual names, which would have been interesting but I guess a tad difficult in the printing processes of the time. I imagine there’s a font for that now. Given how many sci-fi and fantasy writers create their own alphabets it’s not a bad idea showcasing the idea to future writers.
The crime here I really wouldn’t know if I didn’t follow a YouTuber and fellow Reviewers Unknown refugee who used to go by “Spazzmaster”, but changed it recently to “Snarkmaster” (and now just goes by his regular boring name Charile) due to negative connotations that have been attached to the word “spazz”. But how do you spell “spazzim” correctly without it? Frankly I don’t see kids making that connection if the word has fallen out of usage. Heck, Spazzmaster was the only time I heard the word in recent years until he changed it. I don’t blame him for doing so but I don’t think kids are going to care or use it any other way than naming this Seussian creation when nobody really uses the word anymore. (I can think of a few other words we need to stop using as well, but you know how many rap songs would make less sense since they overuse it?)
Scramble Eggs Super! (1953)
The kid in this story kind of looks like the kid from the previous story, but these albinos all look alike. (Yes, we live in a time where I have to explain that was a joke and it still won’t help.) This time Peter is creating animals and stealing their eggs. I’m guessing that’s not the issue. “Gay families”? No, that may be the previous definition of “gay” you only hear in old Christmas carols these days. Otherwise it would be the other side of fanatics complaining. Are they against all the egg thefts? Seriously, what’s the dumb white boy missing here?
The Cat’s Quizzer (1976?)
If the same video is still up, somebody get this kid some tissues! Meanwhile….WHAT IS THE DUMB WHITE BOY MISSING THIS TIME? It’s a book of random nonsense and occasionally actual questions. It’s meant to challenge a kid to think. Seriously I see nothing here that’s racist or any other “ist” or anything that remotely could be misunderstood, unless we don’t want Japanese people mentioned at all. You know, like all the black food mascots we’ve tossed out so we don’t have to see black people at the breakfast table.
So in six books I’ve only seen two even remotely concerning and one of those was easily fixed. I’m not even sure why the Seuss estate decided to kill these books. It’s not going to make anybody happy and just seems pointless. Maybe they just hate kids named Marco?