I swore I wasn’t going to write about this culture ‘crisis’ of tubers and zoos, but I think there’s a larger concern involved here that justifies the effort. It’s not so much about the so-called Cancel Culture as it is about viewer manipulation by the Grievance Machine. Besides, this is not my worst ever broken promise to myself.
First, please know that I raised my kids on the Sneetches and Pale Green Pants, and the Lorax was a truffula-tree-hugger way before it was cool. Great stuff for kids!
The current controversy arises out of a decision to not republish new editions of several lesser tales in the hundred-volume Seuss library. It was made, privately, by the rights owners. They were concerned that some few portrayals were out-of-step with his legacy of Great Stuff for kids. Now, perhaps you disagree – especially if you think that showing ape-like black people … displayed in a zoo … in cages … is a great introduction to race relations. A “Chinaman” was similarly ‘other’d’ in a coolie caricature.
Now, I’m a pretty passionate free speech guy, but this has utterly nothing to do with First Amendment rights. Nada. It’s about what’s best for small children. There’s time, later in their development, when kids can and should be exposed to bias against Shylock the ‘heartless’ Jew, or _ Jim, Huck’s friend on the river. But that time is not the first impressions of little-kid Seuss readers. “Why yes, Susie, they’re in cages, but remember we’re all created equal.” Huh?
Similarly, the Potato family remains intact and nuclear. You can still buy anatomically ‘correct’ (in a Ken and Barbie sense) Mr. and Mrs. models, which I am sure is a great relief to everyone out there with spare veggies. The new gender-neutral starch was a marketing decision by the toymaker to add another opportunity to buy this Idaho icon.
So, then what happened? Enter Fox News, which devoted itself to fully Four Hours of Seuss coverage during the week when the most consequential (and popular @ 70% overall and majority GOP voters) social relief bill of a generation was being enacted. The covid relief act, by contrast, was barely mentioned. Republican pols, not one of whom voted for that bill, dutifully took up The Cancel Culture Cause, bemoaning (non-specifically) what had been lost and blaming every lefty just short of their fanciful antifa ‘militia.’ It’s a complete Fox crock.
Hordes of buyers suddenly found their way to the nation’s several remaining bookstores. In a brilliant gesture designed to punish the wrongdoers, they bought up the entire remaining inventory of discontinued Seuss books, at retail, thereby ensuring that none of those sacred texts would ever land in the discount bin (that’ll show ‘em!)
PBS did seek-out Mitch McConnell (he who never met a billionaire he wouldn’t rescue). He thought the bill ‘unnecessary’ (now that Dems are back in charge so deficits matter, again). But the GOP message of the week had nothing to do with their cynical rebuke of the successful Biden bill. It was culture war Outrage(!), stoked by a medium that makes its money on White Grievance.
It seems to have worked, based on the ink spilled over it – The Base (about which it’s All) is suitably riled. But I hope that if you’re a part of it, you at least understand that you’ve been manipulated and distracted into this frothing tempest in a tiny teapot.
It may not be the last time somebody tries – after all, there’s an (actual) Infrastructure Bill a-borning.