Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Most Unusual Culture War

 I've read with a great deal of amusement about the right-wing culture war over the discontinuation of six books by Dr Seuss.  The books, which have been criticized for containing racialized imagery, are older books in the Seuss canon.  My suspicion is that these books are being phased out of print, not because of pressure from 'The Left', but because the publishing house doesn't want racial depictions of people of color in six lesser-known books to drag down sales of Dr Seuss' later blockbusters, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who (not to be confused with his 'blue' work Horton Hires a 'Ho).  The last thing Dr Seuss' heirs need is to have the sales of the good doctor's funny animal books tank because of a couple of images straight out of a Sax Rohmer pulp story.

I actually have a bunch of Dr Seuss' racially insensitive imagery in my collection, in the form of the book Dr Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel.  His images of Japanese politicians and soldiers is jarring, but that's propaganda for you.  For the record, even with the caustic depictions of Japanese persons, Dr Seuss was vehemently anti-Nazi, and condemned antisemitism and anti-black racism.  We all have our blinders, and propaganda DOES involve dehumanization... even the lovable cutups at Warner Brothers animation division got involved in this ugliness.  It's not ideal.  Dr Seuss recanted his anti-Japanese sentiment and wrote the book Horton Hears a Who! after a postwar visit to Japan.  

Besides his little foray into anti-Asian imagery, for which he atoned, Dr Seuss has consistently advocated for liberal values.  Besides the anti-bigotry message of Horton Hears a Who!, Dr Seuss wrote the Cold War satire The Butter Battle Book, the anti-discrimination tale The Sneetches, the anti-authoritarian Yertle the Turtle, and the environmentalist fable The Lorax.  In a particularly delicious bit of irony, Fox News, the very media outlet which is decrying 'the Left's' 'cancellation' of Dr Seuss, featured a scare story back in 2012 about how The Lorax is leftist indoctrination.  Do these people remember anything?

I'm all for right-wingers buying up tons of Dr Seuss books because they believe that Dr Seuss works have fallen prey to 'cancel culture'.  Yes, righties, bring the liberal propaganda of The Lorax and The Sneetches into your homes to instruct your children about how driving species into extinction and judging people based on superficial differences are bad things.  Keep fighting your stupid culture war, Pyrrhic victory after Pyrrhic victory, fighting stupid battles over topics you don't understand.  Meanwhile, thinking people can examine the career of one Theodor Seuss Geisel, recognizing that even the kindest of people can harbor prejudices, and that the true measure of a human being lies in putting aside one's darker tendencies and seeking absolution.  I don't think this particular culture war will last long- some fan of Fox is going to crack open one of Dr Seuss' later books and decry it as Marxist propaganda, and Fox will be blamed for trying to indoctrinate children.  Meanwhile, the sales of Dr Seuss books will go on as usual, with nostalgic parents buying them for their children, and fans of funny cartoons about weird animals buying them for themselves.  The books have broad appeal, and the excision of a handful of them from the canon will ensure that said appeal will apply to a global market.


Richard said...

Dahoo Dorees! They forgot to cancel Whoville! And they are too chickenshit to even think about the Great Pumpkin.
If this is what they have, why even listen to them?
I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham!
Your friend, The Lorax🖖

Aardvark Cheeselog said...

IDK if I agree about
"Keep fighting your stupid culture war, Pyrrhic victory after Pyrrhic victory, fighting stupid battles over topics you don't understand."
Even when the winner gets a Pyrrhic victory, the loser still loses.