135. Burn Burgers, Not Books

Thursday March 4 2021

Let’s face it. I’m a small town midwestern girl with absolutely no dreams about moving to the big city. I like a simple life, comfortable shoes, and friendly dogs. Kinda wholesome, right? Then maybe it’s not too unexpected that I have a strong value system about what I feel is right.

Years ago, when my son was little, I boycotted Burger King. Wasn’t a big deal, really, and I doubt anyone outside our nuclear family knew. The fast food giant didn’t even get a blip on their sales radar, but that’s not the point. It just bugged the heck outta me that they were putting toys from a PG13-rated movie in their kids meals, which were marketed to two to eight-year-old children. This was, as I saw it, a fundamental wrong.

“That’s bullshit,” I said.

“Bullshit,” said my kid.

“Don’t say bullshit,” I said, holding onto those family values. “That’s a mommy word.”

This was long before social media was available as a platform for airing dirty laundry such as this. Even now, I have no idea if somewhere out there another mom noticed the same thing and also denied the iconic Whopper from gracing her family’s dinner table. Although, I think, it would have been nice to have had a bit of validation. After all, there was really no way back then to crowdsource a battalion to reach Burger King’s mega-headquarters, one powered by an organized front of pissed off moms who clutched onto a family-based value system.

Instead, I just had myself a nice and quiet personal protest about something that offended me.

You know, however you feel about the impact social media has on our lives today, would you agree with me that, at minimum, it gives a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard? And as any newfound power, this can be used for either good or evil, depending on who holds the digital bullhorn. Misinformation, half-truths, and hyperbole smother out the facts, like baking soda on a grease fire. Even when good intent is the motivator.

Today’s Cancel Culture wasn’t a thing in my flame-broiled burger boycott days. Today, the definition of Cancel Culture continues to change as the political wars continue, with the term used interchangeably as both as praise and an insult. A targeted person found guilty by an online mob could see their previously good reputation ruined, resulting in job loss or worse. Just last June I shared a tale about a businessman in Dayton who felt the sucker punch of Cancel Culture in my post 40. Collateral prey. This guy had posted an opinion online, which was admittedly badly timed, and his family-built empire crumbled around him in a matter of hours. Hours, people. The punishment in this case was completely out of proportion, as we see in many of Cancel Culture stories today.

The Hasbro Potato Head Scandal, for example, was a matter of a knee-jerk reaction to a misunderstood announcement. (Spoiler alert: Mr. and Mrs. Potato are still alive and well and interchanging body parts.) And now we’re seeing the same with this week’s news about some of the works of Dr. Seuss. The estate who manages his intellectual property have decided to stop production of six of his children’s books.

“Censorship!” some are saying. “Free speech and my childhood memories and things! Wait, what? The Cat, what did you say?”

And just calm your lorax there, people. I’m gonna toss out a guess that you could possibly even be aware of one, maybe two, of these six Dr. Seuss titles. I’m basing this on the fact that I recognize two of them myself, although couldn’t tell you even one character in either of them and I read Dr. Seuss as a kid like I do science fiction today.

  • “On Beyond Zebra!” (1955)
  • “The Cat’s Quizzer” (1953)
  • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (1937)
  • “If I Ran the Zoo” (1950)
  • “McElligot’s Pool” (1947)
  • “Scrambled Eggs Super!” (1976)

Scrambled Eggs Super? Right. I don’t remember that one on my childhood TBR list. So anyway, those who have a say in these matters, the non-profit Dr. Seuss Enterprises, consulted with librarians and educators and reached the conclusion that the material in these six books reflect enough racial stereotyping to be inappropriate for young developing minds.

How about this for context … “If I Ran the Zoo” (1950) is a fun romp into the imagination of a young boy who dreams of unique creatures to collect. Fair enough, but when you get to the fictional African Island of Yerka, we see two barefoot African men in full caricature, round white minstrel lips, grass skirts and all.

No. Just no.

It was a different time, 1950. And 1937 and 1947 and even 1976 and I was around for that year. Any fan of the more than 60 books by Theodor Seuss Geisel would surely be aware of his pre-children’s book career as a political cartoonist. Before he was Dr. Seuss, he drew WWII satire propaganda cartoons, poking the bears of Hitler, Mussolini, and anyone of Japanese heritage. Against popular opinion at the time, Theodor Geisel really laid it on thick for Charles Lindbergh, an all American icon that Seuss felt embodied unamerican isolationist ideals.

And like Mary Magdalen (if you’re Catholic, otherwise she was not what they say she was), Seuss was redeemed by his later works. Aware of the changing times, Dr. Seuss took on the hot topics of environmentalism, racial equality, and economic materialism. Of which are likely titles you are actually familiar with, say like The Lorax (1972), The Sneetches (1961), Yertle the Turtle (1958), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), and Horton Hears a Who (1954). Beloved works of our nostalgic past that are, for now, not on the chopping block.

So no, nobody is cancelling Dr. Seuss and the books we loved as children. If you want to introduce your own kids to the world of Whoville, ain’t no one gonna stop you from spending your US Dollars at the bookstore. You can even buy your gender-specific potato head toys and watch the Muppet Show reruns after their “these were different times” disclaimer.

But that freaking Troll Doll is so out of here. That’s just messed up.

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