6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published anymore because they portray people in ‘hurtful and wrong’ ways

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From CNN:

Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the business that preserves the author’s legacy said.The titles are:

  • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”
  • “If I Ran the Zoo”
  • “McElligot’s Pool”
  • “On Beyond Zebra!”
  • “Scrambled Eggs Super!”
  • “The Cat’s Quizzer”

. . . .

“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,” it said.The announcement was made Tuesday, the birthday of the famed children’s book author.

. . . .

Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel, is one of the best-known authors in the world, the man behind beloved classics like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among others. Over 650 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide, the Washington Post reported in 2015.

But Dr. Seuss had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s when he was a student at Dartmouth College. There, Dr. Seuss once drew Black boxers as gorillas and perpetuated Jewish stereotypes by portraying Jewish characters as financially stingy, according to a study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.”

That study, published in 2019, examined 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism,” or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asia. The two “African” characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics.

. . . .

Two specific examples, according to the study, are found in the books “The Cat’s Quizzer: Are YOU Smarter Than the Cat in the Hat?” and “If I Ran the Zoo.”

“In (“The Cat’s Quizzer”), the Japanese character is referred to as ‘a Japanese,’ has a bright yellow face, and is standing on what appears to be Mt. Fuji,” the authors wrote.

Regarding “If I Ran the Zoo,” the study points out another example of Orientalism and White supremacy.

“The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in ‘If I Ran the Zoo.’ The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance. The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell,'” the study authors wrote.

Link to the rest at CNN

PG doesn’t question the commercial decision that lead to this action and other similar cessations of publication, but he is annoyed by the accompanying school-marmish lecture that is appears to be designed to educate the unwashed masses concerning the right way of looking at and thinking about nearly everything.

PG would have preferred something like, “Although these books were not deemed offensive by most Americans when they were published, times and community standards have changed and they are regarded as offensive by some people today. So, we’ve made the decision to cease publication of these books. We think that Dr. Seuss would agree with this decision if he were alive today.”

PG will note that the OP describes now-offensive behavior of Seuss/Geisel when he was a student at Dartmouth one hundred years ago.

For those visitors to TPV from outside the United States, Dartmouth is a prestigious academic institution and a member of the Ivy League, which includes some of the most respected and highly-ranked colleges and universities in the country.

Presumably, we know of the Dartmouth creations of Seuss/Geisel because they were published at the time. PG is not an expert concerning Seuss/Geisel or Dartmouth, but he is not aware that Seuss/Geisel was expelled from Dartmouth or was condemned by the faculty or his fellow students for his behavior and creative output at that time.

One of the now-condemned Dr. Seuss books, If I Ran the Zoo, was published by Random House, a major New York publisher, and an undoubted “curator of the literary culture” in the United States.

Random House was co-founded by Bennett Cerf (Columbia, 1919, 1920), who became a well-known and respected public figure and television celebrity in this country.

Cerf was instrumental in obtaining publishing contracts with a large number of highly-successful and respected authors, including William Faulkner (Nobel Prize, 1949), John O’Hara, Eugene O’Neill, James Michener and Truman Capote.

In 1933, Cerf won United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, a landmark court case against government censorship, and thereafter Cerf and Random House were the first in the United States to publish James Joyce’s unabridged Ulysses, which had been previously declared as pornographic and banned from publication. Pornography was a previous generation’s version of what is sometimes described as political incorrectness today.

Here is the Random House’ s description of If I Ran the Zoo from the Amazon listing for the book:

Animals abound in Dr. Seuss’s Caldecott Honor–winning picture book If I Ran the Zoo. Gerald McGrew imagines the myriad of animals he’d have in his very own zoo, and the adventures he’ll have to go on in order to gather them all. Featuring everything from a lion with ten feet to a Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, this is a classic Seussian crowd-pleaser. In fact, one of Gerald’s creatures has even become a part of the language: the Nerd!

Here is the Amazon.com Review of If I Ran the Zoo:

“It’s a pretty good zoo,” said young Gerald McGrew, “and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too.” But if Gerald ran the zoo, the New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, he’d see to making a change or two: “So I’d open each cage. I’d unlock every pen, let the animals go, and start over again.” And that’s just what Gerald imagines, as he travels the world in this playfully illustrated Dr. Seuss classic (first published back in 1950), collecting all sorts of beasts “that you don’t see every day.” From the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant to the blistering sands of the Desert of Zind, Gerald hunts down every animal imaginable (“I’ll catch ’em in countries no one can spell, like the country of Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell”). Whether it’s a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny or a wild-haired Iota (from “the far western part of south-east North Dakota”), Gerald amazes the world with his new and improved zoo: “This Zoo Keeper, New Keeper’s simply astounding! He travels so far that you think he would drop! When do you suppose this young fellow will stop?”

But Gerald’s weird and wonderful globe-trotting safari doesn’t end a moment too soon: “young McGrew’s made his mark. He’s built a zoo better than Noah’s whole Ark!” Some of the text and illustrations–imaginative as they are–are obviously dated, such as the following passage: “I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant/ With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant,/ And capture a fine fluffy bird called the Bustard/ Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard.” And your children may be the first to recognize that attitudes have changed since the xenophobic ’50s. But that doesn’t mean this tale need be discarded; instead, it should be discussed. Ironically, Seuss was trying here–in his wild, explosive, and sometimes careless manner–to celebrate the joys of unconventionality and the bliss of liberation! (Ages 4 to 8)

PG has gone on for too long, but he predicts that, in the long-standing tradition of human nature, one hundred years in the future, someone, somewhere will be loudly condemning the unforgiveable insensitivity and primitive stupidity of the clods and Neanderthals of 2021.

24 thoughts on “6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published anymore because they portray people in ‘hurtful and wrong’ ways”

  1. Dr Seuss currently holds the top seven places in the Amazon Best Seller list. Then we have Jordan Peterson at #8, followed by Dr Seuss through #12. He then controls through #30 with a few others sprinkled in.

    I can’t recall this kind of dominance by any other author.

    • Sounds like folks are stocking up on Seuss to tide them over until the hysteria fades.
      It’s like SONG OF THE SOUTH’s secret popularity.

    • The reason I make this comment is because in most cases the problematic bits are both obvious and easy to fix. Do a little click-through to see what’s being complained about. Rendering blacks as naked savages in grass skirts. Chinese as walking on clogs holding rice bowls, chopsticks and wearing a coolie hat. It’s perfectly reasonable to go back in and take out the specific images or verses that are objected to, and would be easy enough to do without all this controversy.

      • Dave, there are complicated issues relating to the estate and company-governance directives that may be in the way. My understanding — and it’s second-hand, from a reliable source who also has to maintain confidentiality — is that only full derivative works of previously published books may be prepared or authorized, per Geisel’s estate plan and the founding documents of the LLC (which was established pursuant to the estate plan, making it much harder to change them). From what was explained to me a decade and a half ago, the minimal alterations you describe are barred… and a wholesale revision would create trademark-law problems in a way that they wouldn’t for most authors/authorial estates.

    • And, yet, funnily enough, categorizing a whole culture, of people who are more rural and less impressed by paper credentials, as Neanderthals, is ‘perfectly acceptable’.

      Gee, I wonder why they don’t seem all that concerned or shocked about that ‘bigger picture’.

      Perhaps because that ‘bigger picture’ is awfully convenient. For once, the Elite and Entitled (trademark pending) give a whit about Asians being insulted. As long as they can blame a less-favored group for it.

  2. Fine. Pull the books off Amazon and eBay. I can already find pirated copies on the web.

    How long before they pull Mein Kampf or The Story of O?

    Or the Bible?

    As of right now, my local library is not going to pull the books but is seriously considering putting them in the special collections to keep them from being stolen. All copies are checked out right now. I’ve been told that OverDrive has pulled them but I haven’t confirmed it.

    Lord, what a bunch of idiots telling us what to think.

    • Mein Kampf is safe. It doesn’t take much to see it as a horrible mess. Just about anyone can do that. But only the morally and socially sophisticated have the keen intellect necessary to see through the fog of Dr Seuss.

    • I don’t think Mein Kampf will ever be pulled from Amazon. All the royalties earned go directly to organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, so something associated with evil is being used for good.

      • Is it still under copyright? Last I read the copyright was owned by one of the German states. But anything written in the 1920s should be fair game now.

    • Also consider whether publishers/agents will ever take certain kinds of book proposals again. Or certain authors. “This is too much trouble, because one person will complain to Target and get the book delisted and then I’ll lose my investment.”

      People keep talking about this as if the real story is “some books won’t be sold by a retailer.” But that was just the beginning. “The publisher deciding to not even make these stories available” is a symptom of the real rot, and it’s going to get worse.

      And indie publishing isn’t going to save anything so long as it relies on infrastructure owned by people who’ll cave to a mob.

      • The solution they’ll get is “back to the 50’s” andnot just the covers.
        Appropriation? No mention of minority cultures.
        Misrepresentation of ethnicities? No ethnicities. No physical descriptions. No culturally identifiable names.
        Maybe a trigger warning: “This story is not about you or any person or culture you might know. It’s not even meant for you. If you buy it you’re on your own.”

        As things are headed they’re moving from cancelling individial authors to cancelling entire genres. Humor’s alrrady gone. It’s a toss-up which goes next, SF or Romance. One expects you to think, the other expects you to have empathy. Both are offensive to cancellers, since they’re incapable of both.

      • Agreed. Banning Dr. Seuss for being culturally insensitive on matters people agree are insensitive, is just a prelude to banning people for things a select minority wishes to get rid of under the guise of claiming they’re offensive.

        • That is already happening.
          Has been for a while, just to less established authors.
          No protection for big names.
          Right now there’s no doubt a concerted effort to take down a bigger, more recent name.
          Patterson had better watch out.

          • Stephen King is also a good bet. In the past he’s been criticized for the “magic Negro” trope, and the “magic Down Syndrome child” trope. I’m guessing Patterson’s sin is being white while Alex Cross is black? I only read the one book of his.

            • Yup.
              Plus by today’s standards, Cross is an Oreo, straight, and monogamous. Plus he’d never call for defunding the police or releasing drug users and trafickers.
              People have gone though multiple books without noticing Cross is black.

              Bad, Cross. Bad, bad, bad.

  3. I was in Wal-Mart today and I noticed the Dr. Seuss kiosk had several empty slots where I suspect those books were. None of those books were in the empty cubby holes. My mother intends to buy all of the Dr. Seuss books she can.

    You would think that a little judicious changing of artwork and wording would be enough.

    They did it with Nancy Drew. There’s a difference between the 1930s era Nancy Drew books and the 1950’s era Nancy Drew books. Sometimes it’s just small vocabulary changes, e.g., in the 30s her car is a maroon roadster, and in the 50s her car is called a convertible, and it’s blue. They altered the covers so you couldn’t tell how long or short her skirts were, so her appeal wouldn’t be influenced by which length is “in.” Other times, they made content changes. I once read that the editors changed her from getting snarky or rude to a black character and an Asian Indian character. I thought such changes were always made to kids’ books to keep them current.

    Also, these people are not merely idiots. They’re insidious. Disney put warnings on “The Muppets” for crying out loud. I once said that in the future everyone was going to get canceled for 15 minutes. However, I failed to take into account that the religion of cancel culture warriors does not have the feature of forgiving, or forgetting, or redemption. The preference of these barbarians is to utterly destroy their victims. That said, I find it hilarious when their rules are used against them. The only way to deal with bullies is to punch them back, twice as hard.

  4. I heard an article on NPR that said he later regretted those books and the hurtful language. As a German American growing up during/around WW1 he took a lot of cruel teasing, and when he realized he’d written the stereotypes himself he was … I don’t recall them saying ashamed, but definitely regretful. His audience was white children, and he hadn’t thought about the reactions of others.

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