No, Dr. Seuss is not being canceled


Asyah Zamani

Dr. Seuss is a well-known author of children’s books, with his first being published in 1937. After controversy revolving around some of his older books, six of them will no longer be published.

If you’ve been following news and social media over the last week, you have without a doubt seen several stories about how the books of the beloved children’s author Theodore Geisel, more publicly known as Dr. Seuss is being “canceled.”
In most cases, you’ll probably see it paired with an image of one of his most notable books, such as “The Cat in the Hat” or “Green Eggs and Ham.” What many of these people aren’t telling you is how these aren’t actually the stories being removed from publication. Instead, it’s books like “If I Ran the Zoo,” and “On Beyond Zebra!”
Chances are most people who aren’t massive Dr. Seuss fans haven’t picked up these books, and in many cases wouldn’t have heard about them until this last week. For those who have, you may be able to understand why Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the organization that owns the media rights to his books, may want to distance themselves from these titles.
“To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’, ‘If I Ran the Zoo’, ‘McElligot’s Pool’, ‘On Beyond Zebra!’, ‘Scrambled Eggs Super!’, and ‘The Cat’s Quizzer’. These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the organization said in an official statement on March 2.
The reaction to this decision is yet another case of several reactionary figures and groups trying to progress their personal crusades against “cancel culture.” And as with many of these cases, the motivation is less about discussing the issue and more about starting a fight for the sake of it.
For those not aware of the term, “cancel culture” is used to refer to when someone is outed from a public or professional circle via public ostracism. The term has become a buzzword among many circles, often used when a person or figure is criticized in any way for comments or actions.
These portrayals generally fall into stereotypical imagery of various ethnicities or the use of antiquated language in reference to these groups, such as phrases like “Chinaman” and Eskimo.”
It should be noted that Dr. Seuss Enterprises aren’t the only group to do this. Warner Brothers has famously ceased syndication of 11 of their shorts, colloquially known as “The Censored Eleven,” back in 1968, having only been officially shown once since then.
Another claim that’s been circulating, that Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools has banned the authors books, is also outright false. In reality, the school district and several others across the country have been trying to diversify the focus of the annual Read Across America event, which has traditionally focused primarily on the works of Dr. Seuss.
The people outcrying the “cancellation” of these books and their author are at best acting in a reactionary manner without any research, and at worst intentionally trying to obfuscate the original intention of these actions; to confront the less palatable works and ideas of a beloved author.
What makes it more galling is the hypocrisy of many of the people and organizations pushing this narrative of “cancellation” and “over-reacting.”
If you want some evidence you can look no further than Fox news. Over the last week a significant amount of their programming has been dedicated to calling out the “cancelling” of Dr. Seuss. Such wonderful guests as Tomi Lahren and Donald Trump Jr., both well respected literary critics, have been presented to call out the banning of books that aren’t being banned.
This is quite a turn from how the program felt about the authors work when the movie adaptation of “The Lorax” was released in 2012. Former hosts Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, are two notable examples of this.
For his part, O’Reilly was critical of the film for “providing a green message to children,” with extra emphasis on the word “children.” Dobbs claimed the Lorax and another film that came out around that time, “The Secret Life of Arrietty,” as demonizing the 1% and supporting green energy policies.
Ultimately, what a lot of these figures and programs are interested in isn’t to “protect” works of literature or other works. It’s about perpetuating a culture war in which they are determined to view themselves as some kind of heroic underdog.
While there is certainly value in discussing these ideas, that’s not what a lot of these arguments are meant to do. Instead, it’s an attempt by those who feel attacked by “woke culture” trying to astroturf the conversation with misdirection and misinformation.
So no, Dr. Seuss has not been cancelled, banned or being lined up for the bonfire. Instead, the aspects of his work and views that we as a society may not feel comfortable discussing are finally starting to be confronted, something very important for literature as a whole.