Dr. Seuss pulls 6 titles due to insensitivity and racism

Originally published at: Dr. Seuss pulls 6 titles due to insensitivity | Boing Boing


i can already imagine the Right wailing about “cancel culture,” but since this is something the Seuss people are doing voluntarily, is it really cancelling? i am not familiar with all the titles and i can’t even remember anything particularly insensitive from the ones i do know, so i’m curious what they are referring to. in my defense, i was probably single-digit old the last time i read the titles i do recognize, haha.


When they start wailing, pass them one of these:


I really don’t see it… what the fuss is about?


Not a perfect solution, but how do people feel about having a character redrawn by a capable style-impersonator, since it would better preserve the book than puling it completely? In the case of Mulberry Street, it’s just one racial Chinese stereotype that appears (I think) once and is basically just decoration not important to the story. As long as a publisher kept easily accessible records of old versions accessible via their webpage to adults doing a thesis, etc, it’s not erasing history, then there’s no particular need to reinforce outdated stereotypes on toddlers.


ahhhh, you know, that rings a bell. as a person of asian descent, i got picked on for my eyes when i was in grade school, so i’m kinda sensitive to those racist stereotypes – i had forgotten about that in that book.


Here’s a good post from the Nashville Public Library that includes the offensive images from If I Ran The Zoo and some others: Tackling Racism in Childrens Books: Conversations in Seussland

TL;DR: yeah, it’s pretty bad


Thanks. That’s the only title on the list I remembered, but I’d forgotten what the offensive part was. I’m wondering if the incidental character could be removed while preserving an otherwise delightful story.

I don’t think Geisel would have minded. While he was a product of his times in regard to the casual racism in his art, he was also a progressive and a zealous anti-fascist.


Ah, ya that’s not so good.


Like most popular illustrators of his day, Seuss produced a lot of political propaganda and political cartoons, and some of his anti-Chinese pieces are pretty shocking, though the imagery was just built on the stereotypical portrayals of Chinese people that were prevalent in all American political publications. That a few of those caricatures found their way into his children’s books is unfortunate, but not entirely surprising.

I can tell you that those same right-wing gnashes-of-teeth that have already begun complaining about “cancelling” Dr. Suess are going to be surprised when they find the work he did lambasting the Nationalist movements of his day. He pulled no punches regarding his belief that there was no measurable difference between the contemporary “America First” movement, fascism, and the Nazis.


By pieces, do you merely mean illustrations? I thought he was out of the propaganda game by the time the US became perturbed by China.


Reading through the linked article, it looks like even within his lifetime he regretted and even modified some of the offensive depictions in his books. The bit in Mulberry Street that’s getting it discontinued is already a second revision – the earlier version referred to and depicted the Chinese gentleman as “yellow-faced,” and Geisel redrew and rewrote that bit in the 1980s, along with adjustments to other books. So if it could be done tastefully and without modifying the book too much, it sounds like he would totally support revising it to keep it in print.

Looking at some of the cringe-worthy illustrations in “If I Ran The Circus,” though, a few of his books may be outside of the realm of “things you can tweak a bit.”


Geisel’s interwar and wartime political cartoons and propaganda work mostly contained offensive portrayals of Japanese people. The Chinese stereotypes emerged more from casual racism and didn’t have a political end.


I’m still cheesed at Dr. Seuss Enterprises for blocking Oh the Places You’ll Boldly Go from being published and ticked at the courts for siding with them.

I don’t have any strong feelings about them removing six of Geisel’s original books from publication, at least not those six as I haven’t ever read them. I like the idea of contemporary artists editing them, but I fear the estate would sue like it did over the Star Trek mashup.


That was my thought as well. I don’t think there were any extended portrayals of China or Chinese people anywhere in his work, but Japanese…


Wonder if they are as traumatic as my favourite childhood book:


Hmmm I got a huge set of these books before I even had kids and read them to my kiddo at night. I think we have the first two on the list, but I don’t really remember them. “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew” was my favorite one to read. I think “The Sneetches” and “Myrtle the Turtle and other stories” were more common. Oh and “Green Eggs an Ham”. If they have old, bad stereotypes, maybe best to keep them on the shelf. Or, possibly, update them.


I would imagine the idea is that the estate is the one to hire the contemporary artist to do the edits and then they release the edited version.


I wish some Prime Animator of the Universe would just reach down and pull my cell off the screen like the Simpsons did with Poochey.