A lot of people are confused and a bit angry about Potato Head and the Dr. Seuss books. Reactions and emotions run the gambit from palpable anger to bewilderment. So how can a plastic toy and some children’s books cause so much controversy?
In case you haven’t heard, Hasbro, the maker of what
was once is called Mr. Potato Head (and there is a Mrs. by the way), decided to drop both the Mr. and Mrs. Their stated objective was to have a toy which was more inclusive. This announcement of course set off a firestorm across the globe, with many claiming this move was ‘absurd,’ ‘ridiculous’ and ‘divisive.” Many asked why Hasbro would do this, considering there was both a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, so how much more inclusive can it be?
Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. – AP News
Ah, but wait…
So emotions ran high and the news media and social media were pulsing with people expressing displeasure and others conveying approval. But as is usually the case these days, there was more to the story:
But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that while the brand is changing, the actual Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top.
“While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. – AP News
So as it turns out, all the hoopla was misplaced. But you know what? It was misplaced from the get-go. This is after all, a plastic toy we’re talking about. The world doesn’t have enough to worry about without going into utter turmoil over a plastic toy? Child hunger isn’t more important? How about the environment? And gee…what about the global pandemic? So people rushed to judgement and got into arguments over Hasbro’s decision and they didn’t even have the full story. Once again, people tweeted and posted their outrage that a child’s toy was the latest victim in…well, I’m not exactly sure in what? But the anger and accusations flew and they didn’t even have the full story. Yet again, misinformation was spread across the media(s) and once again, people didn’t do their own research and as per usual, they got the wrong end of the stick.
Then came the news that the estate of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) would cease publishing 6 of his books:
But some aspects of Seuss’s work have not aged well, including his debut, which features a crude racial stereotype of an Asian man with slanted lines for eyes. “Mulberry Street” was one of six of his books that the Seuss estate said it would stop selling this week, after concluding that the egregious racial and ethnic stereotypes in the works “are hurtful and wrong.”
The announcement seemed to drive a surge of support for Seuss classics. Dozens of his books shot to the top of Amazon’s print best-seller list; on Thursday morning, nine of the site’s top 10 best sellers were Seuss books.
The estate’s decision — which prompted breathless headlines on cable news and complaints about “cancel culture” from prominent conservatives — represents a dramatic step to update and curate Seuss’s body of work, acknowledging and rejecting some of his views while seeking to protect his brand and appeal. It also raises questions about whether and how an author’s works should be posthumously curated to reflect evolving social attitudes, and what should be preserved as part of the cultural record. – The New York Times
This decision by the author’s estate led to immediate cries of “cancel culture” and some, getting it totally wrong, started raging across social media that President Biden and Democrats were to blame. Huh? Nothing could be further from the truth — this was the family foundation making the decision and has nothing to do with politics or politicians, just as they had nothing to do with Hasbro’s decision about the plastic Potato toy’s gender.
Getting it wrong again…
Its clear a lot of people just don’t read or listen any longer. How else do you explain that in both instances, the stories about Potato Head and Dr. Seuss’s books were so thoroughly twisted:
A leading expert on racism in children’s literature has said the decision by the Dr Seuss Foundation to withdraw six books should be viewed as a “product recall” and not, as many claim, an example of cancel culture.
Philip Nel, a professor of English at Kansas State University, is the author of Was The Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books. He told the Guardian the six titles by Theodor Geisel, who wrote under the pen name Dr Seuss, published between 1937 and 1976, which Dr Seuss Enterprises said it would cease printing, contained stereotypes of a clearly racist nature.
“Dr Seuss Enterprises has made a moral decision of choosing not to profit from work with racist caricature in it and they have taken responsibility for the art they are putting into the world and I would support that,” Nel said. – The Guardian
So Potato Head isn’t going away and in fact, the Mr. and Mrs. are staying. And Joe Biden didn’t pull the Dr. Seuss books, nor did Nancy Pelosi. The books were “pulled” by the family and that’s their decision. But we had people raging all across social media that “cancel culture” murdered Mr. Potato Head and that all Dr. Seuss books were being pulled…I think some even claimed they were being burned, which just shows you how frightening the angry and usually ill-informed mob can be.
This is what we’re focused on?
It’s a toy! They’re books and they’re not going anywhere! But this is what some are so concerned over? And if certain people are so concerned over these “changes,” you’d think they could at least get the facts straight before spreading lies and half-truths. But, they don’t. They hear only part of the story and then they add in their own twisted bias and proceed to spread it over social media — and by the end of the day, the real story has been so corrupted, people probably thought that Mr. Potato Head and been shot dead by his wife, Mrs. Potato. It’s really gotten beyond alarming.
We have children who have no shoes…in this country. We have children starving to death. We have crime, substance abuse, climate crisis, global pandemic, war, corruption…and people are shattering what peace and harmony that remains in this world by having a meltdown over a toy and 6 children’s books? Are you kidding me?
Why this should upset us all
- The outrage some people felt over these two stories is misplaced. We have much more to worry about in our world and until we put our focus on what is really important, we will continue having to deal with the true horrors and injustices of our world
- That people spread the story incorrectly should concern us all. Are they only reading headlines and then adding their own spin and spreading out the misinformation across social media? It looks that way. We all need to do a better job at doing some fact checking before we “share” a news story.
- Cancel culture? Hardly. The truth is, people are hypocritical — some things are so offensive to others that they need to be changed or done away with. Its funny, the people who are always screaming “cancel culture” are the first ones to explode if something they don’t like isn’t canceled/removed. Can’t have it both ways.
- Peace and positivity. We can’t have it unless we all calm down, put things into their proper perspective and have a fair-minded approach to life. The “do as I say, not as I do” approach never works.