"Fuck Those Dr. Seuss Books" and Other Proper Responses to the Fake "Cancel Culture" Bullshit

As an honest-to-goodness professor of the literary arts, I have seen your "cancel culture" bullshit so many times before that it's honestly fucking laughable. I can remember sitting next to a renowned Shakespeare scholar as I argued that a course in ol' Bill shouldn't be required of English majors. His face got red as he sputtered, "What do you mean? You think someone deserves a degree in literature without reading Shakespeare?" I said I did and that we needed to get away from such prescriptive ways of thinking about literature and the canon and more. 

This was in the midst of the late 1980s and early 1990s upheaval in my field over what students ought to read. See, all of a sudden, we were supplanting white male writers with women and people of color, cutting down on the number of Europeans while adding Asians, Africans, and South Americans, and allowing gay and lesbian authors their proper credit. The gatekeepers of the literary world were aghast. It was "political correctness" run amok. Fucking books were written about it. "Tenured Radicals," as one hysterical tome put it, were destroying the foundations of Western Civilization by daring to say that the works of dead white men might not be the only lens with which to view the world. This shit was everywhere, on TV news networks, in Congress, in the presidential race, how "political correctness" was wrecking the joint like a black lesbian feminist Godzilla devouring the canon and setting fire to the Ivory Tower.

Now, it all seems so fucking dumb. I don't think students could imagine an education in literature that privileges white male authors entirely over, say, Toni Morrison or Sylvia Plath or James Baldwin. And most students will end up reading Shakespeare because, you know, he's just hard to escape no matter how hard we might try. But the point here is that after hyperventilating that there was only one way to properly learn the humanities, most of academia adjusted and, indeed, embraced this blowing a hole in the wall of racist and sexist bullshit surrounding the precious subject matter. Now, you're an outlier if you think we should go back to a Great Books as Defined by Crusty Pale Fuckers. 

So this whole "cancel culture" thing is so fucking dumb and it's just another way that conservatives are exploiting the ignorance of their voters. So what if there's a warning in front of a couple of episodes of The Muppet Show to indicate that it's fucked up that Johnny Cash sang in front of a Confederate flag or that Spike Milligan did yellow face and fake Chinese voice. So what if the packaging for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head went unisex? You can still put high-heeled shoes and a mustache on your plastic potato, just like you could before. And, really, truly, fuck those Dr. Seuss books. How is it not a problem that the books contain racist images? Let's stop acting like there aren't a million other books that are just as good that don't have crazy Arabs or weird indigenous Alaskans. Besides, you're not losing your Horton or Lorax or Grinch. Your childhood is protected, so you can stop being an asshole because (checks notes) the Seuss estate pulled the books out of publication.

The point here, of course, is not that some conservative dicks are upset that liberals believe things. That's been the story since forever. No, what we're seeing here is the distraction, the thing that makes you forget you the GOP really is. Remember that Republicans don't give a fuck about appealing to people through Ideas That Might Make Their Lives Better. No, they prefer the Shit That Makes Idiots Mad and Fuck Your Voting Rights approaches. The vaccine program is a big success? The COVID bailout prevents the nation from being economically fucked by the pandemic? Oh, fuck, what's a scummy GOP fucknut going to do? Time to cue up the culture wars, motherfuckers. "Yes, it's true that Republicans supported policies that flat out murdered hundreds of thousands of people, but, hey, look, Kermit's nuts are being cut off by Cancel Culture and AOC," they'll say and that'll be dutifully re-vomited by right-wing media led by Tucker Carlson's one-mustache-short-of-a-Fuhrer face.

This becomes the same-sex marriage or anti-abortion initiatives on ballots that distract people from voting for Democrats. Yeah, we've been through this before. In fact, every fucking time now with Republicans, who would rather toss shit than discuss an issue honestly. Or, these days, rather than talk about the same reality.

In so many cases, "cancel culture" just means "Oh, shit, they caught us" to the people who got caught. And they're pissed that now that they're caught, they can't just be white people who, say, casually use the n-word. Like, well, the Republican Party.

(Note: By the way, back in the late 1960s, Warner Brothers made sure that no one would see the ultra-racist cartoons they used to produce. So they got rid of the grotesque Black people, the hideous Asians, but, oddly, not Speedy Gonzales until recently. And now, no one even cares about them except out of perverse curiosity. We don't think twice about it. If that happened now, the Proud Boys would be attacking Bugs Bunny.)

(Note: There are more complex examples of different works being updated or recontextualized than the ones noted up there. We should be having a hell of a discussion about how we talk about Washington, Lincoln, and especially Jefferson.  We might argue about whether the racist depictions of Native Americans in the Little House on the Prairie books make them unsuitable for younger readers. Sometimes we may end up disagreeing and never figuring it out, like with Huckleberry Finn. And fuck the idea that you let it go because "it was fine" back in the day. That's not a free pass. You should read some of the shit included in old anthologies of American literature. Shit changes. Change with it.)