WHO Is Dr. Seuss and What Should His Story Teach Kids?

14 03 2008

Good ol’ Dr. Seuss, political pied piper indoctrinating children and their parents through classic picture books and rhymes —

The Hollywood premiere of the children’s movie ‘Horton Hears A Who’ was turned into a political protest yesterday when a group of pro-life activists crashed the event to campaign against abortion. . .shouting the message of the film.

(This is a “message” film?)
“After all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

So if that’s the main message of the film, the sing-song message Dr. Seuss meant to teach with his wildly popular kids’ books, then anyone crashing the premiere in protest, must’ve been, um, protesting against that message?

To teach the small, happy, who-like yet real-life children gathered there a Grown-up Life Lesson, these uninvited, unhappy moral exemplars put red tape labeled with the word “LIFE” over their mouths, and paraded through the theatre.

If stranger danger had been the Lesson, we might have to score this demonstration as effective. That wasn’t the intended message, though.

And as a lesson, whatever it was meant to teach, it wasn’t as poetic as Dr.Seuss nor particularly easy to read, even for grownups capable of critical thinking about complex issues and competing ideology — does open protest with a taped-shut mouth mean freedom or fear, speech or silence, choice or not?

Exploit real-live boys and girls to save theoretical, potential boys and girls. Specks are real children, you know, and real children are specks — a “circle of life” story definitely not for children in any form, imo. (Some might even call it a wicked, demoralizing, dehumanizing message for any age.)

OTOH the protest while incoherent, was not quite as deliberately day-spoiling and shocking to the sensibilities of innocent kids out to enjoy a fun movie premiere, as it could have been made [shudder]:

I guess I could at least commend the protestors for keeping the demonstration PG. At least they were considerate enough to not scare the hell out of children even further by carrying elaborate crucifixes and gigantic banners depicting aborted fetuses.

Kay and I blogged this theme from different perspectives last year:
“Doctor Seuss, Doctor JJ and Power of Story for Life At the Highest Levels of Government” and it turns out we were way late to the party; organized anti-abortion protesters (absent any payment or legal right to it) snatched this creative property for their own use and printed it up on their organizational stationery, back when Dr. Seuss was alive to protest THEM, to demand they stop and threaten to sue.

Has outright theft of intellectual property somehow evolved into free speech for constitutionally protected protest — or does it remain one of Ten Shalt Nots in that other popular message book?

If freedom is oppression, obedience is lawbreaking, entertainment is indoctrination, protest is support, depending on Who is telling the story to Who-m and why, isn’t that the same moral relativism moral protesters usually protest?

Is our real enemy anyone Who disrespects Dr. Seuss as a sovereign individual in charge of his own stories, thoughts, beliefs and meanings? — because if they won’t respect his, they’ll likely trample my personal meanings and stories, and my kids’ too.

Any-“who” — the message I see in all this is that Kay and I were just bit players in an ongoing real-life world-view war.

But then I got to thinking that homeschoolers probably could unite to protest against a message in this book and movie: Beware the Sour Kangaroo!

She captures exactly the control-freak nature that’s not only suppressing the development of her son (still in the pouch, years after he should be out hopping around on his own), it’s preventing her from getting much out of her own life.

If you’re a homeschooling mom, you know this storyline by heart, sigh. We are overprotective, stunting our kids and sacrificing ourselves, when we really should go out and get a job, contribute to the economy, just let the Village raise the kids (to be Village Idiots, I suppose). . .

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11 responses

14 03 2008
JJ

I wrote and posted all this before I saw in a newspaper review that the Sour Kangaroo is actually HOMESCHOOLING in the movie! LOL – great minds think alike, or cynical ones anyway . . .

14 03 2008
Nance Confer

Dizzyingly incoherent. That’s how these “protestors” come across.

But the plan is to just wait until some author or other is dead and then you can say he meant what you mean all along? No matter what he said when he was alive? Or he just doesn’t matter? That your message is more important than anyone or anything else?

Certainly the children in the audience didn’t matter. . .

Nance

14 03 2008
JJ

Makes a heck of a prima facie case for the need to teach every child critical thinking skills and scientific inquiry, doesn’t it?
These folks obviously fell through a whole bunch of educational cracks, on their heads! 😉

14 03 2008
JJ

Hey, the Salon review ought to put the religious fringe in its place. 🙂

The film is no overcaffeinated Narnia-like religious allegory, though. Horton and the mayor aren’t hearing things. When the burden of proof falls to each of them, they scramble to produce hard evidence.

And it’s a nice touch, one not in the original story, that the first person to believe the mayor is a scientist.

“Horton” may owe a debt to the notion of childlike belief, but any movie that fills Whoville with ladders that look like DNA strands and shows sound waves pulsing through the atmosphere is a movie that celebrates reason.

It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s from the creators of the “Ice Age” films, which gave pretty wide latitude to Darwinism. It’s not about faith, really.

14 03 2008
Nance Confer

“…a movie that celebrates reason.”

Well, at least we know what they were protesting now. 🙂

Nance

14 03 2008
JJ

ROFL!

14 03 2008
JJ

Thanks for the link, Valerie. 🙂

23 03 2008
Let’s Play “Lose Ben Stein’s Movie” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] of police power will be decried or defended, by those who characterize as “free speech” what the anti-abortion party-crashers did at the Dr. Seuss movie premiere? Did they have the absolute right not only to attend but to disrupt through ideological protest, to […]

27 02 2009
Cocking A Snook!

[…] readers voted for plenty of Terry Pratchett and children’s book specialist Roald Dahl (but no Dr. Seuss??) while Jane Austen was put in her place! . . .OTOH, Shakespeare and Margaret Atwood aren’t […]

31 08 2009
More T-Shirts and Dress Message Stories, From Stupid to Dead Serious This Time « Cocking A Snook!

[…] (Except if you read all the way to this point, you get extra credit for reading and thinking about this.) […]

20 02 2011
Update on Alaska as Reality Show Culture « Cocking A Snook!

[…] I’ve been known to wonder what the heck goes on in Minnesota as a political metaphor, and our own state of Florida is a literal carnival of crazy when it comes to public affairs. [I]n Minnesota, home of Pharyngula-famed PZ Myers. . . PZ himself was blacklisted, police on high alert to enforce his, ahem, “expulsion” from this supposedly scientific, open-inquiry teaching of the controversy. Which they literally did, on threat of his arrest — wonder if such ideological use of police power will be decried or defended, by those who characterize as “free speech” what the anti-abortion party-crashers did at the Dr. Seuss movie premiere? […]

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