Monday, January 18, 2010

Horton vs. Roe vs. Wade

Anyone who's ever spent time with a kid should worship Dr Seuss. I do. No other children's author has every quite matched Seuss for style; the guy has a back catalogue of over 60 books, and the 222 million copies sold are jam-packed with some of the most original and bizarre characters and stories every created, which not only entertain children, but teach them to read, act as a diction trainer and impart gentle moral lessons - and all without ever sounding preachy or boring. Seuss (actually born Theodor Seuss Geisel) gave up the twin worlds of Preachy and Boring when he decided to throw in the towel as a political cartoonist, and start writing and drawing for an audience who might actually, well... learn something.

Some of the lessons sink in early, such as; try new things, you might like them (Green Eggs and Ham); and sometimes the best thing to be is yourself (I Wish That I Had Duck Feet).

Others come quietly in their wake. Protect the trees (The Lorax); and don't judge people who look different from you (The Sneetches). Seuss didn't stop at environmentalism and race-relations. He railed against materialism in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, against fascism in Yertle the Turtle*, and provided some fairly unclear advice to young boys in Oh! The Places You'll Go! with regards to staying focused despite getting "mixed up with many strange birds".
And then, there's Horton Hears A Who! ** Purportedly, it's about internationalism, and the importance of reaching out to other cultures (OK fine, it's about a giant sky-elephant and a talking kangaroo). And then, you have your factions who've managed to pull Dr Seuss into the abortion debate.
There are so many things wrong with that sentence. For one, the debate's basically been over for a couple decades***. And, oh yeah, for two: Some jerk actually got Dr Seuss involved in this shite. On what basis, you may ask? Two little lines;

... although you can't see them or hear them at all,
A person's a person, no matter how small.

Let's get this straight; when Horton the Elephant uttered those words, he was referring to tiny little people living on a speck on a flower. Seuss was generally pretty clear about the messages in his works. In comparison to the Lorax, who came straight out and said; I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues, there's a notable absence of fetal advocacy here. Even Seuss, the great envelope-pusher, can't be accused of sufficent bad taste as to use children's books as a medium for brainwashing kids about the evils of abortion.
Seuss actually disapproved thorougly of his work being co-opted in this manner, and his widow has in recent years threatened to sue several anti-choice protest groups for having the audacity to reprint the phrases on their stationery****. Undeterred by this very clear message, the protesters used the L.A. premiere of the film version of Horton as a picketing ground.

Without dwelling upon the seeming lack of logic in picketing what they believe to be a pro-life film, or the total lack of style involved in raising abortion at the premiere of a children's movie, there's a beautiful irony here. If you had have asked me, I'd have said that Horton is all about waking up to the world around you - something these guys seem not to have done for a long, long time.

* As Lisa Simpson put it, "possibly the finest book ever written on the subject of turtle-stacking". For more on turtle-stacking, see:

** Seriously, what is with this guy and ending his book titles with an exclamation point? Paging Elaine Benes!

*** Yes, it fucking well is. Anti-choice protesters are just kidding themselves.
**** Oddly enough, she didn't try to sue the Australian organisation Doctors for Forest for their use of The Lorax in promoting environmental awareness. Maybe that's because the book is... um... actually about saving trees?

1 comment:

  1. Ah, quote mining; the industry du jour for pro-lifers, young Earth creationists and every other religious ratbag with an indefensible, unsupported bullshit opinion.

    Seriously, these guys should form a guild or something.
    "Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It's off to shamelessly twist the words of someone who opposes our stance we go!"*

    *I've used more exclamation points in that last sentence than I have in the past six months. Those things are bloody contagious! Arrgh! I did it again! Arrrgh! And again....