June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As a humor columnist, you have to write about certain things that come up, whether you want to or not—or no one will let you hear the end of it.

The first is the recent story about Dr. Seuss Enterprises taking six of his books out of production because they contain, quote, “racist and insensitive imagery.”

Now this one came as a complete surprise. Most of us, when we think about Dr. Seuss books, don’t think about racism. We think of easy books to read to our kids until we get to the part where he makes up a word.

True, most of his made-up words sound like racial epithets: Sneetches, Fiffer Feffer Feff, Nizzards, Fuddnuddlers, and I can’t be the only Yid who can’t read “The Zax,” without picturing someone I know named Zaks.

But we’re talking about racism specifically. Perhaps things that were not intended to be racist, but that don’t conform to modern sensibilities.

Sure, you might think, “What’s the big deal?” But some Asian parents, for example, are reading this book to their kids, and they say a line like “I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant, with helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant,” and then there’s an awkward silent moment while everyone in the room gets to process this, before the kid goes, “What?”

The point is that your kids should not have to learn about racism like this, this early in life. They should learn about racism later in life, through horrible personal experiences. Like everyone else.

And anyway, for any one of you readers who has a problem with this, realize that as Yidden, we’re not strangers to canceling people that are racist, such as the mitzvos not to live in Mitzrayim anymore after that one time, and not to buy German cars.

I feel like most of the people who are protesting this are thinking, “Well, if they ban these books, what’s next?”

I want them to ban “Hop on Pop.” Let’s not give the kids any ideas. And why is Pop fat?

It’s not like all his books are going away. It’s six, out of 50. The other books are still around—“The Cat in the Hat,” “Fox in Socks”… What is this obsession with children’s book characters that wear one item of clothing? The man in the yellow hat… No, not that one.

Also, technically, the books aren’t being banned. It’s just a decision by the publisher to no longer sell them. Honestly, it’s weird that they were still selling a book that was printed in 1937. How many other books from 1937 are still on the market?

Also, had you actually read any of these six books before this? I’ll be honest: I hadn’t.

My point is that the government didn’t mandate this. It really sounds like a marketing ploy—we have all these 80-year-old books that no one was reading, and now suddenly everyone’s curious as to why they’re being pulled. The publishers are pulling a book called, “If I Ran the Zoo” for being racist, and everyone’s wondering, “Um… What is in this zoo?”

And speaking of marketing ploys masquerading as inclusivity, we have the story of Mr. Potato Head.

“What possible inclusivity problems can people be having with Mr. Potato Head?” you’re asking.

Well, they’re taking out the “Mr.” It’s just going to be “Potato Head.”

And of course people are upset about this one, because potatoes should be girls and boys, the way the Ribbono Shel Olam intended.

“There is no gender! You’re putting clothes on a potato!”

“Yeah, but this one’s a man. Because I put man clothes on it.”

“OK, so then your treadmill’s a man.”

But people are like, “What are they going to remove next? Is Manhattan just going to be Hattan? Are manners just going to be ners? And what about manicures? And mannequins? And maniacs?

Don’t be ridiculous. But I definitely would worry about Mr. Clean. Before long, lobbyists will be asking, “What, only men can clean? Women can’t clean?”

I don’t agree with that. I’m inclusive. Women can clean, too.

Anyway, according to the senior vice president at Hasbro, Kimberly Boyd, “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences.”

See, apparently, girls for example weren’t relating. Because let’s say you’re a girl, and you’re attempting to play with Mr. Potato Head, you’re like, “But here’s the problem: I don’t see myself as this Potato Head.” Whereas your brothers are like, “I totally see myself as this Potato Head!”

But from a marketing standpoint, it’s genius. They’re going to sell so many toys to people on both sides who think they’re voting with their wallets. Nobody was writing in to complain about Mr. Potato Head. I have to believe in that. I believe people have some kind of brain in their head, or at least a hollow space where they store extra body parts they’re not using. This wasn’t them.

But here’s my issue: The term Mr. is a term of respect. So now we’re just calling him by his last name? Is that what we’re teaching?

“Yeah, we’ve seen this guy without eyebrows. We can drop the formalities.”

Hey, if you want to lose the gender, why not Dr. Potato Head? It’s doctor—of plastic surgery!

Plastic; get it? That part was by accident.

To me, “Potato Head” sounds like you took off the respectful title and are just calling him by his last name, which by the way sounds like an insult. Like it’s a euphemism for Ashkenazim. But even if it isn’t, you know who gets called by their last names? Boys! So what did we change?

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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