If you are unlucky enough to be like me and have swaths of people you vaguely knew in high school sharing propaganda on Facebook, you likely have seen the outrage regarding Dr. Seuss’ “cancelation” and “Mx. Potatohead” recently. To any sane person, this seems unimportant. Decisions made by private companies and estates are not anything that the public should care about unless it genuinely affects their lives. I doubt the pulling of a few books with questionable and racist imagery and the combination of Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead into one product that probably isn’t very popular amongst children anyways has hurt anyone.
But conservatives are crying “cancel culture” as usual. It confuses me how certain conservative platforms are all for the free exercise and speech of private corporations when it comes to religion or anything right-wing, but these few events are considered legendary insults on American values. In landmark cases such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Citizens United v. The FEC, corporate personhood is important and valued by the right. These cases significantly affected legislation in the United States, and Dr. Seuss’ racist books mean nothing in comparison. Another recent example of corporate personhood is the firing of Gina Carano from the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” If private corporations have all the same rights as individuals, their freedom of speech and association is important too. Therefore the firing of Gina Carano not only helped Disney adequately portray their idea of what is right but also does not hinder her from continuing to spout her nonsense as well. It has been said over and over and over, but I will reiterate: freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
Some may argue that the shifts in the manufacturing of Mr. Potatohead and the pulling of certain Dr. Seuss titles were caused by cancel culture even if no one was outright canceling them (which people obviously weren’t because there are more important issues to worry about). But even if this is true, does it matter? This clearly isn’t the beginning of canceling all traditionally gendered toys since there are many examples of binary female and male toys on the market, and the removal of books that promote racist stereotypes is in no way a bad thing. Those who argue that it is ruining their childhood or hurting the future children of the United States are practically arguing that these books containing racism are what they were brought up on. Is that not shameful? Is that not something to question about yourself and American society if it is so important that these books stay on the market? I personally have not read any of the six books the Seuss estate is pulling from shelves, and therefore I couldn’t care less. Why does it matter what private corporations do, especially when it is promoting anti-racism? If you are arguing for these books, what does that say about you and what you associate with?
God, and don’t even get me started on the joke that is Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. If cancel culture truly worked in such a way that affected American life, would she be in office? On the topic of the Seuss books, she tweeted Seuss-style, “If I published books, I wouldn’t succumb to leftist’s dirty looks…” Her and other right-wing lawmakers have been rallying against cancel culture, as if they can do anything about what private corporations do with their own content. If this is what some conservative politicians are concerned about, someone needs to remind them that lawmaking in the United States is much more than advocating for problematic children’s books…
This manufactured outrage from the right is almost laughable, if it wasn’t so grossly misguided. Cancel culture can be seen as a good thing, as it promotes active anti-racism in America. Although I agree it can be problematic at times, the general purpose of it is positive and those who fail to see that need to learn that the world will keep moving forward without them.
The right’s weaponization of the term “cancel culture” is once again another attempt at making progressive actions seem like a violent attack on American ideals. Which, for one, is ridiculous because what are these “American ideals” if not racism itself?
I’d like to argue that cancel culture is simply the work of the important marketplace of ideas that democracy rests upon. This is integral to the discourse in our society, and, of course, the input of the right is important too. How many conservative voices are acting now in the wake of these non-issues just makes them look like the real snowflakes.