As streaming platforms and studios continue to grapple with how best to deal with content that is deemed problematic, the publishing industry is navigating its own way to address the ongoing conversation.
Amidst ongoing backlash, the organisation behind the author’s legacy has made the decision to cease publication of six titles that have been deemed to contain racist and insensitive imagery.
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer will no longer be printed after Dr Seuss Enterprises acknowledged that the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
In a statement the company said, “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr Seuss Enterprises’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families.”
The decision to discontinue the publications was made after conferring with teachers and academics, who had studied the children’s books and their potential impact on a diverse society.
Dr Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, has sold more than 600 million copies of his beloved books worldwide with some, like The Lorax and The Cat in the Hat being turned into Hollywood films.
A 2019 study titled, The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and cited the authors troubling history with racism even before he became a household name.
“Before and during his career publishing children’s books, Dr. Seuss also published hundreds of racist political cartoons, comics, and advertisements for newspapers, magazines, companies, and the United States government,” the study reads.
“In spite of Dr. Seuss’ extensive body of explicitly racist published works dehumanising and degrading Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC), and people from other marginalised groups (including Jewish people and Muslims), many differentiate and defend the author’s children’s books as “promoting tolerance,” and even “anti-racist.”
The study also found a distinct lack of women and girls in the books.
Suess’s children’s books are not the only ones facing scrutiny for themes that are less than universal. Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman went so far as to release a children’s book in October named Natalie Portman’s Fables which reimagines old favourites such as The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs, and Country Mouse and City Mouse.
Portman cited that she wanted to share the stories with her daughter while exposing her to a more diverse range of characters than the traditional tales offered.