Changing with the Times?

One of the most popular authors of children’s books, Dr. Seuss/ Theodor Seuss Geisel has published about 60 books and sold over 700 million copies globally. As the world’s viewpoints on race or stereotype evolve and advance, 6 of Dr. Seuss’ books become problematically insensitive. As a result, the Seuss estate halts publications or sales of those books, including On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, The Cat’s Quizzer, McElligot’s Pool and And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which feature racial imagery or text. For example, in his debut book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, “a crude racial stereotype of an Asian man with slanted lines for eyes” was concluded to be “hurtful and wrong.” The Seuss Enterprises’ decision ironically drives up sales of Dr. Seuss’s other books, and the 6 banned books are selling at record prices. Far from being “canceled” as Fox news declares, Dr. Seuss remains a cultural force, raising questions on many levels in the current political milieu.

One of the topics of discussion on the forefront is “whether and how an author’s works should be posthumously curated to reflect evolving social attitudes, and what should be preserved as part of the cultural record.” While some of Dr. Seuss’ work has been criticized for its outdated or insensitive racial, ethnic, cultural and gender depictions, the author has been known to be raising awareness about cultural diversity and inclusion, humanity and kindness, as well as care for the environment. Seuss passed away in 1991 and was unable to adjust his works to meet the changing marketplace. (Authors often revise their works to reflect the changing times. Roald Dahl, for instance, removed racial stereotypes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) Dr. Seuss’ estate has reviewed and updated the body of his works for him, and rightly so.

Dr. Seuss’s brand is secure while cultural sensitivity is ever evolving. His masterpieces are timeless, whereas some of his works may need adjustments as times change. Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and many others will endure the test of time. Readers will always be inspired by Dr. Seuss’ ethical and moral lessons; they encourage kindness and care for the people, pets, and the planet (think about themes in Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax). No one is denouncing Dr. Seuss or “canceling” his legacy -- we can choose to use those teachable moments to show that it is perfectly O.K. for a young protagonist to show curiosity about ethnic differences, or a child to look at a pet or a unique being in a different fashion. One just needs to keep an open mind and not fall into the trap of stereotyping. It is all about learning, progressing, and using one’s imagination. The question remains: do we change great works to meet the changing environment, or do we use classics to teach about how the times have changed and how at one time, things were looked at differently? Perhaps the answer to that question is as a matter of fact, beside the question. What’s relevant here is mankind’s collective legacy – onward and upward!


苏斯博士/西奥多·苏斯·盖斯塞尔(Dr. Seuss / Theodor Seuss Geisel)是最受欢迎的儿童读物作者之一,一生出版约有60本书,全球销量超过7亿册。随着世人对于种族或刻板印象的观点的发展和进步,苏斯博士的六本书在现时显得有所偏颇,意味各种种族的刻板形象。苏斯家族因而决定停止这些书的出版或销售。《超越斑马》、《超级炒蛋》、《猫的奎兹》、《麦克尔里戈特的游泳池》和《我在桑树街上看到了》-- 这些书都带有种族刻板图像或文字。例如,在他的处女作《我在桑树街上看到了》中,“一个亚洲人的粗俗种族刻板印象是倾向的风眼。根据纽约时报的报道,这种描述是“有害和错误的”。在苏斯企业决定停板之际,苏斯博士的其他书籍之销售量却直线上升,而被禁的6本书则以创纪录的高价出售。苏斯博士并没有像Fox新闻所宣称的那样被“取消”,他显然仍拥有强盛的文化影响力,而在当前的政治环境中,许多议题更值得进行深度探讨。

讨论主题之一是“人们是否应追究作者的作品是否符合时尚而加以修改,以反映不断发展的社会态度,或者作品应被保存为文化记录的一部分。”尽管苏斯博士的某些作品因其过时或不符合种族、民族、文化和性别平等意识而受到批评,但众所周知,苏斯博士的多数作品在在提高人们对文化多样性的包容,其中的人性和仁慈、以及对儿童及地球的关怀处处可见。苏斯博士于1991年去世,无法调整自己的作品以适应瞬息万变的市场。 (作家们经常对作品进行修改以反映时代的变化。例如,罗尔德·达尔(Roald Dahl)删除了查理和巧克力工厂一书中的许多种族定型观念。)苏斯家族企业已经为苏斯博士之作品进行审查并更新了他的作品的本体,实是有幸。

在世人不断提高文化种族敏感性的同时,苏斯博士的品牌实已获得确保。他的杰作是永恒的,而他的一些作品可能需要随着时代的变化而调整。《绿蛋和火腿》、《戴帽子的猫》以及许多作品将经得起时间的考验。读者总是会受到苏斯博士的仁德和道德教训的启发;他鼓励对人、宠物和地球加以爱护和关怀(想想《霍顿听到谁来了!》和《劳拉克斯》中的主题)。没有人会谴责苏斯博士或“取消”他的文化遗产 -- 我们可以选择利用这些绝好的教育机会来解说:年轻的主人公表现出对种族差异的好奇心实是无可厚非的;让孩子们以不同的方式看待宠物或独特的生物吧!一个人只需要保持开放的心态,便不至于陷入种族定型观念的陷阱。重要的是不断学习、进步和运用想象力。所以问题显然仍旧存在:我们是要改变伟大的作品来适应不断变化的环境,还是要用经典来教导时代如何改变,以及认知在每一时段人们对事物的看法有所不同?也许这个问题的答案实际上是无关紧要的。重要的是人类的集体文化遗产 – 求进步、向前发展吧!