The past couple of weeks have been quite a doozy.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided they were going to stop printing six of their books, “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs” and “The Cat’s Quizzer,” with the reason being these books perpetuate stereotypical imagery of Chinese and African Americans. Later on, Warner Bros decided to pull Pepe Le Pew from the upcoming Space Jam 2 movie with Lebron James. Why? Well, anyone who’s watched Pepe knows consent is not Pepe’s friend. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, Pepe is not a character that would be widely accepted. Charles M. Blow also wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times stating that Speedy Gonzales’ friends perpetuated stereotypes about Mexicans. Guess who’s in the Space Jam 2 movie? Yep, Speedy himself.
I went and skimmed the op-ed, and I totally get what Blow was saying. Children are indoctrinated about race and rape culture at early ages. Removing these characters would serve to take those damaging messages away. I saw a couple of posts about Dr. Suess, Pepe, and Speedy on my Facebook timeline. After not so rousing conversations with some peers, I’ve come to a conclusion.
Cancel culture is problematic. But you already knew that, right? You didn’t? Well, here’s why.
Cancel culture does not allow for growth. There’s no attempt to educate the people who don’t understand why something is being canceled. Or why behaviors need to change. There’s no rehabilitation allowed. There’s no room for change of mindset. There’s no redemption. There’s definitely no consistency (the energy is not kept at all). It’s just shock value takes, anger for things that happened 25-50 years ago, and condescension towards those who don’t fully agree. The crazy thing is we know the world was wild years ago. So what are you mad for? That question usually doesn’t have a succinct answer which is a major reason why conservatives buck against cancel culture.
Everything is problematic! Ab-so-lute-ly everything. And if we reach deep enough, then we can figure out a way to make it problematic.
I’ve been on a Rocky movie binge. They finally got the franchise on HBO Max! While watching the first installment, there’s a scene where Rocky invites a shy, timid Adrian up to his apartment. He is clearly interested in her while she looks like a maybe at best. Adrian couldn’t call her brother to let him know where she was. Rocky made light of this request by yelling her brother’s name out the window. (Rock didn’t have a phone). When she expressed being uncomfortable and asked to leave, he blocked the door, pinned her against the wall, and kissed her! And it was incredibly clear she didn’t want to be kissed. Dispicable, right? Certainly. What’s the caveat. That movie came out in 1975. It is a reflection of society in its timeframe. Males were supposed to “take charge” or “make the first move.” As my guy Edward T. Bower says, you can’t view 1975 Rocky with 2021 eyes. And that’s what cancel purists do.
Cancel culture would get rid of the entire franchise based on that one scene without a basic understand of context or an explanation why. In the process Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, and the Creed franchise would get caught in the crossfire. It’s like Gen Z and progressives, in their unwavering convictions, don’t realize the world had to evolve to get to where we are today.
If you ask why Pepe, Speedy, and Dr. Seuss are being canceled, most of the progressive crowd feel they can tell you. And I have a host of reasons from a thread, including a comparison to the Roman Coliseum (Yes… Looney Tunes and the Roman Coliseum), as to why Pepe and friends should be canceled. But the issue is not validity in reasoning (i.e. Pepe can’t keep his hands to himself). Like I said, I completely understand why these companies have taken these actions. It’s the condescending nature of any type of discussion that is not in full agreement with cancellation.
For example, I had someone try to explain to me that Speedy Gonzales provides no value to society due to outdated Mexican stereotypes. Really? The guy that consistently talks about racism doesn’t understand stereotypes on TV now? Riiiiiiiight… And when I didn’t waver in my disdain for cancel culture I was met with the flippant 🤷🏼♂️…. And that’s a typical conversation. Now, how does one expect an open dialogue when flippancy is involved?
I love watching old school black sitcoms (i.e. Martin, Fresh Prince, Moesha, Jamie Foxx <—- Y’all don’t know about that one lol). As much as I love these shows, you can spot the stereotypical tropes from a mile away. The colorism. The stereotype of black equals thugs. Illegitimate kids (C’mon Frank!). Etc.. And these are black shows that were on prime time TV! Some of which are still accessible today via streaming sites. Should we cancel? Or do we go back, watch, understand context, understand how it was for Black people in Hollywood, and enjoy them? Let’s continue. How many people loved Friends? The O.C? One Tree Hill? Gossip Girl? Home Improvement? Let’s go back further. All in the Family. The Jefferson’s. Amen. 227. The Facts of Life. Hmmm… Not far enough. I Love Lucy. The Honeymooners. Yup.. All of these shows, and more, have characters that perpetuated stereotypes based on their time.
Are we canceling or nah? I guarantee you that answer is no. Why? Because nostalgia mixed with artistry erases problematic behavior. We consistently make excuses for the things we enjoy and are ready to cancel the things that we feel do not personally affect us. Again…….. We don’t keep the same energy.
“But, Jarrod! Every TV show you listed are sitcoms! It’s cartoon characters being removed by their own respective companies. We are just holding them accountable.”
Ahh yes.. Accountability. Let’s talk about that.
Accountability is often used when discussing behavior. The problem with accountability in today’s society is that people are using it as an excuse for anger and vengeance. Not justice. Not education (sound familiar?) Very few people were holding Warner Bros accountable for their characters. White allies certainly were dead silent about Dr. Seuss when that’s been a long standing discussion in the black community. These companies are taking it upon themselves to grow. That is noble! And that’s also why it gives me pause when I see my progressive friends start screaming from the keyboard mountain tops about how problematic Speedy, Pepe, or Dr. Seuss are. You. Weren’t. Thinking. About. It! It was the furthest thought from your mind, and now you’re on the nobility pedestal? Sit down…. That’s why conservatives call you out for virtue signaling regardless of if you have a valid point.
The haughtiness and condescension of cancel culture is the reason why it’s met with such derision. Those attitudes are why people won’t change their mindsets about the isms in American society. It does you nothing to walk around knowing better, doing better, and preaching it to deaf ears. You can be an advocate for change, unwavering in your beliefs, and still be gracious.
Sometimes those deaf ears are your fault.