Right-wing commentators have been incensed in recent days over claims that their childhood icons are being “cancelled” by a nebulous coalition of “radical leftists”, the Biden administration and liberal media.
Fox News and other pro-Trump media outlets have long complained about so-called “cancel culture” following criticism of conservative politicans and celebrities, usually on social media sites like Twitter.
However, over the past week, a series of minor controversies involving popular American cultural figures - Dr Seuss, Mr Potato Head and The Muppets - have shifted the conversation.
Here’s a brief guide to why right-wing commentators are complaining about “cancel culture” this week and what’s really going on…
The beloved childrens’ author has attracted the majority of attention from news outlets like Fox News after Dr Seuss Enterprises decided to cease publication of six of his books due to racially insensitive portrayals of Black and Asian people in them.
The company said images in the six books, including titles such as If I Ran a Zoo and On Beyond Zebra!, were “hurtful and wrong” and therefore they would not be making new copies of them going forward.
There is an argument to say that these specific books may have been “cancelled” but there is very little evidence to support the argument coming from Fox News and right-wing commentators that Dr Seuss himself has been “cancelled”.
For example, here are Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump Jr suggesting that Dr Seuss’ classic book The Cat in the Hat has been affected by the decision:
This about sums things up. https://t.co/juyJRlOO2r— Megyn Kelly (@Megyn Kelly) 1614866785
The problem is no-one is trying to stop people from reading that book…
The six titles which have been pulled from publication are: 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.
You can also still buy pre-existing copies of those books online - although good luck trying to get hold of them, as people are now selling them on eBay for hundreds of dollars…
Mr Potato Head
Last week, conservatives were outraged after learning that the childrens’ toy Mr Potato Head would be getting a gender-neutral makeover following a decision by Hasbro to reimagine the toy “for the modern consumer”.
From later this year, the toy will be named simply Potato Head on packaging.
This inevitably became a talking point for right-wing politicians and commentators as part of their argument that the “left” has gone too far - even though Hasbro assured people that you could still buy the classic Mr and Mrs Potato Head characters.
Here’s Republican congressman Matt Gaetz using it for a soundbite in a Fox News appearance this week:
The whole point of Mr. Potato Head is that you can move the parts around. Mr. Potato Head was America's first tran… https://t.co/IzRcSGC12M— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@Rep. Matt Gaetz) 1614913327
It’s a tough field but this one is probably the weakest of the bunch…
Last week, Disney added all five seasons of the 1970s Muppet Show to its streaming service, Disney+, for viewers to watch.
However, as the show is almost 50 years old, there are understandably some moments that could be seen as offensive or insensitive by modern standards - for example, Johnny Cash sings in front of a Confederate Flag in one episode…
To address this, Disney has added a disclaimer to some episodes of the show warning that they contain “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures”.
That decision has annoyed some conservatives, like Republican senator Tom Cotton - who managed to link the decision to the Chinese Communist Party and Georgia’s abortion laws:
This is a real question Fox & Friends asked a US senator this morning https://t.co/ORQgei9PEB— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1613999080
And Trump Jr, who has never seen a “cancel culture” controversy he wasn’t interested in commenting on...
Apparently The Muppets have now been canceled. There’s nothing these psychos won’t destroy. Liberalism is a disease.— Donald Trump Jr. (@Donald Trump Jr.) 1614001147
What happened with the Muppets is basically the opposite of “cancel culture” because rather than removing the episodes, Disney has chosen to keep them online, while providing context for modern audiences.
Of course, this nuance is either lost on or deliberately ignored by, right-wing commentators, who would much rather claim that leftists are trying to destroy everything they love...
More: The controversial things about Dr. Seuss that took me by surprise