Defamer has labeled a recent LA Times blog entry by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “arguably the lowest-percentage shot of his professional life…a baffling essay blending identity politics, film criticism and Barack Obama flag-waving.” Apparently the West Coast gossip blog never saw a little motion picture called “Slam Dunk Ernest”.
Horton Hears a Who has done more damage to our society than the recent slate of politically motivated movies about the war in Iraq (Rendition, Stop-Loss, Lambs for Lions, Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, etc.) has done good. For one thing, more people saw Horton than saw all the other movies combined.
How can a beloved Dr. Seuss story do so much harm? Well, the original book by Dr. Seuss is just fine, a timeless tale that has been delighting children since it was first published in 1954. The story of the brave elephant that is willing to endure the harshest condemnation from his friends and community in order to protect those in need is a wonderful lesson for children.
But then along comes the movie. To make the story long enough for a full-length movie, a sub-plot was added about the mayor of Whoville who has 96 cheerful daughters and one brooding son. This is where things take a nasty turn. Basically, the mayor ignores his 96 daughters in order to groom his uninterested son to become mayor. Why doesn™t he groom one of his much more enthusiastic daughters? And, of course, it is the brooding son who, in the end, saves the entire world of Whoville. The daughters? They get to cheer from the sidelines. While it™s true that in the book a œvery small shirker named Jo-Jo does add his tiny voice to the din and thus saves Whoville, but that promotes the idea that we all have our part to play in our community, not that sons are smarter than daughters.
œHey, it™s just a cartoon, you might say. But this particular cartoon will be seen by millions of children around the world. And they will come away with a clear impression that a single son is worth more than 96 daughters. Those boys are inherently more valuable than girls, and more likely to be successful (in this case, in saving the world) than girls.
What™s especially insidious here isn™t just that the subplot was written and approved and filmed, but that since the movie has come out, there hasn™t been a popular outcry about it. That we don™t even ask why, in the years it took to make the movie, no one along the line said, œThis isn™t a good message to send to our kids. Is it because sexism is so ingrained in our society that we don™t even flinch at it when it™s shoved in our faces?
Mind-blowing stuff. I know. Kareem actually remembered that “Redacted” played in theatres.