“Stop Crying Over A Plastic Potato, Please”

Cancel culture is, yet again, causing a wild frenzy in the media. As a 17-year-old high school student and a member of a rather controversial generation, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss my perspective and analyze some recent and popular misconceptions. 

 

Let’s define cancel culture for those who are late to the party: When someone is ‘canceled’, they are removed from good public standing for something they have either said, done, or even tweeted, deemed offensive or inappropriate in the public eye. Whether rational or irrational, canceling has become a frequent practice of both the older and the younger generation. But my generation specifically, has too much going on to have time for putting up with people’s bigoted, racist, sexist, or plainly outdated opinions.  

 

[Mr.] Potato Head is famous for the first time since Hasbro Inc. released its beloved Toy Story character toy in 1952. On February 25th, the company released a statement saying they were dropping the ‘Mr.’ from the brand name in order to be more inclusive and make everyone feel welcome to buy the playset. They also added more pieces to the box so that consumers can make Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Seems alright to me.

 

While this was well-received by the LGBTQ+ community and other liberal organizations, conservatives on Twitter had a field day with this information. Otherwise said, they are losing it. The idea that potato has no genitals, and by their own logic is nonbinary, was too much for many to wrap their heads around. 

 

On March 2nd, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that they would no longer be producing “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” due to racial undertones throughout the stories rhymes and illustrations. “Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham”, the top 2 highest selling Seuss books, will not be affected by this change. Yet, that didn’t stop outrage from bubbling on social media from the same groups in a knot about a plastic potato.

So what did they all do? They blamed the left. 

 

Yes, that’s right. The liberals are known for their inclusivity and progressive notions, so as soon as the conservatives got wind that their 50-year-old toys and books were being altered for public pleasing, they threw the biggest hissy fit you could imagine. But here’s what many don’t understand and what TikTok user- @undepeteable5 helpfully and so simply brought to light: “the left didn’t cancel anything”. 

 

As we all surely know, companies like Hasbro owned by Disney, profit off of capitalism. They sell their toys, books and games to families all over the world. So when societal norms change, so must the companies that have to continue making money. This is economics 101. Hasbro and the Dr. Seuss estate made executive decisions to appeal to a larger group of people and in turn, make more money. Frankly, that should tell you all you need to know about America and capitalism. It’s all a marketing scheme evident by the fact that sales of Dr. Seuss’s books are soaring.

 

I am not saying I disagree or agree with the decisions made by these two companies, but the right is extremely skilled at making situations look like something they’re not. 

 

A political cartoon recently made its way to Twitter to poke fun at cancel culture: the phenomenon apparently ruining everyone’s childhood. To no one’s surprise, the cartoon came from the conservative non-profit group. Americans for Limited Government.

 

The cartoon illustrates a guillotine ready to chop the heads off of several staples in American culture, including Cat in the Hat, Mr. Potato Head, My Pillow, Mr. Ed. and Abraham Lincoln. The man at the left has ‘woke’ painted across his chest, insinuating that ‘woke culture’ is a demonizing antic stripping us of the things we care about.

 

As a member of the Woke and Snowflake Community- trademark pending- I offer an alternate perspective. As society and members of society evolve, we begin to realize the things that were once acceptable, are no longer acceptable anymore. It was once acceptable to hang people in a town square and throw stones at them. It was once acceptable for women not to vote or have jobs that paid them the same as men. It was once quite acceptable for Dr. Seuss to publish books with mainly white human characters, and a few other racially stereotypical side characters. No one had a second thought about it. Today, race is more ambiguous. People of color are often asked, “What are you?” because America has not yet normalized darker skin colors to the point that we see each other as fellow Americans, rather than foreign strangers. As we move forward and put forth the effort to create a more inclusive environment, some things need to be exposed.

 

Disney Plus recently took steps to reflect the diversity of humankind by removing movies from ‘kids’ profiles that negatively depict various cultures or races. These movies are still available on adult profiles, but come with a thorough disclaimer reading: 

 

‘This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.

‘Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.’

This decision came with a wide variety of reactions from parents. Some were upset and didn’t understand how it was necessary to remove films they’ve spent decades watching. Others didn’t think it was worth the fight, considering the movies were still available to watch for users over the age of 7. A parent should have the right either way to decide what their child watches, and what they don’t. The streaming service basically just added an extra parental control that gives them the opportunity to do so. 

 

As a near-adult who also grew up in a world surrounded by Dr. Seuss, Toy Story, Peter Pan, The Aristocats, Lady and the Tramp, and Dumbo, I’d be lying to say it doesn’t give me a cultural shock to watch elements of my childhood experience slowly become more questionable. What I try to remember is that they were always inappropriate, but now they are an opportunity for education and conversation. A small innocent child may not understand that Tiger Lily was a Native American depicted in a grossly inaccurate manner, but maybe they should. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that when we raise our children in sheltered and censored environments and allow them to look over a stereotype as nothing more than a caricature, they are less likely to be able to recognize race and cultural appropriations in reality. It becomes a pattern hard to break, and we’re witnessing the consequences in real time.

 

Though even after all of this, it doesn’t take a left-leaning person to understand that nothing is being canceled. We are merely starting to recognize the flaws in our blind acceptance of pop culture. So if you are upset, I would advise you to ask yourself why that is. Maybe you are uncomfortable confronting that we consumed offensive media for so long without knowing it wasn’t ok. Maybe you just don’t think it’s a big deal, because the content in question is not about you. But let me assure you that no matter what your issue is, it is nobody else’s problem but yours- not the other way around. If disrupting your bubble is what needs to be done in order to better society then that is what will be done. Your outrage is not a dealbreaker. 

 

Some things are more worth fighting about than a plastic potato and a children’s book. Let society evolve and when in doubt, take it from Harry Styles-

 

“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times.”