Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Much Greed

File:The Lorax.jpg

Unless someone like you . . . cares a whole awful lot . . . nothing is going to get better . . . It's not. ~Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Traditionally, I read Dr. Seuss' masterpiece The Lorax to my Pre-K kids on their last day of class. These kids have been with me for 3 years, over half their lives, are now heading away to kindergarten, and I like entrusting them with "the last Truffula seed of them all." I always warn them, "This book makes me cry," and it always does."

I don't recall it as a "new" book, published in 1971. I was nine-years-old, just beyond the core Dr. Seuss years, so I've really only know it as an adult. It carries a powerful message of the environmental dangers of rampant industrialization and the hope that the damage we've already done can be overcome by human stewardship. It's not exactly a happy ending, but rather a plea to children to save us from ourselves.

Whether or not it sticks with the kids, that's the way I like to send them off into the world.

File:The Lorax.jpg

I'm not particularly tuned into the pop culture, so it was only during my recent trip to Southern California that I even became aware that The Lorax had been made into a movie. I pray it's a flop. I noticed it carries a PG rating, so maybe the parents of preschoolers will stay away. Can I hope that? Even if I could, I really can't hope that the kids will somehow avoid the marketing: the plastic crap made in China, the lunch boxes, plushies, fast food promotional items. That's the way rampant "industrialization" works, even when presumedly "selling" a message against itself. Of course, I have absolutely no faith that the movie will deliver anything approximating Dr. Seuss' hard-hitting, yet light-hearted, critique of capitalism gone mad. To really put the knife into this thing, among the 70 or so official corporate "sponsors" of this movie, many with dubious environmental records, is a regular, polluting, fuel-injected SUV. You'd think they could have at least found some sort of electric car or hybrid or bio-diesel or something even vaguely green. But no, they are just too damn greedy for that.

I mean, for crying out loud, they show the Once-Ler's face! They appear to have made this powerful symbol of face-less greed into a happy rube of some sort!

I will be be sobbing this week in class because I'm breaking tradition: this is the last chance I'll ever have of reading this book to children without some of them shouting out, "I saw that movie!" It was bad enough when Hollywood took Shrek! away from us, but this is on a different level.

I won't stop reading The Lorax, of course, and I'll always tell the kids, "This is the real story." If the movie is particularly bad, if it winds up spitting in the face of this great work, I'll do my best to help the children deconstruct its message in the context of what Dr. Seuss was really trying to say. 

I'll still cry when I read it: so much greed. And I'll pass them the last seed and hope.

(If you want to express your own feelings about this, The Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood is collecting signatures on a pledge to boycott the products of sponsors. I've also written to Universal Studios, Mazda, and other sponsors. I don't know what good it will do, but I think it's important to express our opinions.)

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Amanda Mc said...

I saw the preview when I took my little to go see "The Secret of Arietty" this past weekend. The whole thing didn;t totally sit right with me but I wondered how it would be.

I read to my kids from my own 1977 copy of the Lorax complete with teh reference to Lake Erie (Friends of Lake Erie asked Seuss to remove teh reference when the lake was cleaned up).

Thnaks to your blog post I think we will take a pass on this movie. Over the last year a lot more pop culture than I would like has crept into our home (solo parenting while my partner works away is hard) but the Lorax is going on the definite no list.

Miss Amy said...

I love your point you made about "I saw that movie!" It's amazing how movies can ruin a story for a kid. Where The Wild Things Are hasn't been the same since either. I myself have somehow never read The Lorax but I hear it is a tear jerker, and I am almost certain I'll cry at it when I finally read it. I also forewarn my students about how we cry during the story ie. Love You Forever

Yelli said...

I just got a coupon in the mail for a "Lorax breakfast" from "i-pancake-restaurant" that comes with green eggs and ham AND...wait for it...truffle chip pancakes. sigh.

In my humble opinion, I don't think the Lorax OR Dr. Suess would have approved.

I am appalled.

Shelly said...

My boys love reading The Lorax. We've had some really great chats as a result. However, I was horrified when I ordered Seventh Generation training pants for M to sleep in and they arrived with The Lorax pictured on the front! I used to feel better about using disposable diapers (for convenience) rather than cloth because I was at least buying "green" chlorine-free ones. Now I just see The Lorax's face popping out from my son's waistband and I hear the smack of the super axe hacker. This is commercialism at it's worst! The Lorax would be truly appalled.

Unknown said...

It is so sad. All of the movies that have been made from Dr. Suess books have been terrible, The Borrowers (one of my favorites while growing up) has become The Secret of Arietty, and Disney films have become a vechicle for merchandising rather than quality entertainment. The Lorax is just one more example of greedy industries exploiting children in hopes of making more money. It is time for some kind of revolution! We could ask Congress to help, but they seem to favor the rich over children.

Floor Pie said...

That’s some pretty tone-deaf marketing on their part, and they deserve to be taken to task for it. Glad to see you speaking out, and I’m sure others will do the same.

My kids love The Lorax and they’ve been looking forward to seeing the new movie in the theater. I don’t want to rip that away from them now, but maybe I’ll write a post about it afterwards. I keep reminding them that it won’t be much like the book. “We understand! Just like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” The Boy says.

As a pop-culture-consuming family, my husband and I have worked hard to teach our kids to be pretty marketing savvy. We don’t typically censor unless something is over-the-top awful or age-inappropriate, but we do try to impart critical thinking skills.

Last November, I made the mistake of taking The Boy to the mall with me...he did not stop ranting about how it was decorated for Christmas already. “Has the world gone mad?!” The beauty there is that he arrived at that outrage on his own. He wasn’t parroting my opinion or trying to please me (I actually kind of enjoy early Xmas decorations); he was using his critical thinking skills to form his own opinion and go against the grain. Which, as a parent, is way more gratifying to see. I’m eager to hear what he has to say about the new Lorax movie.

jessica Craven said...

My two-year-old and I went to the library this morning and, while there, were bombarded with posters and ads for "the Lorax." How? Because our local "public" library is having a raffle in the month of March for which all of the prizes guessed it: Lorax-the-movie swag. Tee-shirts, tote bags, "Truffula" pencils. All you have to do to enter said raffle is "read" three Dr. Seuss books (although it was stressed to me that we didn't have to finish them -- just "know who the characters are") and write the titles on the back of a slip. If we win? We get to provide free advertising for the film! Whoo! My daughter, who loves the book, is obsessed with the Lorax faces that have popped up all over town -- and I mean ALL over. How can I explain to her that she is being relentlessly manipulated? I can't. but I can and will keep her out of the theaters. Ugh. So cynical!

Katie said...

I am heartbroken. I remember The Lorax vividly as a kid in the 70's and it's been my favorite Dr. Seuss book as long as I can remember. I've read it to every class I've taught in my 20 years of teaching. And I cry every time. I feel like Polar Express, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat and Where the Wild Things Are were all ruined by Hollywood - for teachers at least. It makes me so sad to pull out these classic books and have kids say, "I saw the movie". Booo. But the message the marketing involved in The Lorax is sending is appalling. I will read this book now so I can enjoy the wonder of hearing the story for the first time. After that, I'm trying to turn this into a teaching and learning experience - and use it to help kids make choices about marketing and being manipulated by the media. Because UNLESS someone like us cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better. It's not. Thank you for your posts and the information on the petition.

Anonymous said...

You blogged about this the day after Stephen Colbert talked about it on his show. You even made the same point as he did. Now I am curious about whether you watch his show?

stephanieleah said...

Hi Tom, I thought I commented here to thank you but I guess I didn't! (Thank you for writing this!) I linked to you in a blog post I wrote on this topic. About whether or not the message sticks, I think helping it with other preschool reading helps. Theres "The Curious Garden" and some of the Bill Peet books and "The Tree". Some of them are downright depressing and I don't believe children should have to be exposed to the harshness of that reality, but it's nice when we can plant a seed.

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