They say don’t get to know your childhood heroes too well because you’ll end up disappointed. I guess I never learn.
After finding out that Jackie Chan is a terrible person and Roald Dahl was an antisemite, I regret to inform everyone that the beloved Dr. Seuss, author of classics such as The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who! and The Cat in the Hat, drew racist cartoons before he became famous.
Between 1920s through to the 1940s, Theodor Seuss Geisel made a living drawing advertising and political cartoons. While Seuss was known for his political views and anti-fascism stance, even he was not immune from having some of the same views on non-whites that his contemporaries had.
Black people were drawn as grass skirt-wearing savages, Arabs were nomads or sultans who rode camels, and the Japanese were buck-toothed and squint-eyed. In fact, Seuss held a very strong anti-Japanese view during WWII and was quoted as saying:
“If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.”
If you want to see some of Dr. Seuss’ old cartoons, then click here. Just be warned that you may find them offensive and/or upsetting. Since we don’t condone racism of any kind here at GOAT, here are some kittens to help cleanse the palette a bit.
But don’t start burning all your Dr. Seuss books just yet because this story has a happyish ending.
After WWII, Seuss managed to overcome his earlier anti-Japanese stance and grew to regret some of the racist cartoons he drew. In a redemptive arc worthy of a supervillain, Seuss drew a bunch of anti-racist cartoons later in his career and expressed regret for his animosity towards the Japanese.
In fact, Seuss used Horton Hears a Who! as an allegory for America’s post-war occupation of Japan and to send a message of equality.
For all the good (and bad) he brought into the world with his work, Dr. Seuss’ views prove that he’s quite the flawed human being. But unlike Roald Dahl, it’s at least nice to know that Seuss tried to mend his ways after realising that maybe drawing racist cartoons and being anti-Japanese wasn’t the right way to go.