Phew! Pepé le Pew is in la deep doo-doo
Every time a leftist opens his, her, or “their” mouth of late, I’m reminded of the old expression that, to a hammer, everything is a nail. Leftists are incapable of seeing anything except through the lens of their prejudices. And right now, their prejudice is that everything that has come before in America is bad. That’s why Charles M. Blow, a New York Times columnist, announced that Pepé Le Pew “normalized rape culture.” He’s wrong, of course. Pepé Le Pew was the ultimate example of what not to do.
Blow’s opinion column says that the attack against Dr. Seuss is an overdue moment to analyze all the toxic educational and entertainment material America coughed up for children in proceeding decades. The column’s title makes the point clear: “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias: Racism must be exorcised from culture, including, or maybe especially, from children’s culture.” In this context, he got conservative hackles up by stating that “Pepé Le Pew…normalized rape culture.”
As always when I take on an issue, I need to make a few preliminary points. In honor of Pepé Le Pew, let me say as the French do, autres temps, autres mœurs (other times, other customs). Or as L.P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
In the modern era, we have, thankfully, evolved beyond many of the past’s worst customs, such as human sacrifice (if you discount unlimited abortion), auto-da-fé (if you ignore Muslim countries), slavery (if you ignore China, North Korea, large swaths of the Muslim world, and human trafficking across our southern border), genocide (if you ignore China), anti-Semitism (if you ignore the Muslim world and the Democrat party)….
What was I saying? Oh, yes! We have evolved; we are better people than we were in the past.
In America, we are certainly better when it comes to race. And it’s true that some past children’s entertainment was steeped in foul racial stereotypes. Anything that purposefully denigrates a race or religion doesn’t belong in the modern children’s library.
But intention counts. When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she wrote the eponymous (and now despised) Uncle Tom with the best of intentions. And it was her book, said Lincoln, that “started this great war” – meaning that her good intentions roused the nation’s conscience so much that America moved inexorably to the war that ended slavery. So not everything from the past is bad, even if it rubs us the wrong way.
Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was a caricaturist more than a precise draftsman. Whether he was drawing a person or an animal, his drawings were inexact and picked up on obvious qualities. His children’s books, unlike his anti-Japanese cartoons as part of the war effort during WWII, were never meant to denigrate. Still, leftists have suddenly decided that images such as these are too offensive to stand:
5/ Here are two of the empirically racist images from two of those books.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 6, 2021
Ask yourself why the self-styled culture warriors “standing up” for Dr. Seuss don’t show these offensive images or read from the actual books in question when they’re on this crusade. pic.twitter.com/qK9HVphMMd
But the truth is that, when Geisel was young, Inuits were called Eskimos and still dressed like this:
The Chinese were respectfully called Orientals and, before the communist takeover, had still dressed like this:
Officers of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in the United States (馬褂) by Roy D. Graves. Public Domain.
And National Geographic was still publishing photos of certain tribes in Africa whose traditional attire involved minimal clothes and decorative piercings:
Children's books with deliberate racial insults? Get rid of them. Non-malignant representations of different places and different times? Get over it.
But what about Pepé Le Pew? Is he rape culture personified? I don’t think so, and I say that as a woman who grew up watching him and didn’t like him.
Pepé Le Pew wasn’t a good example; he was a dire warning. He told American boys that if you’re arrogant, smelly, insensitive, and quite possibly French, women will be disgusted and be desperate to get away from you. Any boy who models himself on Pepé Le Pew doesn’t get the girl; he gets the girl’s frantic retreat.
But let’s be honest. This isn’t about Pepé Le Pew or Dr. Seuss or a reckoning with the uglier, primitive parts of our past. This is about the same impulse that drove the French Revolutionaries to denominate the first year of the Revolution as 1 Vendémiaire (the Year One). History began with the Revolution. Everything that came before had to be washed away so that there would be no way that post-revolutionary citizens could compare the past with the present – and, perhaps, conclude that the Revolutionary present wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Today’s leftists, believing themselves ascendent, want to erase America’s past. Eliminating the imperfections is insufficient. Everything must go – including Dr. Seuss and Pepé Le Pew, to prepare the way for the glorious socialist revolution. With the Chinese Communist Party egging on the Biden government, we are edging daily closer to Maoist struggle sessions and the overthrow of our constitutional system.
Update: The Partyman explains it to Blow on Twitter (hat tip: Instapundit)