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Pimping the Grinch

By JB in Culture
Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 01:12:39 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

When Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka "Dr. Seuss") was still alive, he refused to sell-out his work to commercial sponsors. The good doctor passed away in 1991, and his vision for children's literature has not been protected by his heirs. In the last week we have seen an all out advertising blitz for the new Grinch movie with the Grinch pushing (among other products) Visa credit cards and Pop Tarts.

Is this an outrage, or is it a non-issue? I personally don't want my kids becoming emotionally attached to figures like Horton or the Cat-in-the-Hat, only to see those figures become pitch men for corporate America. Sure, other fictional characters are tools of big money (can anyone say "Disney"?) but I this case is an abuse of trust. People read their kids books at bedtime to create a magical world, and to see that emotional space sold to the highest bidder pisses me off.

Some walls between childhood and commerce have been defended. The push to put educational/ commercial television in classrooms has failed, largely because people don't like the idea of commercials for Pepsi and Coke in the classroom, where children would be compelled to watch them. And Joe Camel, the cartoon figure that spoke directly to children's emotional centers, was better known among grade school kids than the president of the US, until he was banned through legal negotiations. Little kids are not really capable of deciding what information should be harvested by marketers on the net, and there are policies to limit predatory action on that front.

The Seuss heirs can pimp the Grinch if they want to - it isn't illegal, they hold the copyrights, they call the shots. But they don't own the audience. The Seuss characters were developed under the idea that they wouldn't be used to get a hook into kids. The characters have changed their game and so should we. I won't be buying any more Seuss books; their innocence has been infused with sleaze.



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Pimping the Grinch | 18 comments (17 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
I'm almost with you. (3.66 / 9) (#2)
by Greyjack on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 11:29:36 AM EST

I won't be buying any more Seuss books; their innocence has been infused with sleaze.

I won't pay money to watch the film or buy any Seuss-related merchandise; however, the books are still absolute top-notch children's books, and I'll certainly buy 'em for my kids (assuming I get around to having some one of these days--it's on my to-do list ;)

While I'm saddened by the commercial exploitation of the characters, the books still retain their essence.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

Grinch already gone... (3.90 / 10) (#3)
by sugarman on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 11:30:54 AM EST

The Grinch was dead as soon as exclusive rights were bought by Turner Broadcasting, limiting the viewing audience for the show. I know that in this day and age everyone has cable, so its likely the audience can still get access if it wants it, but IMHO, this is what killed the Grinch. There's something about the Turner stations that seem to ...corrupt... everything they touch.

So the Grinch has been deads for quite some time in my eyes.

As for the flick? One half of me views it as a liberating the story, taking it back from Turner. Although control of this version will likely stay in the hands of a different corporate media congolmerate, at least it ain't Turner.

As for myself, I likely won't see it. I can still vividly recall much of the entire 22 minutes of the original, and I'm going to stick with that.


Turner, et al. (3.20 / 5) (#5)
by eann on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 04:11:51 PM EST

All the Turner networks and associated media assets were owned, as you likely know, by Time Warner, so it now belongs to AOL.

Marvin K. Mooney, will you please take us with you?

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

[ Parent ]
Not on the networks? (3.75 / 4) (#9)
by Refrag on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 11:29:12 AM EST

I had no idea that The Grinch (animated) was no longer shown on the normal networks anymore. Well, I bought the DVD last year or the year before so I will always have a good copy to watch around Christmas even if I don't have cable (which I don't).


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Buying Seuss Books (4.30 / 10) (#4)
by Deep Saffron on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 01:10:05 PM EST

Don't quit buying! The good Doctor deserves to be read, and your kids will miss out. Don't see the movie, don't take your kids to it, and read that one story about the dudes with the stars on their bellies to the lil uns. Also, whenever you see a Disney logo, yell "Away, spawn of darkness!" It doesn't really help anything, but you and your friends will laugh your heads off.
Guns kill people, but so does the truth.
Letting commercialism dictate your life... (4.50 / 10) (#6)
by farl on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 07:54:58 PM EST

If you stop buying the books, which IMHO are fantastic kids stories, just becuase it has become commercialised after the fact is purely a cop out.

Rather read the books to your kids, and TEACH them the difference between books and commercialism. That would be a far more valuable lesson for them to learn. Letting your kids miss out on the classics like Dr. Seuss is a crime for parents if they do it. As a coloring book publishier, I am aware of the lack of books on the level of Dr. Seuss.

Don't give in to the commercialism. Rather take some responsibility for your kids as a parent and teach them the difference. If more parents actually cared about their kids and took an active role in teaching them, issues like this would never come up.


Who's dictating to who? (4.16 / 6) (#7)
by B'Trey on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 08:53:49 AM EST

While I agree to some extent, you're missing another aspect. If I go our and purchase Dr. Sues books, I'm giving money to the greedy people who sold out his name. My spending dollar is, in many cases, the only voice I have. It's certainly the only voice that gets any respect from the corparate powers that be. I refuse to do business with anyone that engages in telemarketing. (With the exception of telephone companies, and that's because I haven't found one that doesn't do it.) And I will refuse to buy any more new Dr. Seus books.

But that doesnt mean you have to deprive your children to stand up for what you believe in. Utilize the local library. Check used book shops, thrift stores, yard/garage sales, etc.

[ Parent ]

A though tand a total aside... (3.50 / 4) (#15)
by farl on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 02:55:22 PM EST

As a thought, do you get cable tv service? do you subscribe to magazines or newspapers? do you get ANY form of commercial email? Receive any prescription drugs? Drink Coke, Sprite, Pepsi etc.? Does your kid do any of the aboe? Go to Chuky Cheese? Eat pizza? Macdonalds? Most large companies on this earth engage in some form of telemarketing or such, or commercialise some form of kid's character/concept in order to advance their marketing.

I personally undertand your idea that you are stating, but i think biting off your nose to spite your face (ignore the obvious physical impossibility here), or rather, denying your children beautiful stories, is a bit harsh on them. Teach them the difference rather.

As a total aside, most libraries DON'T have the author's permission to distribute copies of their work. An interesting example of copyright infringement.

[ Parent ]
A correction (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by RadiantMatrix on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 09:32:55 PM EST

most libraries DON'T have the author's permission to distribute copies of their work. An interesting example of copyright infringement.
Libraries don't distribute books, or rent them to you. Instead, they lend them to you. It is legal for me to lend a copy of a book to a friend, and it is legal for a library to lend books to you. Late fees are a way of saying "hey! Bring my book back, or you have to start paying me for a new copy", and are thus also legal.

In short, libraries do not infringe copyright by lending out books.
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

The GriCartoon? (3.60 / 5) (#8)
by AgentGray on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 11:21:55 AM EST

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Grinch conceived as a cartoon first?

I thought that Chuck Jones had to practically beg Seuss to do it. Maybe it was the other way around. Jones could do it, but it had to follow Seuss' style and story very closely.

Anyway, I believe Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame has pretty much done the same thing. I respect him for it.

Slightly OT: Protecting Children from the Cat? (3.25 / 4) (#10)
by Burb on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 11:29:57 AM EST

Would you have a book in your house whose message was

It's OK for you to be left alone alone in the house with no adults, kids. If a stranger calls, let them in, they are fun. Don't worry what they do, it'll all be alright in the end. Oh, and don't tell your parents, kids, it'll be our secret!

Have you ever considered this to be the message that kids can get from "The Cat in the Hat"?

OK, I've overstated the case. I grew up with that book as a child in the '60s and loved it. I certainly don't believe that the interpretation above is the one the Seuss intended. But these days we must take care to teach our kids about the dangers of the modern world, and "The Cat in the Hat" needs a little revision. Sad, isn't it?

Mercifully, the last line runs What would you do, if your Mother asked you?. If you're reading this with your kids, make sure they would confide in you.

Not to mention the pseudoseussian stuff (3.33 / 3) (#11)
by minusp on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 11:55:17 AM EST

Look carefully at the books before you buy, also. There is a series of "books" under the Seuss imprimatur that were not written or illustrated by the good Dr., although they seem to try to look like they are. The text is atrocious, not clever at all, and the illustrations rather "muppety" IYKWIM.
Remember, regime change begins at home.
Used? (4.00 / 4) (#12)
by ZanThrax on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 01:19:38 PM EST

So who says you have to buy _new_ copies of the books? Buy used ones that are in good shape (it should be possible, some people really obsess over keeping books in excellent condition) or just borrow them from the library as needed. Your kids get the chance to enjoy the books, and you don't feel guilty about giving money to shills.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.

Obsession about book quality (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by gnomon on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 02:19:39 PM EST

Yeah, some people really obsess about the quality of their books. Other people meta-obsess about the same - I'm one of them ;)

[ Parent ]
Devotion to the Grinch (4.00 / 4) (#13)
by Devil Ducky on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 01:20:20 PM EST

I love the oringal Grinch movie, I always have, I always will. I own the movie on DVD and VHS (in case of technology problems :-} ) and I own a copy of the book. I also have a (non-licensed) tattoo of the Grinch.

I would never for one moment stop my children's access to the story. People consistantly buy the merchandise for me (as Xmas presents usually)

So I guess what I am trying to say is, I don't know, I understand boycotting the products, but not the books and (original) movies. It would simply be a waste of some of the best children stories ever written. And my tattoo is cooler than your is... na-na-na-na-na.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
advertising targeted at children (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Nov 07, 2000 at 05:53:37 AM EST

Its big problem, both ethically, and legaly, when advertisiers target children.

Now, I'm not sure that this is what this is about, having never seen these ads, but when the ad men target the kids (and its the nag factor that they are interested in, not pocket money) things get messy.

You see, young childeren (up to the age of 5 or 6, IIRC) don't understand the difference between ads, and programs. The problem stems from the fact that children in this age group don't understand that the concept of lies, or even the idea that they might not be getting the whole truth (ask them to tell you about themselves and they will tell the whole truth, warts and all). Watching an ad for them is no different from watching a documentory.

Now watch some ads, through the eyes of a small child. How good are they? They are fantastic! The childs parents must be evil or idiots to not buy this stuff!

Now consider that children have an almost magical ability for manipulating adults. Its evolution baby, you can't argue with it. Children actually give of pheromones for petes sake! (Divorse rates skyrocket after this period has ended as a direct result of the pheromone effect stopping).

Now how do you feel about your childrens trusted fantasty figures being used to manipulate you through your child.

This is a problem, and I think, an area of advertising that needs to be more heavly regulated.

"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
Isn't it interesting... (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by Stmpjmpr on Tue Nov 07, 2000 at 11:33:31 PM EST

that one of the main points of the story in the Grinch was an anti-commercial one? At the end of the story, after seeing the error of his ways, the Grinch himself proclaims "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store" or something similar. Seuss would be rolling in his grave.

Pimping the Grinch | 18 comments (17 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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