There are many things to say about Dr. Seuss on this, his 106th birthday (which is, apparently, a milestone.) That he was a literacy hero. That he was a misogynist. That it's high time he had his own ironic rap:
Michelle Obama is in the pro-Geisel camp. In connection with a National Education Association's "Read Across America" project that sees many school-children sporting red-and-white-striped versions of those Guinness hats*, the First Lady read The Cat in the Hat to a rapt group of kids who'd been assembled at the Library of Congress.
Dr. Seuss's birthday is a logical kick-off for a literacy program, given the percentage of the country that was reared on Hop on Pop et al. But all is not well in Whoville: says SFGate's Margot Magowan,
But there's a big problem in Seuss's stories. The girls are missing. They're so invisible that going into Seussworld becomes creepy, like being transported to a dystopia where females don't matter at all.
The lack of women is something that bothers me in Sergio Leone's films. I think the female characters in The Godfather are pretty weak. Dr. Seuss troubles me far less. For one thing, they're there: in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as the author points out, as well as The Cat in the Hat, and Daisy-Head Mayzie, and busily leaping on Pop. (The main guy in Green Eggs and Ham wears some kind of dress, or tunic, so it's hard to determine his sex.) But when I think of Dr. Seuss, it's not of penetrating characterizations of masculinity: it's of vaguely asexual - even allegorical - creatures - Sneeches, Loraxes, empty pants, disgruntled misanthropic monsters, beaky anthropomorphic figures who care intensely about buttered bread. And of course, the lessons stick with you: Red Scares and Butter Battles and nuclear war are dangerous; a person's a person no matter how small; it's a good idea to try stuff.
A cursory search of Dr. Seuss will send you down various dubious internet rabbit-holes: conspiracy theories, defamation, wild adulation, and a lot of over-analysis. (I'll just say, "NAMBLA" and "Hop on Pop" are used together in a sentence. More than once.) His work was frequently political, yes, but always inscrutable. And that he can stand up to the ravages of Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, and, yes, "Wubble Down," is a testament to something worth celebrating. But critique and analyze away: he can take it. And so can the androgynous imp in the tunic.
*Yes, I know. They're Cat in the Hat hats.
First Lady Hails Value Of Reading, Dr. Seuss [AP]
Read Across America Day Celebrates The Birthday Of Dr. Seuss [CSMonitor]
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss, No Girls Invited [SFGate]
Wubble Down [YouTube]
‘Wubble Down': The Painful Dr. Seuss Rap Video [New York]