Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles because of insensitive and racist imagery. (Steven Senne - AP Photo)

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles because of insensitive and racist imagery. (Steven Senne - AP Photo)

COLUMN: A shift in cultural norms and standards

Concepts and terms which were once accepted are now considered repulsive

A vintage television commercial caught me off guard.

It was an animated black and white ad for Winston cigarettes, made in 1961, and it featured Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble from the animated TV series. This was one in a series of Flintstones cigarette commercials, and many can be found online with little effort.

The Flintstones ran from 1960 to 1966, and for its first two seasons, it was sponsored by the cigarette manufacturer. Later, juice-maker Welch’s sponsored the show. The commercial I noticed showed Fred and Barney smoking in the backyard while their wives, Wilma and Betty, are working hard around their homes.

A lot has changed since those commercials aired. Almost all tobacco advertising and promotion is banned in Canada, and it has been decades since cigarette ads have been allowed on Canadian television channels.

READ ALSO: 6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

READ ALSO: Country singer Morgan Wallen pulled from B.C. radio stations following use of racial slur

The image of Fred and Barney goofing off while their wives do the hard work also wouldn’t fly today, even if the characters weren’t puffing away on cigarettes. In a world that has been addressing sexism and gender roles, the image seems more than a little incongruous.

Times have changed. The cultural standards and norms of an earlier era are not the same as the values of today.

The Flintstones cigarette commercial isn’t the only example of changing standards.

Consider the Beatles song, Run For Your Life, written by John Lennon and recorded in 1965. The lyrics feature a man who uses a condescending, threatening tone when talking to a woman. Some radio stations will no longer play this song because of the lyrics. Violence against women is nothing new, but now there’s a long-overdue discussion around this topic which didn’t exist in the same way in the mid-1960s.

Skipping ahead a couple of decades, the 1985 Dire Straits song, Money For Nothing, uses an anti-gay slur repeatedly. The slur was quite common from the 1970s to the 1990s, but I haven’t heard it in the past couple of decades. (Come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard that song played on the radio either.)

Certain words and concepts which were once common are now considered repulsive, while words or phrases in use today would have shocked a previous generation.

The change in standards showed itself once again last week when Dr. Seuss Enterprises pulled six of its titles. The announcement was made on March 2, the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote under the Dr. Seuss name.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” a statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises reads. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families.”

Dr. Seuss illustrated his first book, The Pocket Book of Boners, in 1931. That was 90 years ago. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was published in 1990, shortly before his death in 1991. Perhaps even more has changed in the 30 years since his passing.

Today, some of his images and terms are considered offensive, leaving parents uncomfortable to read the stories or show the pictures to their children. Yet at the same time, others are upset that these classic book titles are being withdrawn.

Perhaps in another few decades, a completely different set of values will affect our books, music, animations and other entertainment.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Columnist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Penticton fire truck
Residents evacuated after apartment fire in Penticton

The fire started in an apartment on Government Street Saturday night

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read