Et Tu, Pepe…

Let’s talk about the Republican party and their new obsession with “cancel culture” for a minute. Ever since I can remember, the Republican party claimed to support businesses and business owners, as the engine that drives prosperity. They favored minimal regulation, and in many cases deregulation, arguing that market forces would produce the most effective outcomes. In other words, there was no need for government to tell businesses what to do, they would do what market demanded, or they would not survive.

Additionally, since the 1980’s, the Republican party has also claimed to be the party of “family values.” Unfortunately that often translated into “no gays”, but the were ostensibly the party that supported and protected families, and in particular children.

So one has to wonder, when a business that produces entertainment for children, for example a Warner Bros. or a Dr. Seuss Enterprises or a Hasbro, decides that the market is telling them that some of their product no longer aligns with the values parents want to expose their children to, and said companies decide to remove or revise their product to more closely align with the values of their market, a market targeted specifically towards children, one has to wonder why Republicans are upset.

Clearly they’re not upset that businesses are responding to market forces rather than government “interference.” They can’t be upset that businesses are aligning their values to benefit children.

As far as the “taking away their childhood” argument, aside from the Bible’s advice to “put away childish things”, I would point out nothing is gone. He may be less accessible to children, but Pepe le Pew is still out there, available for adults to stream in all his inappropriate touchiness glory. Those six Seuss books will be available in used book stores and on eBay for generations to come. (Let’s be honest, they were not exactly best sellers to begin with.) And if you want to assign traditional gender roles to your potato, well, you know, have at it. No one will stop you.

Here’s what they are really upset about. They don’t see anything wrong with unwelcome advances and uninvited touching directed towards women, and by telling them Pepe is not a good role model for children, we are taking away their “right” to treat women this way.

They don’t see anything wrong with laughing at grossly stereotypical Asian or aboriginal caricatures, and by telling them we don’t want children to make fun of others based on their race, we are taking away their “right” to make fun of others.

They want men to be real men, and women to be real women, and potatoes to… well, be real man-potatoes or real woman-potatoes, and by telling them children should be free to define themselves in their own terms without society telling them what little boys and little girls are supposed to play with, we are somehow taking away their “right” to be manly.

And they will argue that our generation grew up with Pepe le Pew and Asian stereotypes and clearly heteronormative Mr. Potato Head, and we turned out just fine. To that I would reply, yes, we turned out okay, but you know who else grew up watching Pepe le Pew? Harvey Weinstein grew up watching Pepe le Pew. Jeffrey Epstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. all grew up, like us, watching Pepe le Pew. And the list goes on.

Maybe you don’t want to use your experience to speak for an entire generation. Maybe you, like me, had parents that went to great lengths to explain you do not treat women like you see Pepe le Pew do, any more than you learn gun safety from Elmer Fudd. Maybe today’s parents don’t want to have to explain why a cartoon skunk is allowed to get away with inappropriate behavior.

So, to Republicans, I would say this. Calm down. The market is working exactly the way it is supposed to. And really, you’re not losing anything. If you want to spend your evenings watching an over-sexed cartoon skunk groping a hapless black cat, have at it. If you enjoy outdated Asian stereotypes, please, read away, or better yet, check out “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, you’ll love the Mickey Rooney character. And if you insist that your potatoes have a penis. Well, unlike you guys, we’re not judging.