The MRC's Culture War Toy Box
The Media Research Center melts down over Muppets (repeatedly), Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and Legos for committing the offense of not hating certain people enough.
By Terry Krepel
2021 has been a big year for the Media Research Center to have freakouts over pop culture being more inclusive to reflect the diversity of its audience.
Given that the MRC once attacked the Muppets for being conservatively incorrect in having an oil tycoon as a villain in a movie, recent moves in the Muppetverse were sure to set the MRC off.
Gabriela Pariseau complained in February that some episodes of the 1970s "Muppet Show" being rerun on Disney+ now have disclaimers at the beginning warning viewers of outdated offensive content:
According to Kermit the Frog, "It's not easy being green," and apparently it's not easy being The Muppet Show, either. Disney+ just couldn’t resist slapping an offensive content label on the beloved family show.
We would remind Pariseau that, again, her employer didn't think it was being "lightheartedly offended" by the Muppets' choice of a villain for one film.
The MRC then took offense at being mocked for taking offense at this. A March 3 post by Alex Christy raged at NBC late-night-host Seth Meyers for calling out right-wingers pushing "invented culture war grievances" like the complaints over the Muppets, insisting that conservatives are "merely responding to the left's culture war offensive" and huffily adding: "Meyers, sounding like the political hack he is, of course omitted that it is the left's culture warriors, who motivated by 'invented' grievances, urge content advisories for The Muppets on Disney+ and the turning of Mr. Potato Head into a genderless spud."
MRC executive Tim Graham similarly went into defense in his March 5 column: "Our family watched The Muppet Show every Saturday night when it originally aired. These defined the words 'family entertainment.' Conservatives are mocking the Left for attempting to turn wholesome products into loathsome products." Graham and Christy will never admit that being mad over a tycoon as a villain in a Muppets movie was an "invented" grievance.
Then, Lindsay Kornick spent an entire March 25 post being mad that "Sesame Street" is adding two African-American Muppets:
The famous children’s show Sesame Street is determined to talk about race whether we like it or not. Their latest terrible example is the introduction of two African-American Muppets to “educate children about race.”
And the MRC will claim it's racial pandering.
Hays returned on Aug. 2 to spew hate on the idea of a transgender (or even cross-dressing) Muppet:
Disney continues to corrupt everything it touches. Since it now owns the rights to Jim Henson’s The Muppets that means The Muppets gets ruined, and by extension our children’s opportunity for quality entertainment. Recently the Disney Muppets spin off TV show, Muppet Babies made beloved character Gonzo into a trans woman, because anyone can be any gender these days.
Hays further whined, "This is Disney propaganda so none of the Muppets found it weird. In fact they all loved it." Hays, of course, would be waiting outside the school to beat up this (completely fictional) character for being a little too swishy for his comfort. It must be such a sad existence Hays leads, being so consumed with people for people (real and fictional) who are different from him.
Dr. Seuss meltdown
"Cancel Culture Comes For Dr. Seuss," intoned the headline on Lindsey Kornick's March 1 MRC post attacking a newspaper columnist who argued for rethinking Dr. Seuss. Kornick said of the columnist, "Imagine someone in the world finding 'One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish' offensive" -- even though the columnist never mentioned that book, let alone expressed offense at it.
Kornick also repeated a bogus attack claiming a Virginia school district "took steps to “cancel” Dr. Seuss in their annual “Read Across America” event on Dr. Seuss' birthday" before walking it back. She then huffed: "This ignores the fact that Theodore Geisel was a liberal Democrat in life and supported many left-leaning policies and causes including in his books (read: The Lorax) which should deem him anything but 'racist.'"
Thus, Kornick inadvertently admitted that the MRC are the ones who have been trying to cancel Dr. Seuss. She linked to a 2012 MRC post raging against a movie version of "The Lorax" because if offered environmental tips for children alongside the film, thus appeasing "thousands of left-wing zealots." (The MRC also complained that the movie indulged in "liberal indoctrination" for pointing out that plastic water bottles are wasteful.)
But that's not the MRC's only attempt to cancel Dr. Seuss: In 2019, the MRC actually tried to blame Dr. Seuss for a massacre in El Paso because the alleged shooter referenced "The Lorax" in a manifesto. Corinne Weaver ranted that "You can’t buy a Confederate flag on Amazon, but you can read literature that helped inspire one of the deadliest shootings in the United States." Joseph Vazquez similarly huffed: "Following the murder of 20 people by a racist terrorist in El Paso, Texas, the liberal media cherry-picked portions of his alleged manifesto to connect him to the right. But some ignored portions that cited The Lorax as an inspiration for his views a book and movie the liberal media used to love to promote because of its environmental agenda."
Strangely (or maybe not so strangely), neither Weaver nor Vazquez cited any particular passage in "The Lorax" that could possibly be interpreted as encouraging a white supremacist to murder Hispanics. Perhaps because, you know, there isn't any and the MRC is just trying to spin away Trump's much closer connection to the attitudes in the shooter's manifesto.
But all that has to go down the memory hole because it currently serves the MRC's political agenda to portray Dr. Seuss as a victim. For instance, Curtis Houck whined that Biden press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn't give a straight answer addressing "the woke mob’s canceling of Dr. Seuss."
But the MRC also got a little defensive about the whole Seuss thing. Alex Christy complained that NBC's Seth Meyers pointed out conservatives' obsession with culture war issues, adding, "If conservatives are detached for merely responding to the left's culture war offensive, what does that make Meyers' fellow leftists, considering they are now also trying to cancel Dr. Seuss?"
Christy followed up by grousing that "MSNBC Live host Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday smeared conservatives for caring about cancel culture, calling it unimportant" and pointing out that it was Seuss' publisher and the Seuss estate that agreed to pull six lesser Seuss books (out of the dozens he published) for outdated racial imagery. He retorted, "While Ruhle is correct that it was Dr. Seuss' publisher that suspended the books, they did so because left-wing culture warriors have saying for years that some of his books are racists."
Houck returned to rant that "Thursday’s ReidOut featured more radicalizing rhetoric meant to send MSNBC viewers into a fury of hatred against anyone on the right, falsely claiming the Fox News Channel and the GOP are exclusively obsessed with cancel culture and controversies surrounding Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss." But Houck offered no evidence that anyone said Fox News was "exclusively obsessed" over Dr. Seuss, citing as evidence the claim was false a thread from his Twitter account featuring various random screencaps from Fox News talking about other things. But when Reid pointed out that Fox News had done "33 segments since Monday on Dr. Seuss" -- which has a basis in fact -- Houck offered nothing in rebuttal.
Graham complained further: "This debate needs more precision, not less. What pages in the Dr. Seuss books are objectionable? TV stories on it won’t show any images. Some images of African savages clearly seem like antiquated stereotyping, but others are more debatable. You can’t debate it if no one will show it." Well, nothing's stopping the MRC from publishing those images. And doesn't the MRC operate a "news" division, CNSNews.com, that also played the "cancel culture" card on this story while not showing any of the actual images in question? Yes, it did.
Gabriel Hays touted how usually-despised late-night host Jimmy Kimmel "warned that cancel culture’s current destruction of once-thought innocent pop culture staples like Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and The Muppets will get Trump elected a second time." Like his boss Graham, hays didn't mention that his employer played the cancel-culture card on Dr. Seuss first.
Duncan Schroeder ranted in a March 8 post where he was defensive about the conservative obsession over this, while also falsely blaming President Biden for it:
On Friday night’s CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon joined in with the liberal media’s obsession with bashing Republicans and Fox News for defending Dr. Seuss after books were cancelled by woke leftists. Lemon unspooled a five-minute commentary freaking out over House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeting out a video of himself reading Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham that went viral.
Schroeder is the one with the fake outrage here. Biden didn't mention Dr. Seuss because Dr. Seuss is no longer exclusively associated with Read Across America Day -- the contract giving the Seuss estate exclusivity for the event ended in 2019, with the National Education Association, which puts on Read Across America, deciding to promote more diverse books. And, of course, Schroeder didn't mention the MRC's attempts to cancel Dr. Seuss.
Potato Head rant
In addition to the above references, the MRC's Gabriel Hays devoted an entire post to a dumb rant over Mr. Potato Head losing his honorific:
Oh well isn’t that just so appropriate for our deranged and increasingly sterile society? The AP characterized the disturbing and unnecessary change as an update done in order to appeal to the perspective of current children. They wrote, “Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to kids today and to reflect more modern families.”
Hays is what happens when the MRC pays someone solely to spew hate of people he thinks aren't like him.
Despite that blistering attack, the MRC still felt defensive about all that attention on a toy potato. Alex Christy complained in a May 1 post that late-night host Stephen Colbert "falsely claimed that Biden has been so successful that the GOP has been relegated to complaining about the emasculation of Mr. Potato Head and literally presented zero ideas to counter the White House," going on to huff that Biden's policy ideas "have led to constant FDR and LBJ comparisons and declarations that the era of Reagan is finally over. But sure, conservatives only care about Mr. Potato Head's genitals or lack thereof."
Plastic bricks and cereal
The MRC expanded its fight over inanimate objects to plastic bricks and cereals for committing the offense of not hating LGBT people. Matt Philbin ranted in a May 20 post:
Having neutered the notoriously toxic masculinity of Mr. Potato Head, progressives are continuing their long march through the toy industry. Lefties intent on remaking the world in their image know their project depends on indoctrinating the young.
Yes, Philbin is mad at Legos, which should apparently always be considered heterosexual. On top of Philbin's bizarre sneering that anyone who's not heterosexual is part of "the leather speedo set," whatever that means, he went on to huff, "No doubt Lego will follow up with a Portland Public Library set where the purple drag queen can really strut his stuff. And with all those new letters in the alphabet soup, surely there will be many opportunities for follow-ons."
Alexa Moutevelis brought that same hateful, dismissive tone to a May 25 post raging at Kellogg's for offering an LGBTQ-themed cereal:
It's that time of year again - time for corporations to rainbow-up and start pandering to the LGBTQABCDEFG crew for “Pride Month” in June!
As if the MRC's anti-LGBT hate isn't propgandizing its readers to hate people different from them.
This isn't even Moutevelis' first time raging against cereal. In response to a similar 2019 campaign by Kellogg's, she huffed: "Have you ever eaten Froot Loops and thought, 'This cereal isn’t gay enough?' Do you seek a safe space to eat your Rice Krispies? Are you concerned that your Corn Flakes aren’t sufficiently woke? Well, now Kellogg’s has the solution!" She spat in her conclusion: "Equality and inclusion in a breakfast food it's social justice cereal! I think I'm gonna lose my breakfast."
Moutevelis doesn't seem to realize that it's her toxic hate -- inculcated by the MRC, which pays her well to spew it -- that's making her ill.