We can blame the 24/7 news cycle for creating this rush to misinformation, but there's no excuse for racism.
This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015
Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.
If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!
Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.
Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.
Alan Taylor, a senior editor for the photo section of The Atlantic, noticed differences back in 2005 and decided to photograph them. From his Flickr album:
"The 1963 edition is my own, bought for me in the late 60's when I was a toddler, and read to tatters. The 1991 edition belongs to my kids today. I was so familiar with the older one that I immediately started noticing a few differences, and so have catalogued 14 of the more interesting differences here in this collection."
Taylor found 14 pages with differences between the original and updated versions.
Here are eight changes that reflect some of the progress society has made:
Images via Alan Taylor/Flickr, used with permission.
The original has a woman (bunny) in the kitchen, while the updated cover has both a man and a woman (still bunnies) in the kitchen. Also: The "policeman" bear changed to a woman, and the label changed to "police officer." The word "mailman" became "letter carrier," and a female farmer was added. Oh, and we went from a cat-mom pushing the stroller to cat-dad! Progress!
(The bunny brushing its teeth in the house was changed from a boy to a girl, but I'm not gonna read into that because hopefully all bunny-kids brush their teeth, right? I mean, for the sake of their little bunny teefs!)
While the gender of each role remained the same in the newer version (which is, unfortunately, pretty legit, given the glaring lack of female pilots in real life), the stereotyping was eliminated by making the "handsome pilot" more of an everyday "pilot" (raccoon?) and by turning the "pretty stewardess" into a regular flight attendant.
Shhhh: Don't tell the Starbucks Christmas cup haters this, but there are a lot more winter holidays than just Christmas. The newer version of the book included a menorah in the blank space to recognize those who celebrate Hanukkah.
...and the subtle change from "called to breakfast" to "goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast" reflects that.
(Side note: Do Daddy Bears realllllly want to be treated like Kid Bears by being called to a meal, where they must promptly appear? I'm thinking not.)
And Richard Scarry's book was updated to reflect the late-20th-century realization that everyone belongs in the kitchen!
The updated version recognized that fact by changing "policeman" to "police officer" and "fireman" to "fire fighter." The ever-important job of cowboy was eliminated ( sigh ... how many career hopes and dreams were squashed?), replaced with a gardener and a scientist, both of which are filled by female characters. Three cheers for women in STEM! Also: The milkman was replaced by a taxi driver, but I'm pretty sure that was had to do with the fact that milkman (or woman) isn't a growing occupation any longer.
The newer version did away with the "beautiful screaming lady" (sigh... how many career hopes and dreams ... oh, wait — none) and replaced her with a regular "cat in danger." The "jumping gentleman" label was removed altogether, and the "fireman" became a "fire fighter" again.
We're still waiting for our football teams to get with the times, but the folks behind the Richard Scarry book update eliminated the "Indian" character that was wearing stereotypical clothing.
Florida State University recently led "the most comprehensive study of 20th century children's books ever undertaken in the United States." As you can surely guess, they found a gender bias toward male lead characters, even in books about animals — books like those by Richard Scarry.
Janice McCabe, the assistant professor of sociology who led the study, wrote:
"The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters. This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys. The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children's media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books."
And we need changes to keep happening! Kids should be able to read books with same-sex couples and characters who have disabilities, for example, because those are everyday occurrences and books are a great intro to the world for kids.
The mullet haircut has meant many different things. In the ’70s it meant you were a cool rocker such as David Bowie or Paul McCartney. In the ’80s it was the preferred haircut for hockey players and baseball dirtbags. The hairstyle also has a rich association with Southern culture and country music.
The mullet fell out of fashion in the mid-’90s when the flamboyant business in the front, party in the back hairstyle began to be seen as the epitome of trashiness. The haircut has been known by many names throughout history but would forever be known as the mullet after Beastie Boys released a punk rock B-side in 1994 called “Mullet Head.”
You're coming off like you're Van Damme
You've got Kenny G, in your Trans Am
You've got names like Billy Ray
Now you sing Hip Hop Hooray
Since then, the hairstyle has been so maligned that it’s usually only worn with a sense of irony or a complete lack of awareness. However, 11-year-old Allan Baltz of Jonesboro, Arkansas has changed the narrative around the hairstyle, by showing that a mullet head can be a person of not only style, but decency, with his recent charitable act.
In 2013, Allan and his twin sister Alice were in foster care and went to live with Derek and Lesli Baltz of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The children were only supposed to be with them temporarily before being reunited with their parents, but they soon realized it wouldn't be an option.
After living with the family for two years, the twins were adopted by the Baltz's.
"We were really terrified that we weren't good enough parents to keep them forever," Lesli told Southern Living. "So, we really worked through that a lot, and it became obvious that they were meant to be ours whether we felt like we were good enough or not."
During the height of the 2020 lockdowns, Lesli was looking for a way for the family to have fun. So they all began growing strange hairdos. Her husband grew a large mustache. Alice dyed her hair red and Lesli changed hers to teal. But Allan went the craziest by growing out a long, beautiful mullet.
He loved it so much that he took it up a notch by having it permed.
MULLET FINALISTS: Jonesboro, Ark., resident Allan Baltz, 11, is a finalist in the 2021 USA Mullet Championship. (Source: Lesli Baltz)\n\u25ba Hayden Henry, of Coushatta, Louisiana, also is a finalist\n\u25ba Voting ends Monday, Oct. 11. YOU CAN VOTE HERE \u25ba https://bit.ly/3mENars?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=ksla\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/nrZw8gsM9Z— KSLA News 12 (@KSLA News 12) 1633910435
"He thought it was hysterical. It was hideous, and it embarrassed his sister. Everywhere he went, people were like 'Nice hair, man.' He thinks it's the greatest thing, and he really owns it,” Lesli said.
Soon friends began to push Allan to enter the 2021 USA Mullet Championships competition. At first, he didn’t think he had a chance of winning the contest, but after learning there was a $2500 cash prize for winning the kids division, he was all in. Allan saw the competition as a way to pay it forward and help kids who are in foster care.
"He instantly was like 'Oh, OK. I can do it, and we'll give the money to kids in foster care,'" Lesli said. "He didn't hesitate. He didn't say, 'I can get a bike, then give some money away.' It was just instant that he wanted to give it away."
Allan submitted a photo wearing his father’s mountain biking sunglasses and his best suit. Because, let’s not forget, a mullet means business in the front. After weeks of campaigning, Allan won a decisive victory, gaining more than 25,000 votes.
During his campaign, Allan was vocal about what he’d do with the prize money, inspiring others to donate to his two charities, Together We Foster and Project Zero. The campaign and prize money resulted in $7,000 being donated to foster care charities.
"People also started volunteering … and donating clothing, beds, and diapers," Lesli said. "A few people that we know decided to start fostering because of Allan's story. The way that people hear it and it inspires them to do something about the foster care crisis is really incredible. We're just sitting back in awe and hoping that it continues to inspire more people to make a difference."
Allan’s generosity has helped countless kids in the foster care system. But he’s also done something else that’s pretty special. He’s brought honor back to the mullet.
On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.
Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.
"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.
"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”
"It makes no sense to me, because you're progressive in one way and then you're still making that fucking backward story of seven dwarfs living in a cave. What the fuck are you doing, man?" Dinklage added. However, he could get on board if Disney made some drastic changes to the fairy tale.
"If you tell the story of 'Snow White' with the most fucked-up, cool, progressive spin on it—let's do it!" he said.
Dinklage is one of the most high-profile dwarfs in the world, so when he speaks out about matters facing the dwarfism community, his words carry a lot of weight. They clearly caught the attention of Disney, which responded with a statement on Tuesday.
“To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community. We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the film will have cultural consultants and that the updated “dwarf” characters will be “CG/animated.” Disney has employed cultural consultants in the past on films such as “Coco” and “Mulan” to avoid promoting any harmful stereotypes. It's a tough lesson that the company has had to learn. Some of Disney’s most classic films now come with a disclaimer notifying people that they contain outdated depictions of certain groups.
The story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is a sensitive topic for the dwarfism community. Although it’s a cartoon, it’s often a child’s first exposure to dwarfs, or "little people" as they are sometimes called, and it promotes some of the worst stereotypes attached to them.
Throughout film history, dwarfs have been depicted as magical, communal people, villains or characters to be laughed at. Only recently has Hollywood has begun telling stories where little people are portrayed as fully developed humans. Dinklage has been a wonderful example of someone with dwarfism playing characters that are about more than simply being short-statured.
Historically, bigots have used “Snow White” as a cudgel against little people by comparing them to the characters in the story and by playing cruel jokes such as shouting “Hi-ho” at them in public. So it’s important for Disney to get the characterization of Snow White’s short-statured friends right or risk giving more fodder to those who wish to victimize them.