*Readers Be Advised* The following article contains images that are offensive. Please proceed with caution and keep in mind that it is only our intent to inform and that we find the images highly insulting and disrespectful.
Arguably one of the most famous authors of all time, Dr. Seuss has had an impact on legions of people because of his books. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, he is best known as the writer and artist who brought classic stories like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “The Cat in the Hat” into being. As a result, there are literally millions of people alive today of all ages who will reflexively smile when someone says the name he went by or brings up one of his most beloved stories.
Unfortunately, his legacy isn’t so simple, as several of his actions are actually pretty deplorable and even he seemed to realize it as he tried to make some amends. Keep in mind, though, the guy tried to be more inclusive long before things like political correctness were a concern. Realizing all of this is what inspired us to put together this list of things Dr. Seuss did that we all should be offended by.
When putting together this list, we sought to find the worst things that the man who came to be known as Dr. Seuss did in his life. As such, we considered all of his art, the characters he created, known things he did in his personal life, and more. We also want to make it clear that this list is not meant to say that he was an evil human being. Instead, we are interested in showing a side of him that is often forgotten. It does appear like he legitimately regretted some of his past misdeeds as he did things like altering some of his stories later on to eliminate the type of things you’ll see here. He did this while he was still a powerhouse in the industry who wasn’t facing a lot of pressure to change. Thus, we take his contrition as sincere.
19 Army Chemicals
A company that Dr. Seuss worked extensively with, this is not going to be the only image that he created in order to sell products put out by Flit that you will find on this list, much to our chagrin. A questionable relationship considering that at that time, there were a number of products that used chemicals that turned out to be dangerous to people and the environment that wasn’t enough. Instead, he opted to depict one of the most respectable groups in society as a bunch of yokels. Whether or not you support fights that the army ends up embroiled in, that should have no effect on the respect those that serve get. And based on the way Seuss made them look here, you’d never know that.
18 Jungle Man
We weren’t joking when we said that Flit would show up on this list several times, and in our effort to underline that fact, our next entry involves one of their advertisements drawn by Seuss too. Clearly a company that wasn't exactly concerned with the idea of being seen as racist at the time, this image that they put out to try to sell their product incorporates an awful stereotype. Showing their product supposedly being used in order to take a wildlife photo, included in the group involved in the shot is a caricature of a jungle man that should offend any viewer. That is to say nothing of the fact that Seuss seems to think it is funny to spray an elephant in the eyes with what we can only assume is a toxic chemical too.
This is the second image on this list that plays off of racist tropes. We’re just going to make it clear now that that’s a trend that is definitely going to continue. This time playing off of racist ideas of how the Middle East operates, there is a couple of things going on here. The first and more obvious idea that jumps out at you is the concept that harems are a regular occurrence there and that women are so devalued that time in bed with them will be traded in return for very little. The second and more insidious concept here, though, is that society as a whole there is so backward that they don’t even have the technology to make products that stave off insects for themselves.
An equal opportunity offender when it comes to the range of races that Dr. Seuss has drawn in awful ways, this time around, it was the Japanese that he was going after. Drawn during his time working for the government as World War II was still going on, this time around, he created this piece to inspire people to buy war savings bonds and stamps. An effort to convince regular joes to fork over their hard-earned cash to the war effort as a whole, apparently, they thought that the quickest way to do it was by portraying a whole ‘nother race in a horrible fashion. Meant to be a representation of Japanese leadership, we can understand anger towards them considering how they attacked Pearl Harbour, but that doesn’t make it okay to draw something like this.
15 Attracting Flies
Over the years, there have been a number of writers and artists that have depicted their idea of what it must be like to live on a deserted island. A fascinating concept, we always are interested to see how it is depicted, and this drawing by Seuss has to be one of the most disappointing ways it ever has. Showing the victim of a shipwreck coming up to the smallest island ever, it is only populated by a caricature of a black man. Not only awful because he is drawn to be yet another play on the jungle man stereotype, they went further by having him surrounded by flies too which makes him seem stinky. Not even content at that, he is also written to speak in Ebonics too.
14 Recruitment Strategy
The second time we’ve seen the same style of drawing meant to depict Japanese leadership during World War II, this time around, Dr. Seuss also incorporated a depiction of Hitler too. Understandable in that regard since they were allies and both countries were guilty of doing despicable things at that time, there is more at play here. Playing off the same racist trope as he did in the previous entry, this time around, he isn’t only trying to get people to give their cash to the war effort but asking what they’ve done at all. To us, that says he was also trying to convince people to enlist as well which makes it even worse. Attempting to inspire people to fight in a battle where they will be charged to kill the enemy while showing them in this fashion is akin to trying to inspire killing through racism, which is horrendous.
Well, we left the depictions of jungle men that Dr. Seuss drew behind for a while, so we thought it was time to go back to it again. Previously on this list, they were depicted as being cruel to animals and stink. But if you thought that was as low as the doctor would go, then you were wrong. Instead, he felt the need to play on the whole cannibal thing we’ve seen in a handful of stories over the years. Depicting a ruler as sitting in front of a pot where a white man is being cooked alive, they are also too stupid to undress their future meal or take away his canister of chemicals. Furthermore, he also drew their face with a mouth region that looks similar to monkeys in some ways which opens up a whole new slew of troubles.
12 Who Rides Who?
Many followers of the career of Dr. Seuss probably don’t realize this but not only did he create some of the most beloved children’s stories of all time, but he also had an adult tale published too. Called “The Seven Lady Godivas,” the book was focused on a slew of sisters and their adventures which are problematic in multiple ways, some of which we will touch on in a future entry. Here, however, it is the way that he portrays overweight people that we are disgusted by. An image from the book that shows the young women the story revolves around riding horses on the branches of a huge tree, there is one of them that stands out. The one sibling that is overweight immediately drew our ire as instead of sitting on her steed, she is shown carrying it since, apparently, fat people couldn’t possibly ride a horse.
11 Slap What Now?
You know, when putting together a list like this one, you see a lot of things that are mind-boggling which causes you to feel like you’ve gotten to the worst of it before too long. After all, it feels like once you’ve seen so many racist drawings, you’ve hit the bottom of the barrel. But then, things go further and your chin hits the ground. Not content to draw Japanese people in a way that plays on stereotypes like slanted eyes that are always closed, this drawing somehow went even further. This time around showing them as not even being fully human, he draws them as being part bug. On top of that, if there was any question left about what he was going for he throws in the slap the Jap line to put it to rest.
10 What A Queen Is Worth
Bringing together two of the concepts that we looked at earlier in this list, this time around, the idea that women are worthless is combined with his version of the jungle man we’ve seen several times. Yet again showing off the king that we already saw apparently eats people, this time around, he is traveling around on the back of an elephant while being tended to. Asked about where his wife is, who we assume would be the queen, he reveals that she won’t be returning anytime soon. Stating that he traded her for a “flit gun,” evidently, he values a short-term fly fix more than the woman he married, who presumably means more to him than any other woman alive which says it all.
Yet another example of how Dr. Seuss drew Japanese people as monsters during the Second World War, we thought that making them part bug was bad enough but he outdid himself yet again. These time around drawing one of them as a creature that is hard to even describe, yet again, he has slanted and closed eyes as well as a grimace on his face. Additionally, he is wearing a swastika necklace but is otherwise dressed in a formal manner, which says to us that this drawing is trying to say that no matter how they dress themselves up, they are still deemed monstrous. Of course, more notable are his claw-like hands and animalistic legs and feet, as well as the skull hanging from his hat as he denounces American barbarism and inhumanity. All this really depicts in our opinion is the inhumanity of the artist at the time.
8 Racist Alley
There is so much going on here that it is hard to fathom where Seuss got the inspiration for this image. Depicting an American bird trying to ward off an invading force of deadly cats, if there was any way to confuse what he was trying to say with this image, he quickly put it to rest. Drawing a sign that reads Jap Alley, that and their slanted eyes which were a staple of his pieces depicting Japanese people makes it obvious what the cats are meant to represent. Including a caption that says there is “a hell of a lot of ‘em,” he is trying to make the viewer see them as a true and ever-present danger. When you then notice what the bird is about to do to the cat he has in hand, it seems like he believed that Japanese people were worthy of a nail in the head.
7 TNT Handout
At this point, we’ve included several images of the way that Theodor Geisel drew Japanese people during his time tackling them in World War II, and you probably thought it couldn’t get much worse. We did too until we saw this drawing where he depicts them as far more insidious. After all, previously, they were shown to be monsters which is horrendous but also blatant. Here, however, we are meant to see them not only as heartless killers but also as deceptive too. Showing a group of Japanese Americans picking up dynamite and then going back into society, this image encourages the ignorant to see anyone with ties to that area of the world as possible conspirators. Drawn with huge smiles on their face too, it seems to signal that no matter how nice they appear, they are to be feared.
6 Father And Daughters
Remember earlier on this list when we wrote that we would be tackling the other problem areas of Dr. Seuss’ book “The Seven Lady Godivas?” Here we are and boy is this a sick scene that you are looking at. A story that is focused on a group of sisters as they try to find romance, mostly with their horses which is gross enough, one of the most unique parts of it is that they are all naked all of time. Early on, we just assumed that they live in a culture that is without clothes, but then we became aware of this man whose body isn’t only fully covered but he is in armor too. Made even worse by the fact that he is revealed to be the father of these young women, this scene shows him with his grown daughters totally nude lined up in front of him. All we can say to that is, ewwwwww Dr. Seuss, come on man.
Somebody we were totally unaware of prior to putting together this list, John Haynes Holmes was an anti-war activist who co-founded both the NAACP and the ACL, two hugely important organizations. Attacked in this drawing that Seuss put out where he quoted him as saying “The unhappy people of Japan are our brothers,” clearly, the artist scoffed at such an idea. Going so far as to depict a Japanese person with a fake halo over his head, holding a deadly knife and the head of a victim, it seems obvious that Seuss saw all Japanese people as horrible. Really getting to the core of the idea that he was painting millions of people with the same brush, it really is one of the best examples of him holding racist believes but he even outdid it as will become clear.
Another example of Dr. Seuss and his early days drawing mature content, this image doesn’t depend on the context of a full story to outrage the senses as it is all there in this one drawing. Showing a young man on an island as he comes across an older woman who is positioned in a suggestive pose, she seems ready to accept his advances. Interesting as it tackles a type of May-December relationship that was often ignored at the time, this was put out for fear of controversy. It is actually the caption that offends modern sensibilities, though. Revealing that the young man is only thirteen in that short set of words, we knew he looked younger. But when we realized his intended age, we were disgusted.
3 Cheating On His Cancer Ridden Wife
When looking at the contributions that the best work of Dr. Seuss had to the lives of many families, you really want him to be a good part of such a unit too in his personal life. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the actual case. Married to Helen Palmer Geisel for forty years, that is a landmark that many marriages fall short of. However, it came to an end when his wife died at her own hand while her body was rife with cancer. A tragic result to be sure, it is made worse by the fact that she took this step due in part to depression she felt upon finding out that her husband cheated on her with her longtime friend while she was sick. If that weren’t enough, once Helen was no longer among the living, he married the woman he cheated on her with the following year, which is even more of a slap in her face.
The last drawing that Dr. Seuss created to appear on this list, this one had to be really bad to beat out all of his other work on this list, and it definitely is that. An image that depicts a store of some sort, in the top three parts, we see that it is selling things like a butterfly net, stacks of hay, and various tools. Those items all in the same business is intriguing as they are really different types of products but that isn’t of too much interest to us. Instead, it is the bottom frame where they are selling cartoonish black people for a customer’s woodpile that offends us to our very core. Drawn in a minstrel style that brings to mind the blackface era of filmmaking, their huge lips and over-the-top coloring is revolting enough, but the idea that they are worthy of being burnt makes us want to vomit.
1 Supporting Japanese Interment
We bet you are shocked that a drawing depicting black people as fire fodder didn’t take the top spot on this list, and we are too. But trust us, there is a good reason for that. First coming to prominence for his work during World War II which we have heavily featured on this list, Dr. Seuss spent that time degrading the enemies of America. However, it wasn’t only through his work that he treated them as subhuman but also in his words as he supported imprisoning American Citizens simply because they are of Japanese descent at the time.
Sent a letter decrying the way he depicted these human beings he wrote this: “Right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: “Brothers!” It is a rather flabby battlecry. If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.” Drawing someone in an awful way is bad enough but putting his artistic weight behind the warrantless horrific treatment of innocent people is the worst thing he could do with his career.