Horton Hears from Me

I become annoyed with a current kid’s movie, on All Things Considered this evening.  Transcript after the jump:

I don’t know what sins Dr. Seuss committed in his life to be doomed to have Jim Carrey star in movie adaptations of his books. But I came out of “Horton Hears a Who,” with my wife and my three excited and happy daughters, irritated by something even more annoying than Carrey’s tics. In a new subplot added by the filmmakers, the Mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters. He has one son. Guess who gets all his attention? Guess who saves the day? Go ahead, think about, I’ll wait.

No I won’t. What’s so irritating about this casual slap at daughters is the sense that the makers of the film didn’t really mean it. They seemed mostly interested in riffs on pop culture and jokes about violating bodily integrity. But what writers are told, you see,  in Hollywood notes meetings, is that every character has to make a journey, towards something he needs and ultimately gets, and what they decided the Mayor of Whoville needswas a better relationship with his son. Here is a father with 96 daughters — 96 amazing, beautiful, unpredictable, mysterious, distinct, glorious human beings — but gosh, what in the world is he going to care about? I know, let’s give him a moody silent uninteresting offspring, but this one’s got a Y chromosome… that’ll be boffo box office!

Have the clowns who made this movie ever met a daughter? Have they dated one? If they did, did they meet the daughter’s father? Did they then ask that daughter’s father if there was anything more dramatic, interesting, arresting, and moving to him than his relationship with his daughter? Did they ask him if he might find that a close relationship with said daughter might be something he would care about? . What do they imagine that we do — sit around, and watch our daughters grow and change and suffer and fail and triumph — and idly wish for something more INTERESTING?

And there’s this — not only does the movie end with father and son embracing, while the 96 daughters are, I guess, playing in a well, somewhere, but the son earns his father’s love by saving the world. Boys get to save the world, and girls get to stand there and say, I knew you could do it. How did they know he could do it? Maybe because they watched every other movie ever made?

We got into the car outside the cinpeplex and I was quite in lather, let me tell you. How come one of the GIRLs didn’t get to save Whoville? I cried.

“Yeah!” Said my daughters.

“And while we’re at it, how come a girl doesn’t get to blow up the Death Star! Or send ET home? Or defeat Captain Hook! Or Destroy the Ring of Power!”

“That’s rotten!” cried my daughters.

“How come Trinity can’t be the One who defeats the Matrix!” I yelled.

“What are you talking about?” they said.

“You’ll find out later,”  I said.”But here’s one:  how come a girl doesn’t get to defeat Lord Voldemort!”

“Well, wait a minute, Papa,” they said. “None of us would want to mess with him.”

I took their point. But I still wanted to grab that fictional, silly Mayor of Whoville by his weirdly ruffled neck, and say, you see those 96 people over there? Those girls, those women, those daughters? You know what they’re saying to you, every minute of every day that you waste thinking about anything else?

They are shouting at you. They are shouting:

“We are here! We are here! We are here!”

74 Responses to Horton Hears from Me

  1. Elizabeth Baumgartner April 2, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    Oh a million thank you’s to you Peter!!! I just listened to your Horton commentary and found myself crying. Yes, we are here. Thank you for noticing!

  2. Alexander Kopelman April 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Dear Mr. Sagal,

    Thanks so much for this funny and insightful essay. As the Director of Marketing and Communications for Girls Inc.–the nonprofit organizations that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold–and, more importantly, as the father of a one-year-old daughter, I was overjoyed to hear your piece on “All Things Considered” this evening. It is essential that we men, as fathers, sons, and brothers, lend our voices and actions to creating real equality for women and girls.

    Thank you.

  3. piglet April 2, 2008 at 3:37 pm #


  4. Barb Burke April 2, 2008 at 3:39 pm #

    I LOVED YOUR COMMENTARY ON WHOVILLE Today! I’ve got the LITERARY GIRL who saves the day. I just need the LITERARY AGENT to help this GIRL get her out there! Know any?

  5. Nina Kelly April 2, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Our daughters and their worlds are just as important, fragile and full of potential as those of our sons. Your daughters are lucky to have a father who sees them as people who deserve everything the world has to offer and wants to see them get it.


  6. Brandon Prejean April 2, 2008 at 6:14 pm #

    Hello, Mr. Sagal, if you are looking for quality movies for children where there is a *Heroine*, look no further than all of the movies made by Hayao Miyazaki’s company, Ghibli. EVERY one of those movies are *excellent* animated family films, and the MAJORITY feature a strong, female protagonist. The cream of the crop include:

    Kiki’s Delivery Service
    Howl’s Moving Castle
    Whisper of the Heart
    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
    My Neighbor Totoro
    Spirited Away

    Each one is great entertainment, and give girls their fair shake.

  7. Darice Davis April 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm #

    I love your show, Peter Sagal — I listen to it real-time or via podcast every week here in Los Angeles on 89.3 KPCC. My fav shows are the ones with Paula Poundstone, and the week Melissa Etheridge was the guest celebrity. You are a fabulous interviewer and moderator; you are funny and informative without hostility and bite. Therefore, I couldn’t wait to hear what you had to say about this movie, Horton Hears A Who — the same movie The Oprah Show plugged, BTW, for a full hour before its release, if I recall correctly. (Shame, shame on her for not examining the content, and for blindly following her staff who obviously slept on this issue. Perhaps that sleeping is occurring because as you infer Hollywood has an obvious, overt, abject gender bias toward females/girls and preferential treatment for males/boys.)

    As a woman I herald your objection to the shunning of females evidenced too often today in scripted entertainment! Your defense of daughters is a breath of fresh air to my ear, and in my opinion, well over due and much needed. I welcome it; I encourage others who are creative to note instances of this same discrimination, and to respond to this critique with creative projects that speak to the wonders of daughters and women in general.

    I am very tired of the male perspective being the primary, and, too often the only view point featured by Hollywood in movies, cartoons, comics, animation, video games, etc. True enough, physical and logical approaches, which are more specifically associated to males and those whose behavior is dominated by male energy, are less complicated, and probably appeal to a less educated/more escapist-oriented audience as Hollywood seeks to dummy down its product to the lowest possible common denominators. There is obviously a market for all that focus on “doing” i.e. war, fighting, action and special effects movies — to name a few of the markets. However, the nuanced, more subtle, psychologically-based products also have an equal if not more populated worldwide market. The popularity of such diverse offerings as the movie, “Boys Don’t Cry” and Michael Moore’s documentary exposes of life in America today are a few examples. I must admit, though, I had trouble calling up examples of female perspectives in popular culture because so much of what is presented to the public is skewed heavily toward the male view.

    Do not take this eMail wrong: I am no male-bashing female. I love the full range of creative offerings — Ratatouille was my favorite 2007 movie. However, I was not unmindful as I watched it that females/female perspective had largely been excluded. I love a good western or war or escapist movie. When my schedule allows I look forward to seeing 2 movies out now, Leatherheads (w/ George Cloony) and The Bad Job. I applaud Hollywood for entertaining 20- and 30-something testosterone-driven males and their friends and girlfriends; and those Abercrombe ads are so hot! What I’m seeking, however, is a more balanced offering. Little girls are very cute, and if we want them to mature into full-functioning citizens after they reach majority age, we must begin to cherish them as often as we show respect to little boys who are fascinating as well in their phyicality!

  8. Amy Hughes April 2, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    I am a long-time Wait Wait lover and I heard your commentary on ATC this evening. I saw this post on my bloglines when I got home.

    As a woman who works in a very male-dominated career, and one who has really struggled with gender bias since moving back to her hometown a little less than a year ago, I have just one thing to say to you.

    Thank You.

    And congrats on the Peabody, BTW. WWDTM is the best show on radio, hands down.

  9. Julie Clemons April 3, 2008 at 7:13 am #

    Hot dang, I was pounding on the steering wheel and SHOUTING when I heard this last night. YOU GO Peter Sagal! I love you!!!!!

  10. Kathleen Kvern April 3, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    Mr. Peter Sagal I was driving to yoga last evening listening to NPR and had to pull over so I could fully focus on your funny, insightful, and unfortunately all-to-depressingly-real-in-the-year-2008 essay on Horton the movie. As the Chief Marketing Officer for New Moon Girl Media, an ad-free feminist organization for girls ages 8 – 15 I wanted to call you (in fact I tried getting someone at Chicago Public Radio so I could leave you a message thanking you!) and let you know how powerful it was to hear a father outraged on behalf of his daughters–and my daughter and girls everywhere.
    I would like very much to invite you to be a guest blogger on the New Moon Girl Media blogs with the Horton essay or anything else you’d like to speak about regarding being a Dad to Daughters. New Moon Publishing also has a “sister” organization called “Dads and Daughters” which you may know about. I will send you the most recent issues of both of our publications to enjoy and share with your daughters.

    thank you!
    Kathleen Kvern
    New Moon Girl Media
    Chief Marketing Officer

  11. Liza April 3, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    Like many others who have commented, I’ve been a huge Wait Wait fan for many years. But it was hearing your Horton review on ATC last night that prompted me to figure out how to communicate my thanks.

    You did a great job of making your serious and outraged point with humor. Your daughters are lucky young women — not every girl gets raised by a feminist dad.

    Thanks again!

  12. Elaine Torrence April 3, 2008 at 8:25 am #

    Wow! Right on! I am sitting here trying not to cry. Now I have to go to work all teary eyed.
    I hadn’t seen your website before. Great writing.

  13. Lacey Louwagie April 3, 2008 at 8:35 am #

    THANK YOU for talking about this. I saw this movie with my god-daughters and felt completely dismayed not only by the assumption that one son was more important than 96 daughters, but by the portrayal of females in general; the only female who gets any significant screen-time is the Sour Kangaroo (who is also the only mother who gets reasonable screen-time) who comes across as unreasonable and fanatic — and, well, it’s right there in her name, “sour.”

  14. Clarinda Merripen April 3, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    Sir, you are my hero. As a mom of an 11 year old sliding from being a smart girl to a “am I pretty or not?” teen, I applaud your humorous and outspoken editorial of “Horton Hears a Who.”

    I listened to NPR last night in the kitchen on the computer while cooking dinner with my 16 yr old son. He and I talk politics over slicing celery. Your story came on and we listened. My daughter was in the next room playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl on our Wii. I noticed about half way through that the noise from the the living room had gone quiet. When you had finished, there was a brief pause then the game sounds returned.

    My hubby came home late and after dinner, I played the story again for him. My daughter came in and listened again. Then she said, “He’s funny and he’s right. Why don’t movie girls *do* more?”

    That led us into a discussion of our well worn complaints. One of the most insipid is the advertisement Cinemark Theaters forces us to watch before every movie where “Front Row Joe” gets to be the star meets an unnamed girl at the soda counter, serving him, then he jumps into the movie to find the same girl to dance with him, er serving him, and at last, we see him in the front row with the same girl as his girlfriend, in a subservient role. My daughter finds this extremely annoying and always comments on it. It seems to taint the theater experience for her.

    Gratefully, we then turned to a list of characters we love like the girl from Spy kids and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We ended on literary heroines like Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Becka. She loves them all and relishes watching and reading them over and over again.

    I wanted to share my daughter’s comments and our family conversations with your editorial sparked.


    Clarinda Merripen

    (cc’d to All Things Considered)

  15. Michelle April 3, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Thank you so much for your review! I literally, like most who have commented already, teared up while listening to you thoughtful, passionate rants against plots that share this point. Your daughers truly are extremely fortunate to have such a wise and passionate father. Bravo!

    Michelle Gold

  16. chris zahner April 3, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    Dear Peter, I listened to your rant about “Horton Hears a Who” and, though I skipped the movie, couldn’t agree more. But, if you are looking for books with wonderful female characters and heroines, please try Baum’s Oz series. Although he began the series in 1902, he was raised by suffragettes, and his books are full of strong female characters. Many are good, a few are evil, and all are in the midst of the action.

    If you actually read this letter and decide to start reading the series, skip #10 (Rinkitink), as it seems to have virtually nothing to do with the rest of the series, and try to forgive him for General Jinjur and her silly all-girl army (armed with knitting needles and distracted by all the jewels in the Emerald City). This is a great series, full of humor and wisdom and wonderful females.

    Chris Zahner, Encinitas, California

  17. Kate April 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    I’m a 23-year-old, skeptical, (not quite) grown-up daughter.
    Reading this made my eyes get all watery at work.
    Thank you for being awesome.

  18. Noah Ramon April 3, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    from above : “Thank you for being awesome.”

    Yeah, that pretty much sums up my reaction to this piece.

  19. Tanya April 3, 2008 at 2:37 pm #

    I had the same reaction to this movie, I even blogged about it on my blog that has 3 readers. I ditto the ” thank you for being awesome” comments above.

  20. Paul April 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    Oh my God. I mean no offense to you, Mr. Sagal, but don’t you think having such a big opinion on a silly little animated childrens movie is a little over-reaction. I mean, so what if he has 96 daughters, and this one boy saves who-ville. The girls might do good stuff too, but this is ridiculous. (This was posted on yahoo news, it’s so big) I mean, it’s a good argument, and you have a good point, and women have done good too. I mean, it’s a kids movie. Kids know hereos are usually boys, and girls know and accept that. The only reason from what you have written that your daughters cared about the boy is because you mentioned it. My sisters have seen tons of movies like that, and don’t care. I think it’s good for you to express your opinion.

    Thank you (i know i sound like a hypocrite but, anyway)

    (I hope you know that i meant no offense to you)

    A NOTE FROM THE PROPRIETOR: Take a look at Paul’s website for some perspective before you reply to his comment.

  21. Westvillagegirl April 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    Mr. Sagal,

    I just wanted to thank you for your comments on ATC, as well as on Jezebel.com today. I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment right away, or I would’ve totally taken the opportunity to suck up to you about how wonderful your ATC piece was.

    And, as you saw on Jezebel, feminism has become such a buzzword for the Right, and gotten such a bad name, that even some feminists don’t like to think of (or openly identify) themselves as feminists. Some will say that we Feminists are worrying over trifles when it comes to stuff like this, but I feel it is desperately important to call out these kind of silent, but deadly memes for what they are.

    P.S. Love the show! Come back to Jezebel anytime! We can play nice, really.

  22. Stephanie April 3, 2008 at 4:56 pm #

    Mr. Sagal,
    I was part of the discussion on Jezebel today and just wanted to say thank you. I don’t care what other people might think, it’s in the details and to pretend like just because this is some stupid kids movie means it can’t and doesn’t have an effect on things is ridiculous. I haven’t seen the movie but when I read reviews about it I noticed that this was part of the story line and thought it was odd. Someone brought a good point about Dr. Seuss on Jezebel today, he thought cartoons and storybooks were quite important and could make a huge impact, it was his whole reason for creating art! Your commentary moved many of us to tears, as a daughter of a father who always taught me that I could do anything, be anything, say anything I wanted it was great to hear that I am not alone in the ‘good dad’ department. And I hope your words help people to realize how often during the day while they are watching t.v., movies, commercials and reading advertisements just how often women are shown as second class, useless, dumb, sex objects. I am at work and in a rush writing this, but I had to let you know how much you made my day. I am a giant Wait, wait fan and wish you all the best!

  23. Becca (and Brian) April 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm #

    “Kids know heroes are usually boys, and girls know and accept that.”

    Ouch. That kind of makes your point, right?

    And Paul, I’m not trying to make fun of you or be offensive either, but I’d question your assertion or at least ask “why are they usually boys and why is that ok?”

  24. Claire April 3, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    Mr. Sagal,
    Thank you so much for your brilliant commentary. Like so many people here, it made me cry.

    I think your comment actually illustrates Mr. Sagal’s point. The sentence “Kids know heroes are usually boys, and girls know and accept that” was clearly meant in good faith, and as a man you probably can’t understand that to a girl such a sentiment is a slap in the face. The very problem is that kids DO expect boys to be heroes, and perpetuating that stereotype will only allow that devaluing of girls to continue.
    Actually, as a young girl, I mentally altered many books I read (movies were too hard to alter, as they’re so visual) so that the hero became a girl. I struggled to identify with male heroes and resented that there were so few strong fictional female characters to identify with. It’s an insidious way in which the media reinforces our low cultural value for females, and only by directly addressing it, as Mr. Sagal does, can we change it.

  25. BikeMonkey April 3, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    bravo Peter, from one more father of a preschool daughter.

    (found your blog from this note on Zuska’s http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2008/04/links_for_432008.php#comment-819435)

  26. lauram April 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A hundred times “thank you!!” for your wonderful piece on the “Horton Hears a Who” movie. Your daughters are lucky lucky women to have a thinking man for a father. What a gift you are giving them.

    PS – LOVE Wait Wait…

  27. Sarah April 4, 2008 at 12:24 am #

    Dear Mr. Sagal,

    I understood what you were trying to say in your commentary, but overall it saddened me. It seems that nothing in this day and age can just be fun. Everything has to be some sort of political statement. I mean it’s Dr. Seuss. The most political thing he ever did was the Lorax and that was more a morality tale than a political statement. These books and subsequent movies are just for fun. They are something that a family is meant to enjoy sharing with each other. I feel sorry for you that instead of it making you feel happy, you became incensed. That is very sad to me. There are so many things in this world that are out there to bring a person down or make a person feel bad about themselves or what have you. There’s no need to be making up reasons to feel angry or offended. Just everyone, take a breather, realize we are discussing an animated kid’s movie, just enjoy the fun and leave it at that.

  28. scbelle April 4, 2008 at 5:20 am #

    Mr. Sagal:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You moved me to tears. And I think you’ve just become a poster-boy at jezebel.com.

    Wanted you to know: made my annual pledge to my local NPR news station today (WRJA 88.1), and while the credit will go to Morning Edition (yeah… I time my call for the dollar-for-dollar matching, what can I say?), my pledge was ALL FOR YOU. (Ahem–everyone else out there, if haven’t done so already, go support your local NPR station!)

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  29. Allison I. April 4, 2008 at 6:43 am #

    Peter, thank you! I also became teary at a red light while hearing your wonderfully indignant Horton rant. I came straight home, stomped up the stairs, got on my computer and made a donation to my local NPR station. Then I wrote a letter of thanks to All Things Considered. Then I called my boyfriend’s mom and told her to listen to it. Then I wrote a post about it on my blog. Then I forwarded the link to a number of friends. Then I made my boyfriend listen to it when he got home. Then I played it for my boss at work, who changed her instant messaging status to “We are HERE, we are HERE, we are HERE!”

    I mentor a 13-year-old girl and we go to a lot of movies. Nearly every time, I’m shaking my head about the female representation. The lead characters are almost always boys. And if a female does have a prominent role, she nearly ALWAYS ends up using her sexuality to get what she wants. I try to talk to my mentee about this so she’ll be aware of the problem. I think that’s better than growing up “knowing the heroes are usually boys and being OK with that.” It infuriates me that movie execs are so happy to perpetuate tired old gender stereotypes. Boffo box office!

    Your words hit me in the gut–in a good way. Thank you.

    It’s also nice to hear someone getting riled up on NPR. :)

  30. Sue Karr April 4, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    Peter, For whatever reason my original comment didn’t “take”, so I’ll try again. I thought your comments extremely interesting and very pertinent. I didn’t realize until reading an earlier comment that Oprah had devoted an hour to “Horton” before it’s opening, which made me think….you’re in Chicago, Oprah’s in Chicago….you’re in favor of girls, Oprah’s in favor of girls: sounds like dialogue to me! I’m also a huge fan os Wait! Wait! and feel the Peabody is eminently deserved.

  31. Rob April 4, 2008 at 9:59 am #

    Sagal et al,

    Wow…another example of how innocence and good old fashioned story-telling has to be manipulated into creating controversy for the sake of ratings, greed and cowardness. I am so sick and tired of all you bleeding hearts out there that want to make a drama out of everything. Is there nothing sacred anymore? Has society truly become a jaded abyss of cynics who only look for the darkness in everything and everybody?

    Stories, both of a non-fictional or fictional genre, are meant to share the intimate perspectives of the characters, narrators or authors on life, tribulations and/or fulfillment. And while I think healthy debate on certain subjects help us to evolve, expand our minds, or teach us how to respect differences, the increasing incessant need for people to bring darkness to everything light is appalling.

    I have a daughter, a son, and another child arriving in a few weeks. And I can tell you that while I have sworn to dedicate my life to ensuring they are given the appropriate amount of guidance and support to help them along their individual paths of achieving personal growth, there is one thing that will overshadow that imperative…keeping the ocean of cynicism away from them.

    I am not so naive to believe that sexism, racism, and general disdain for life does not inundate us in various mediums and actions. But what I do believe, must believe, is that we as a human race need to get over ourselves and learn to move past this small-minded bitterness and self-hatred.

    Everyone needs to learn to laugh again and not take themselves so seriously. Learn to cherish the smiles that are born from lifes’ oddities, good-natured spirit, and story-telling. Remember how to feel warm and fulfilled by a random act of kindness, a moment of spectacular achievement reached by a friend or family member, or just a good old toast to health, family, and friends. Why can’t we let innocence and fun last a little longer? We may find it is the cure for a struggling and self-destructive society.

    Final thoughts….Everyone is a hero to somebody. Woman and Men may be different, but their spirits, minds, and aspirations are united. People may be from different walks of life, but their hopes, dreams, and love for life are more common than ever. Embracing new cultures teaches tolerance and fosters knowledge and respect, but does not mean you have to sacrifice your personal traditions and values. And finally, it is frackin’ Dr. Seuss. Get over yourselves!!!

  32. Anne April 4, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Mr. Sagal,
    I just want to thank you for making this commentary. It’s brilliant. I saw the movie last night, came home and the first thing I saw was a link to your commentary. I laughed because you said exactly what I was thinking on my way home.

    Think of it this way: How would you feel if nearly every main character out there was female? They get to do everything and be the most interesting and faceted, well written characters while men are just vacant love interests or one dimensional support for the girl-hero. Men are forced to related to the female character because that’s all there is since females are defaulted and normal.
    Finally, when men get to be a main character (if they’re not heavily stereotyped) they’re considered “Special-interest” or “other” and golly gee, women don’t want to see them because “they can’t relate to those ‘other’ people, those men.”
    And then, when men would complain about this, they’re told to shut up or they’re overreacting or “That’s just how things are so stop complaining and just watch.” How would you feel? You’d be angry and you’d have an easier time seeing the inequity and it’s effects on someone who has everything constantly geared towards and catered to them than they would.

    And the whole children’s argument? Please! As if no biases like racism or sexism could ever be present in children’s media! You’ve got to be naive if you think that doesn’t color how children view the world when it’s all they see. Children don’t always have the capacity to see the sexism or racism, but they carry it with them and it causes the problem of blinding them to it and normalizing it. They will grow up not even seeing or realizing their biases.
    Your comment is proof in the pudding as to how little things, like this children’s cartoon, affect how people think even once they reach adulthood.

  33. Athene April 4, 2008 at 9:52 pm #

    Mr. Sagal, as a loyal Wait Wait fan, i enjoy listening to all of your interviews and shows. But your opinion on the movie completely and utterly blew me away. The sincerity adn passion in your voice, and your valid points made me start tearing up. As a teenager, i am sick and tired of seeing girls having to be slutty and dress provocatively in movies. And somehow, they always have to be saved by the men. THANK YOU for speaking out and i think that your daughters are extremely lucky!! i wish you were my dad.. haha ;)
    especailly growing up in a culture that devalues women and literally thinks that women are “not as valuable” as men, this commentary brings hope to me. My friend grew up in a traditional Chinese family and her brother, who is an absolute brat, doesn’t have to do ANYTHING. no chores, zip, nada. She’s saddled with all of them and wheneve her BROTHER misbehaves, SHE gets punished. her parents have even told her that they wished she was a boy. To those saying “geez, its a kids’ movie” or “it’s Dr. Seuss”, did you not READ the first part of Mr. Sagal’s commentary?? THE 96 DAUGHTERS ADN 1 SON WASN’T EVEN IN DR. SEUSS IN THE FIRST PLACE. WHY THE FRICK DID THE MOVIE MAKERS PUT THAT IN THERE?!! think about it this way: would you want your son or daughter, watch a cartoon glorifying Nazis? would you justify that because it’s “a kid’s cartoon?” of course not! Yes, i realize that Paul is like 12, but when i was 12, i as sure as hell knew that women could save the day just as well as men. Teh oversexualization of women in society,rendering them useless objects, worries me. if a 12 yr old can say quite calmy that boys should save the day and girls accept that, what would the 20 yr old say when he is in a relationship?

  34. Gail Keith April 5, 2008 at 2:06 am #

    I heard your “rant” on Horton and I was electrified. As a 54 year old woman with 2 grown daughters and a brand-new granddaugher, I raised my fist in my car while I was listening to you and kept yelling,”F-ing A, buddy!!!! Tell it like it is!!!” I am so distressed that after all this time, we’ve ( or at least the image of us -women)made such little progress in the way we’re thought of, and, worse yet, treated. I never believed in ’71 when I was marching on the Florida Congress to ratify the ERA, that in 2008 the future for women is not so bright we gotta wear shades.
    Yay You!!!! What a guy–what a father! Your daughters are lucky to have a dad who’s willing to speak out. Just pray they don’t emulate the likes of Madonna or someone else who has put us back decades.

  35. peter sg. April 5, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    I was toying with going to see this one because from the ads it didn’t seem like they had done as much damage to the story as they had in “Cat in the Hat” (which I was warned away from,) and the Grinch movie, (which there was no way in hell I was going near, Chuck Jones is *my* hero… (well, one of them…))

    I am sick at the thought that someone thought they had to add something like that to a Seuss story. I’m more generally sick that someone thinks to try and make a feature length movie out of any Seuss story. Chuck Jones had only 22 minutes to fill with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and he still had to add the songs and the manic sleigh ride down the mountain. He did similar with the Earlier version of “Horton Hears a Who.” I couldn’t even imagine what they had done with the other 70-odd minutes in the new movie. Now I know, and I’m appalled.

    As far as the hero son vs. the masses of daughters, I would like to know more about the screenwriter. did he really have that unhappy of a childhood that he needed the validation of a parent and couldn’t get it due to the overwhelming number of female siblings in the house and now needs to express his plaintive plea for parental acceptance in this depressingly transparent way? or is he just stupid…

    and Gail, what a wonderful attitude towards madonna, I agree…

  36. David Buckna April 5, 2008 at 12:11 pm #

    Check out:

    The Good Dr. Seuss
    A quiz…
    By David Buckna


  37. magre April 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    One day my 9yr old daughter happened to catch some of Laura Croft: Tombraider on TV. As soon as she could, she borrowed it from the library and watched it over and over. My twelve year old son in exasperation asked her why she liked the movie so much. She replied, “Because, FINALLY, the girl is the hero.” I nearly fell off my chair.

  38. Laura April 6, 2008 at 9:25 pm #

    Actually, I sincerely hope that given an uninterested and misogynistic father, at some point the girls will stop yelling “we’re here” and will just go take over the world. They’ve got their brother outnumbered, and it sounds like they’ve got the woman-power and skills to do it. And then they can yell something completely different.

    Good for you for noticing the lack of girl/women role models and what your own girls have to offer.

  39. Sally Johnson April 7, 2008 at 3:06 am #

    I love you, man!

  40. annie April 7, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    It’s been said before, but again: Thank you. I’m consistently amazed by the way women are represented in popular culture. It’s getting worse, I think, and I constantly ask myself whether the Second Wave ever happened, or if it was merely something that was dreamed up shortly before my birth in 1978. It is disheartening and infuriating. Your girls are lucky to have a dad who brings things up like this, because they’ll grow up thinking (rightly so!) that they are just as smart, funny, strong, and worthy as any man.

    And yet I wonder if this same commentary, given by a woman, would have been received the same way. Don’t get me wrong; I am so happy that you said what you said, and I love it when feminist men speak up. But I also feel like when women complain about our invisibility, or about our pathetic representation in media, it’s a non-story. People just chalk it up to “yet another angry woman” and tune it out. Why do our mass media pay attention to sexism more when a man points it out?

  41. David Buckna April 7, 2008 at 2:33 pm #

    On April 3rd, Clarinda Merripen wrote: “Gratefully, we then turned to a list of characters we love like the girl from Spy kids and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

    This Tuesday (April 8) on THE CHOICE (CBC Radio One):


    “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a television show that reached cult status when it
    aired in the late 90s. It’s the story of a California Valley Girl who was given
    powers that enabled her to fight the forces of darkness. Is Buffy also a feminist
    icon? This week on The Choice, Ideas producer Mary O’Connell explores why Buffy the Vampire
    Slayer became a pop culture phenomenon. Buffyworld, this week on The Choice. Midnight (12:30 NT) on CBC Radio One. One can also listen online, or on Serius Satellite Radio, channel 137.

    See also:

    Buffy a morality play
    Words from the book of Buffy

  42. gredma April 8, 2008 at 1:09 am #

    Thank you! I’m glad you’re talking about this- your voice reaches so many people.

    Anyone saying that we shouldn’t “politicize” or “make controversial” a children’s story (because children don’t need to be protected from offensive material?) is simply biased! If it was a racial slight do you think Oprah, and the general public, wouldn’t have had a problem with this movie? But because it is a gender issue, it isn’t as offensive? Well, all I had growing up was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m offended! Sexism is a serious social problem, and we need people like you to speak out, especially for young girls and especially when there are still people out there who question why we’re even having this discussion!
    Please keep speaking out and I’ll keep listening to my favorite news quiz radio show!!!
    P.S. Thank you again…I love you! And Paula Poundstone!

  43. Lisa April 9, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    Thanks. I grew up, in a way, wishing I was a boy just because I wanted to do stuff. If I had realized earlier you can be a woman and do stuff the same way – not just as the wife or supporting actress or the Wendy to someone’s Peter Pan.

    What made your rant powerful is that it rejects the notion that Hollywood just needs to market women’s movies differently, as a lot of the comments below suggests. The point is that action=male, psychological/supportive=female is ridiculous.

  44. Elizabeth April 9, 2008 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you! Gredma summarized my thoughts pretty well (including the ps), though I have one thing to add. Though your girls sound too old for it, I’d also recommend The Paper Bag Princess as a story that turns the usual fairy tale on it’s ear. It’s a good antidote to the Disney Princesses (which we also like, for what they are) and promotes discussion about happy endings not all being the same. And though I cringe a bit at the environmental destruction, I think that when outsmarting castle-eating dragons, a girl deserves a certain amount of latitude. It also makes for an inexpensive Halloween costume…

  45. Anita April 9, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    THANK YOU! I was a single mom FOREVER of a girl who is now graduated and holding a job of her own at 23. I am a MS degreed environmental professional who fought double perception battles ALL the time. I wish you would have been my prince, there certainly were a lot of dragons–the main one being the perception I simply wasn’t capable to the task at hand–getting up and going to a professional job and raising a daughter all at once, on my own. Its hard to convince your daughter she can do the same, when here in the midwest no believes you can. And its simply because of stereotypes and no one understands the effects.

    thanks for noticing; thanks for talking out loud.

  46. Laura April 12, 2008 at 9:26 am #

    Sarah (in comment #27 above) says the most political thing Dr. Seuss ever did was The Lorax. Not true. Theodor Seuss Geisel was a political cartoonist as well as a children’s book author. (For example:http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dspolitic/)

  47. Erika Frykman April 14, 2008 at 8:29 am #

    I will be the 100th person to say it, but thank you! I saw the movie last night, and felt the same annoyance… the only women characters were the villain kangaroo, that freaky Katie creature, and the personality-less (doubtful but vaguely supportive) wife of the mayor.

    I am a woman in her mid-twenties and I find myself increasingly critical of the media, particularly how my gender is portrayal (or left out).

    A side note: can’t Hollywood get a bit more creative? I happened to see Steve Carell’s movie “Evan Almighty” on as an in-flight a few weeks ago. Did anyone else notice he played the same role in that movie– practically the same script as “Horton Hears a Who”?

  48. Laurel April 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    Thank you Peter, for your rant, and for Wait Wait, our family’s favorite radio show (including 13 yr old daughter and 10 yr old son.)

    May I suggest to all the mothers and fathers of daughters the books by Tamora Pierce? Great fantasy with strong female characters. Female pages, heroes, spies, and mages (who even use contraception!). My daughter turned me on to them when she was ten, and we both still love them.

  49. Sonia C April 21, 2008 at 4:53 am #

    Dear Peter,

    I live in India and saw the film this weekend. came out of the theater with anger and biting disappointment. It’s indeed fantastic that you wrote this comment. Very strangely and very sadly, most film critics worldwide have not felt the need to mention the unabashed and unapologetic chauvinism this film propagates. And the fact that it’s aimed at kids makes it that much more dangerous. Films like these take us back ten years and honestly should be banned. After all, propagating skewed stereotypes to children is a huge crime! Thank you once again for taking a stand. And boo to all the film critics who could not articulate this hidden chauvinism.

    Sonia C

  50. Demexii April 27, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    I was part of an internship and during it I was to sit in on a whiteboard meeting for a web short they were starting (I was there to tell them if something could or could not be programmed or if it would take too long). They were trying to think of something new that they could do to and someone said have a female lead. There was a bit of discussion and they decided that females would be more willing to watch a male lead than males were to watch a female lead and trashed the idea in favor of a model that they know that works.

    My guess is that they felt this would be the most popular to everyone. I agree, the 96 daughters and the conveniently place male as the first in line to be mayor is a bit suspicious but they did say that there could be female mayors. They just conveniently placed the male first in line to keep the boys watching. My guess is they didn’t want to break a model that they knew would bring in the money.

  51. Mara June 3, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    (I wish my father had been like you).
    However, I am glad that many fathers Are like you.
    Your (and their) daughters will always know how truly loved they are.
    Re: Carrey & Seuss: I can’t make myself watch the Carrey Grinch movie. That is one Ugly make-up & costume deal he has going, with that movie.
    I should think any kid would be traumatized for Life, encountering the movie Grinch. The book Grinch is rather scary, but he does even come Close to the hideously demented, completely wretched look of the movie Grinch.
    Jim Carrey gets on my nerves, of course, but Will Ferrell…
    Hey, think about This: a movie starring Both Ferrell and Carrey. A Dr. Seuss movie. (I mean: just kill me now, already. And do it quickly).
    I guess it could only get Worse if Britney Spears had a bit part in this movie. And Paris Hilton procured a cameo appearance, somehow.
    It’s truly horrible, what the mind can conjure, if given enough leeway. Or Hollywood, for that matter.

  52. Kate M-C June 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    Amazing. You are absolutely right. As usual. :) Well done!!

  53. torceactAllopa June 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    00827. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/larrylevasseur/2007/10/02/67857/][b]Poor Credit Personal Loan[/b][/url]
    04346. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/BadCreditOk/2007/09/20/66790/][b]Student Loans With For Bad Credit Students[/b][/url]
    04897. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/philvgordon/2008/03/12/83695/][b]Loans Online High Risk Bad Credit Personal[/b][/url]
    04966. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/charlesbojanen/2008/03/14/83835/][b]Guaranteed Unsecured Personal Loans Online For Bad Credit[/b][/url]
    05356. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/robertlnebel/2008/04/01/85550/][b]Free Verizon Ringtones[/b][/url]
    06425. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/lorrieacclark/2008/04/22/87440/][b]100% Free Ringtones[/b][/url]
    07033. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/partner55346429/2008/05/06/88882/][b]Card Credit Debt Relief Credit Free Instant Report[/b][/url]
    07665. [url=http://kverizonringtones.weebly.com/][b]Cheap Verizon Ringtones[/b][/url]
    08727. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/catherinemponder/2008/05/22/90597/][b]Ringtones Free Verizon[/b][/url]
    08893. [url=http://blogs.ign.com/christamstewart/2008/05/22/90599/][b]Ringtones To Download For Free[/b][/url]
    09272. [url=http://jackwrobertson.tigblog.org/post/388359][b]Elvis Presley Music Ringtones[/b][/url]

  54. Laura R June 27, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    i am a daughter who is blessed, proud and happy to have a great dad who has always cherished me. thanks to his encouragement and efforts, i am a confident woman who knows her abilities and has entered the scientific workforce. though i have a sister and 3 brothers, he has given each of us equal time, love, and attention, as well as helping us to develop our strengths. (if anything, he gives me too much!)

    thank you for being a father who cares so deeply about his daughters. i think, to put it bluntly, that that is the best of the work you can do- despite your many other (deserved) recognitions of achievement.

    love the radio show. new to this site but now a fan.

  55. Gary Mussell June 30, 2008 at 7:54 pm #

    Correct me if I’m wrong (and maybe it is already mentioned in this blog) but doesn’t the original Horton Hears a Who story have a heroine. I thought the mayor looked all thru the town to make sure everyone was making a noise and found Cindy Who who put them over the top. Too bad the movie did not follow the story.

  56. E.J.S. July 5, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    It’s so funny, my mom used to give my sister and I (practically) this exact same speech every time we watched a TV show or movie with a male protagonist. And her biggest qualm was about Harry Potter! I’m glad it’s now out there for everyone else to consider and enjoy.

  57. Jan August 14, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    Don’t forget: Harry Potter would never had made it without Hermione, Ginny or the sacrifice of his mother! Sorry, I’m a girl and a Potter fan.

  58. JLB September 21, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    Peter Sagal, I’m such a fan. I work in the technology side of the financial services industry, where men are 90% of the workforce and women have to work 10 times as hard and be 10 times as attractive to achieve the same things as men. It sometimes seems like nothing has changed since suffrage and shorter skirts, except they can’t fire us for getting pregnant. At least for now. Thank you for giving women a (lower) voice; the male POV always gets more respect.

  59. Catherine October 20, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Go, man Go! And let me recommend Elizabeth Moon for your future reading pleasure.

    RE Harry Potter: One of the things dh and I hate about the first movie is Hermione is given the shortest shrift- me because she’s a girl and dh and me because she used logic (something girls aren’t to do in movies).

    And here I thought I was avoiding Horton because I hate the unnecessary crap Hollywood tends to add- we saw Grinch and swore off forever.

  60. Kabur Naj November 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    To Peter’s detractors:

    Anyone who thinks that mass-market children’s entertainment is “just for fun” and therefore need not be held to account for its power in shaping the thinking of growing children has either forgotten their own childhood, is just plain ignorant, or is intentionally deluding themselves for whatever reasons they may have. One of the main references that kids have for how to think about the world, and for how to behave, is the media that they consume through their television sets (and increasingly through their computers and game consoles). Any parent who’s ever made a conscious choice about what movie to let their kid watch based on what time of day it is, will attest to this fact.

    Children don’t consume media the same way that adults do. Even though they are usually aware that “it’s just pretend”, while they are watching they are completely subsumed by it (I know I was at any rate, as does my five-year-old daughter appear to be), with no dissociation between the room in which they’re sitting and the action on the screen. Furthermore, they generally lack the life experience and critical faculties necessary for them to assess whether they are being delivered “good” or “bad” information about the world. This makes it far more important for parents to be vigilant about the content that their children consume (*especially* so about the subtler “between-the-lines” messages like the one that prompted Peter’s opinion piece above), and to engage in post-viewing discussions where appropriate. Kevin Smith made a related comment in Kirby Dick’s documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated”, where he said that violent movies which display the true consequences of violence ought to be less severely rated than movies which display violence with no impact beyond “good guy wins, bad guy loses”, because the latter demands an audience capable of recognizing the absurdity of the depiction.

    As for those who think that Dr. Seuss stories or Theodore Geisel himself were merely frivolous and apolitical in their aims, they might want to pay more attention to how they themselves read, as well as their children. Although whimsical on the surface, many Dr. Seuss stories (as with most quality children’s programming) are powerful allegories on serious lessons—even if that lesson is sometimes simply that “Everyone needs to learn to laugh again and not take themselves so seriously”. (BTW, I don’t think that Rob, who stated this in comment #31 above, is a regular listener to Wait Wait, or he couldn’t have made such a preposterous comment in relation to Peter Sagal.) For more on Theodore Geisel and the political content of Dr. Seuss stories see:

    To those seeking better entertainment fare for their daughters:

    I second the point raised about the Wizard of Oz. I’m on the third book with my daughter, and the Judy Garland movie rapidly became her favourite video. (JinJur’s army is an unfortunate inclusion in the books, forgivable as social satire of the day I suppose, but a little tricky to explain away to a five-year-old in today’s context.) Another favourite children’s book series of mine is “Clementine” by Sarah Pennypacker, especially the second book.

    I regret that magre’s daughter had to discover Lara Croft as the “first” girl who gets to be the hero. As far as I could tell from watching both movies, the only thing perceptibly female about Lara Croft is that she has large breasts, sexy gams, pouty lips and long hair. Ditto for a distressingly large fraction of the scant other “strong” women portrayed in movies (Trinity included)—their characters might be female, but they succeed by acting and reasoning like men. I might recommend “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” instead or “Contact” or even “Ella Enchanted”. I second the Studio Gibli comment from above, too, as long as you remember that just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean that it’s a children’s programme (e.g. “Grave of the Fireflies”). A nice discussion of various Studio Gibli films (including which ones are child-friendly) can be found here: http://www.tankriot.com/2006/012/ .

    Keep up the good fight, y’all! The most powerful impact we can have on the world is to raise our children to be better than the status quo.

  61. pan December 9, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    GREAT Essay… love it love it love it

  62. Geoffrey December 15, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Just saw Prince Caspian, and was thrilled at what a strong character Susan is. She is a fantastic warrior. The other chief female character, Lucy, is admirable because she is the one with the clearest focus on what the right thing to do is. The chief male characters are doing their best, but have much more obvious character flaws than the women, and the females actually get the males out of trouble.

    And, while I fully concur that we need strong female roles, I certainly hope they don’t compensate by making lots of weak men’s roles. For example, I am REALLY sick of sitcoms that revolve around the husbands being lame jerks, yet have very tolerant wives.

  63. Serena January 8, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

    Dear Mr. Sagal,

    THANK YOU. (Not to mention the movie’s creators’ insistence on relying on racial stereotypes for nearly all of its characters. It’s something that people don’t necessarily notice in animated films but is oh-so-prevalent. That made me seethe.)

    Serena, proudly, the youngest of 3 daughters.

  64. Margaret April 4, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Mr. Sagal,

    Love you on Wait!Wait! and was delighted that someone besides me has skepticism about Jim Carrey and the Dr. Seuss movies. Although I have a son, I am a daughter and found your comments right on. (Sometimes I wonder what Oprah is thinking…). Perhaps you can make Chicago the next Hollywood!

  65. Mary April 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    Thank you Peter!!! This rant made me realize how lucky your daughters are!

  66. Janet Williamson July 25, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    Peter, I am 63, white and female and I lost my doting father (who also had three daughters) over twenty years ago. I still adore him and it was so refreshing to see another girl’s daddy. Enjoy your daughters as much as possible because they will really love you forever … even if you’re not around to see it.

  67. MJ August 22, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    I, unfortunately, am not so lucky. I was born an only daughter to a man who wanted a son. I have a logical, critical, and precise brain, but my failure to love American football put me clearly over the edge with my father. I am 23 now and an aspiring astrophysicist, and nothing makes me more irate than seeing women portrayed incorrectly. Thank you for pointing out an inconsistency that should have been obvious from the beginning to everyone who watched this film. Male heroes who don’t respect females as their equals are no heroes at all, and I, for one, hold them in contempt just as much as I would a white hero who treats his black friends differently. Sexism is as bad as racism, and it’s time to start seeing that.

    I’m a regular listener to Wait, Wait, but I didn’t realize you had a keen brain behind that cheerful sense of humor.

  68. otis agabey September 2, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    ”I don’t know what sins Dr. Seuss committed in his life to be doomed to have Jim Carrey star in movie adaptations of his books.”

    Well, maybe you might want to consider the sins below:


    especially this one:


    Good Show Peter, and more Paula please.

  69. Hayley February 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Growing up in a large family, (I’m one of nine children; five girls, four boys), one on one parental time was the rarest gift we got. As an adolescent, I knew my Dad loved me but I wasn’t sure he recognized me as an individual from all my siblings and he didn’t really encourage me to value myself as a person; the message was more “be a good girl” if anything. Not that he didn’t value me or want me to succeed; it was just hard to get that message across to one child let alone eight more. I had a difficult time understanding why girls were expected to be good while my brothers got away with murder and “boys will be boys” was the motto that allowed my brothers to express themselves freely and try anything and everything.

    Nothing touched me more then the weekend after I graduated high school. My father bought me a guitar and gave it to me the morning of graduation. It was awesome but I knew it was coming, (my sisters can not keep a secret). It was the Saturday after graduation, I woke up to a note my Dad left in the kitchen, and it read: “Gone on a few errands. Look in your guitar case.”

    In stead of my guitar I found “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad: 100 Reasons.” This book is much more then a picture book with a hundred little antidotes of why a girl needs a father in her life. I sat there crying, reading the book over and over again. On the inside flap he wrote a fond memory of me saying my first word (“liiiiiight!”) and how he admits he’s made many mistakes over the years w/his children but knows he did something right to have a daughter like me.

    At 26 years old I don’t know if I have any other possession that means more to me than that book. The daughter-father relationship is something so special and complex I bet its impossible to define.

    I appreciate you writing this blog. And I’m sure your daughters appreciate having such an in tuned father.

  70. Kate July 18, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    It has taken me this long to comment because I took this essay as a challenge to actually write a book centered on a girl who is strong, and creative, and smart, and unusual, and about to go on the adventure of anyone’s lifetime. I am no J.K. Rowling, but I have a draft done, and I am working on making it into something. I would love ideas on where to go for help, and editing, and inspiration, and support with work like this.

  71. Kennith Aranas August 10, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there

  72. ผลบอล November 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Thank you Peter!!! This rant made me realize how lucky your daughters are!

  73. Dana Stabenow August 8, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I’ve been grousing about Harry Potter not being Harriet since the first novel. I’ve heard over and over again from teachers and librarians that YA authors write male characters because you can’t get boys to read girl characters. Three words: The Hunger Games

    (Sorry, Peter, late to this party but couldn’t resist a little honest indignation.)


  1. Mario Game Play - May 15, 2008

    Mario Game Play

    Could not have said it better.