It makes sense that Theodor Geisel — or as we know him, Dr. Seuss — was born during the dawn of spring. His colorful characters, singsong anapestic tetrameter, and bright imagination complement the season perfectly. Tomorrow the world will celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday in the form of Read Across America Day, when people (big and small) will be digging into their favorite Seuss stories. ( Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax also opens in theaters.) Although they’re primarily written for children, the author’s tales were smarter than most and often contained hidden meanings with satirical, political messages and profound humanistic meaning. His characters are the devices that bring it all to life, so we’ve chosen to spotlight a few favorites in order from best to worst. Tell us who you love below.
The tiny, orange Lorax has an Al Gore and Henry David Thoreau heart, with a stache like Walt Whitman. When he speaks for the trees — that are in danger of being chopped down by the greedy corporate Once-ler (who remains an invisible, looming identity throughout the story) — we listen. If you need a lesson in industrialized society and environmental issues, talk to The Lorax.
Gentle giant Horton is an elephant with a big heart and enough compassion for all the animals in the jungle. He goes through hell, though, to convince people that a speck of dust is talking to him. Eventually he discovers that the miniscule dot is really a planet called Whoville that needs the loving elephant’s protection — because “a person’s a person no matter how small.” The other animals in the jungle think he’s nuts, of course, and nearly destroy him for his beliefs, but Horton eventually comes out on top.
Before his fashion sense was adopted by stoners and juggalos, the Cat in the Hat was wrecking houses and creating mayhem in the bored abodes of children everywhere. He’s a cheery fellow who just wants to have a good time, man. We can’t fault him for the chaotic stuff, because he cleans up his mess in the end. The Cat in the Hat abides — when he isn’t unleashing his Walter side.
The Grinch is probably one of the most misunderstood characters in the Seuss canon. He’s a miserable bastard who hates the holidays — but that’s not too unusual considering how cranky some people get during the merry season, particularly when they have to endure things like traffic and cubicle holiday parties. It’s also eventually revealed that the Grinch hated Christmas, because he thought it was a corporate/commercial schmoozefest, where presents took precedent over meaningful things. Big ups to Grinch’s dog Max who remained his faithful companion no matter what, further proving what warm fuzzies are all about. Honorable mention goes to Boris Karloff who lent his sonorous vocal talents to the animated 1966 TV special, which many people love just as much as the book.
Dr. Seuss’ tale of materialism is like the movie Heathers , but without all the mass murder. Since we’re big fans of the Michael Lehmann film, we can ignore the lack of intellect on the part of the Sneetches. An enigmatic outsider, Sylvester McMonkey McBean (just like Christian Slater’s J.D.), infiltrates a group of avian creatures. The ones with stars on their bellies are basically like the Heathers. The ones without stars are deeply unhappy and shunned. McBean eventually tricks the entire group, turns a profit, and takes off. For both stories, the Heathers’ reign is over in the end — proving that you can teach a Sneetch after all.
He was persuasive and kind of a pain in the ass, but Sam I Am is a green eggs and ham advertiser’s dream. When his much larger friend finally succumbs to eating the strange delicacy after much nagging and has a Mikey’s Life cereal moment, Sam is kind enough to refrain from an “I told you so.” We also like Sam, because he keeps things simple. We’re looking at you will.i.am.
Look, there’s no nice way to say it. Yertle the Turtle is a jerkface. He’s king of the pond and uses all the other turtles in his midst to stack them like stones so he can increase the size of his throne. Finally Mack the Turtle has enough of the abuse and belches, which causes Yertle to come tumbling down — right into the mud where he belongs.
The old man who lives in the Desert of Drize means well, but he engages a young child in a constant pissing match, downplaying the poor kid’s angsty moments by chatting up other people’s misfortunes. What a downer. He’s like the annoying guy you work with who thinks he’s being wise by reminding you that the world is a terrible place and you’re so much better off than most, when all you really needed to do was complain about losing your dollar in the vending machine to get it off your chest.
Someone call Nanny 911. These kids are out of control
PETA would have a field day with Gerald McGrew from Seuss’ If I Ran the Zoo. We applaud little Gerald’s imagination and penchant for the bizarre — as he’s convinced he could make visiting the zoo a lot more exciting by finding truly exotic animals to show off — but the kid has a thing or two to learn about being kind. He totally insults the animals that are trapped in cages for his amusement by telling them that they aren’t good enough. Jeez, Gerald.