Companies’ changes spark debate about ‘cancel culture’

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Jackie Winchester
Parents and teachers are reacting to the news that six books by Dr. Seuss will no longer be published. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Once-beloved books, shows and products have recently seen cultural changes with the removal of what some say is offensive language and content.

Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, and Disney have all been targeted as people push to make them more inclusive.

The latest company to announce a change is Unilever, which produces Dove and Suave products. It’s taking the word “normal” off its bottles.

“It shouldn’t say normal because there’s no such thing as normal hair,” said Kiarra Rensel of Fort Myers.

The move makes shampoo and other Unilever products the latest victims of so-called “cancel culture.”

“No matter what you say, I’m offended, OK, let’s change it. I mean, people are getting a little too sensitive,” said John Glenn of Cape Coral.

Merriam-Webster says “canceling” or “cancel culture” has taken hold in recent years “due to conversations prompted by #MeToo and other movements that demand greater accountability from public figures.” They go on to say, “The cancellation is akin to a cancelled contract, a severing of the relationship that once linked a performer to their fans.”

People who spoke with WINK News have their own ideas of what it means.

“If it’s for serious things like being racist, being homophobic, being mean to people in general, or making other people feel bad, I think it’s necessary,” said Rensel.

Many aspects of our childhood have been adapted for today’s times. Recently, some Dr. Seuss titles were removed from shelves, “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo” had content advisories added and were removed from the Kids category on Disney+, and Hasbro redesigned its Mr. Potato Head toy line, moving the “Mr.” to the fine print.

“It’s just a potato, it’s a toy,” said Rensel.

“You can have rap music that uses nothing but profanity, that’s OK, but a Dr. Seuss book is no good,” said Glenn.

His wife, Susan, had a different take. “It’s a way to teach kids of maybe how not to be sometimes,”

Is “cancel culture” sticking around?

“I think of our political nature that we’re in right now,” said Susan. “It wasn’t like this five years ago. I feel bad for our grandkids growing up.”

Rensel says there’s probably no going back.

“People are probably going to have to get used to it because just like Gen Z and everybody has taken over so much of that type of stuff. I don’t think there’s any backtracking with it.”

Unilever said they’re replacing “normal” with more specific terms for shampoos or skin creams. The company was prompted to make the change after a poll showed 70% of people didn’t like the word used for advertising.

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