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The Dark Side of Dr. Seuss


This could be called “What did you do in the war, Doc?”   For the second half of hislong career Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote hugely popular children’s books.  Before that he wrote for humor magazines and made money in advertising.   For a brief time in the 1940s he was in the US Army making gung ho propaganda and army training films.  Is there a correlation between attracting young readers and influencing the minds of adults?   With this program you can examine Dr. Seuss’ adult oriented work and make your own decision. See Notes at bottom.

Program List

Coming Snafu (c1943)
A cartoon for soldiers announcing the new character Private Snafu created by Dr. Seuss and animated by Warner Brothers.Fear (c1943)
The first Snafu cartoon explaining how fear works and how to not let it over come a soldier.

Target Snafu c 1944
Snafu  is lax in guarding against mosquitos, the carriers of malaria.  He is targeted by a squadron of mosquitos using military tactics.

Spies! (c1944)
Snafu doesn’t watch his mouth.  He is seduced by a sexy spy and spills the beans about his troop ship’s movements.  He ends up in Hell.

The Goldbrick (c1943)
Snafu is a malingerer.  He shirks his duty.  He pays the consequences.

Our Job in Japan (1945)
Written and directed by Dr. Seuss.  A training film for soldiers who would occupy Japan after the war.

Rumors (c1944)
The most Seuss like of all the Snafus.   A rumor spreads through an army base.   Snafu is to blame.  He goes insane.

Booby Traps (c1943)
A very adult Snafu.   He encounters many booby traps but the literal one is the best:  A bomb hidden in a woman’s brassiere.

The Home Front (c1943)
Snafu is freezing his nuts (see how this is addressed) in Alaska.  He dreams of the soft life he is missing in the states.

Your Job in Germany 1945
Written by Dr. Seuss and Directed by Frank Capra.   The greatest and most horrific propaganda film ever made in the land of the free.

Notes:

Lt. Col. Geisel’s most famous contribution to the war effort was the creation of the character Private Snafu, (Snafu is a military acronym standing for “Situation Normal- All Fouled Up“.) Private Snafu was a hapless, clumsy and easily misled recruit. He starred in a series of hugely entertaining training films shown to soldiers. Because the soldiers were adults, the cartoons are sexier than those seen in movie theaters. Because a war was going on, they are full of racism. “Lovers of Dr. Seuss will take renewed delight in his whimsical and imaginative illustrations even as they may be disturbed by the attitudes reflected in some of his work.People magazine.

Geisel also worked on documentaries. “Your Job In Germany” was shown to the soldiers who would occupy Germany after the war, It strove to impress upon them that the German people were inherently evil and could not be trusted. Especially not the children! Horrifying film footage was used: mass hangings in Russia, emaciated survivors of concentration camps, mass graves, towns reduced to rubble, American soldiers being put into body bags. It is twenty minutes of viciousness hidden under the cloak of education. Could this be written by the same good Doctor who gave us! The Cat in the Hat? Directed by Captain Frank Capra and written by Lt. Colonel Theodore Geisel.

Similarly, “Our Job In Japan” was shown to the troops sent to occupy post-war Japan. It explained that Japanese people are not inherently evil, just brain washed by religion and cultural into becoming killers. There was still hope for them. Less vicious than “Your Job in Germany“, it is still a far cry from “Horton Hears a Who“. Written and directed by Lt. Colonel Theodore Geisel,