Fact check: Viral meme misleads in comparing ‘WAP’ song, Dr. Seuss book, ‘The Muppet Show’
The claim: Cardi B’s ‘WAP’ wins song of the year while ‘The Cat in the Hat’ is deemed inappropriate and Disney slaps content warnings on ‘The Muppet Show’
Recent announcements about some Dr. Seuss books being discontinued, toy giant Hasbro changing Mr. Potato Head’s name and advisory notices on Disney+ episodes have brought forth complaints from social media users of “cancel culture.”
One meme that has been shared widely on Facebook criticizes the changes made by the companies and claims that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit track “WAP” can win song of the year, while children’s books and TV shows require caution.
“Imagine living in a nation where Cardi B’s (“WAP”) wins ‘song of the year’…Yet ‘The Cat in the Hat’ is deemed ‘inappropriate content’ and Disney slaps content warnings on ‘The Muppet Show,'” reads a March 3 meme with over 2,300 shares
Accompanying the text is a photo of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion from the “WAP” music video, images of “The Cat in the Hat” and characters from “The Muppet Show.”
The same meme has been shared by hundreds of users across Facebook in posts that have racked up thousands of shares.
Some users have also shared similar text versions of the claim. One user captioned the text meme, “The world we live in lol Welcome to 2021.”
In a message to USA TODAY, Andrew Hodge, one of the users who shared the meme, said that “The Cat in the Hat” claim included in the meme is “a bit of a stretch.”
“I know that portion of the meme is not true, however the idea of ANY Dr Seuss book being deemed inappropriate when you have songs such as WAP out there as a number 1 anything is completely ridiculous in my opinion,” he said.
USA TODAY reached out to several other users who shared the claim for comment.
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Cardi B’s ‘WAP’ named song of the year by publications, not submitted for a Grammy
While the meme does not specify where Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” was awarded song of the year, the track is not nominated for a Grammy Award.
According to Teen Vogue, “WAP” was not submitted to be considered for a Grammy because Cardi B wanted to wait for the release of her entire album. The Grammys are March 14. Cardi B’s album has no release date.
In a Nov. 24 Instagram live post, the rapper said, “If I was pressed for a Grammy I would have submitted ‘WAP’ for this year and I didn’t submit it. I don’t want to be submitted to award shows until I put out my album because I think my album is so good, and it means something and I worked on it a lot. I’ve been working on it for almost two years.”
The song did make history by becoming the first female collaboration to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, according to “Entertainment Tonight.”
It is possible that the meme could have been referencing numerous sites such as NPR and Rolling Stone listing Cardi B’s “WAP” as No. 1 on their Best Songs of 2020 lists. In similar versions of the claim shared to Twitter, users specified that “WAP” was named song of the year by NPR.
Rolling Stone said “WAP” was the “escapist raunch America needed in 2020,” and NPR described the song as “the spectacle of unity between two of music’s brightest talents.”
This is not the first time the track has received criticism from the right on social media for its explicit content and lyrics. Both artists have previously addressed the backlash surrounding “WAP” in interviews with GQ and People Magazine.
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‘The Cat in the Hat’ is not banned
Claims that “The Cat in the Hat” was deemed inappropriate follow a March 2 statement, in which Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it would cease the licensing and publishing of six titles after working with a panel of experts that included educators.
The books affected include “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
A 2019 study published in the journal Research on Diversity in Youth Literature that examined 50 Dr. Seuss books found that 43 out of 45 characters had “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism” and white characters comprise 98% of all characters.
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in the statement. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
The “Cat in the Hat” is not one of the effected books written by Dr. Seuss and it is not labeled as inappropriate in the recent statement, as the meme suggests, however, it has previously received criticism.
"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss. (Photo: USA TODAY)
Philip Nel, a professor of English at Kansas State University and author of “Was Cat In the Hat Black?” told Education Week in 2017 that the main character was based on a Black woman who worked as an elevator operator.
“He is an example of how even progressive, anti-racist people can act in ways that are racist. I don’t think he’s intentionally recycling stereotypes in his book from the ‘50s, but the imagination is influenced by the culture in which it grows, and it doesn’t necessarily filter out the racism bits during artistic creation,” Nel said.
Washington Post book critic Ron Charles notes that concerns of racist images and attitudes in Seuss titles and other children’s publications are not new or part of “cancel-culture hysteria.” In the early 1930s, Langston Hughes criticized Helen Bannerman’s “Little Black Sambo” for its demeaning depiction of a Black child.
The claim that Virginia schools removed Dr. Seuss books from their libraries has been previously debunked by USA TODAY.
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Disney+ adds content disclaimer to select episodes of ‘The Muppet Show’
It’s true that Disney+ recently added disclaimers to episodes of “The Muppet Show.” However, the post leaves out important context and the streaming service is not censoring or canceling the show.
The 12-second content warning has been added to the beginning of 18 episodes, such as one where Johnny Cash sings in front of a Confederate flag, and other episodes that include negative deceptions of Native Americans and Middle Easterners, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The warning reads: “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversations to create a more inclusive future together.”
The move was part of Disney’s “ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion” through its Stories Matter initiative, which states that the company has brought together external experts to assess content and “ensure it accurately represents our global audiences.”
You can watch The Muppet Show on Disney Plus. (Photo: iMdB / Disney)
Similar advisory notices for racism have been in place since November 2019 – which were updated in October 2020 – to classic Disney films such as “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan,” “The Aristocats,” “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp,” USA TODAY reported.
“The Muppet Show” episodes are still available for viewing, but some major edits were made to episodes of season 2 because of issues securing music rights and difficulties with licensing the songs, according to Entertainment Weekly.
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Our rating: Missing context
We rate the claim that Cardi B’s song “WAP” won song of the year while “The Cat in the Hat” is deemed inappropriate and Disney adds content warnings on “The Muppet Show” as MISSING CONTEXT because it leaves out important details. Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it is pulling six of the authors books after consulting with educators, however, “The Cat in the Hat” was not among them. Further, the post fails to mention that the content warnings, which have already been in place for several Disney films, were added to “The Muppet Show” because of negative depictions of cultures. A majority of Dr. Seuss books are still available and “The Muppet Show” is still streaming on Disney+.
Our fact-check sources:
- Grammy.com, Jan. 26, 2020, “Billie Eilish & FINNEAS Win Song Of The Year Fir “bad guy” I 2020 GRAMMYs”
- Teen Vogue, Nov, 29, 2020, “Cardi B Explained Why She Didn’t Submit ‘WAP’ For Grammy Consideration”
- @bardigangonlyy, Nov. 24, tweet
- Entertainment Tonight, Nov. 28, 2020, “Cardi B Shares Her Reason for Not Submitting ‘WAP’ for a GRAMMY”
- Rolling Stone, Dec. 7, 2020, “Year in Review: The 50 Best Songs of 2020”
- NPR, Dec. 3, 2020, “Best Music of 2020”
- GQ, Dec. 21, 2020, “Megan Thee Stallion: ‘For a long time, men owned sex. Now women are saying, ‘I want pleasure'”
- Suessville.com, March 2, “Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises”
- Education Week, Oct. 4, 2017, “Is ‘The Cat in the Hat’ Racist?’
- Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, February 2019, “The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism., Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books”
- The Washington Post, March 2, “The time is right to cancel Dr. Seuss’s racist books”
- Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21, “‘The Muppet Show’ now comes with a content disclaimer warning on Disney+”
- Disney.com, Stories Matter
- USA TODAY, Oct. 19, 2020, “Disney+ adds stronger, longer, warning about racist stereotypes to classic films ‘Dumbo,’ ‘Peter Pan'”
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