Postings get ugly fast on Youtube
The young girl shows off her big, comfy koala hat and forms playful hearts with her fingers as she drops the question on Youtube: “Am I pretty or ugly?” “A lot of people call me ugly, and I think I am ugly. I think I’m ugly, and fat,” she confesses in a tiny voice as she invites the world to decide. And the world did. The video, posted Dec. 17, 2010, has more than 4 million views and more than 107,000 anonymous, often hateful responses in a troubling phenomenon that has girls as young as 10 — and some boys — asking the same question on Youtube with similar results.
Some experts in child psychology and online safety wonder whether the videos, with anywhere from 300 to 1,000 posted, represent a new wave of distress rather than simple self-questioning or pleas for affirmation or attention.
How could the creators not anticipate the nasty responses, even the tender tweens uploading videos in violation of Youtube’s 13-and-over age policy? Their directness, playful but steadfast, grips even those accustomed to life’s open Internet channel, where revolutions and executions play out alongside the ramblings of anybody with digital access.
Commenters on Youtube curse and declare the young video creators “attention whores,” ask for sex and to see them naked. They wonder where their parents are and call them “fugly” and worse.
“Y do you live, and kids in africa die?” one responder tells the girl in the koala hat who uses the name Kendal and lists her age as 15 in her Youtube profile, though her demeanor suggests she was far younger when the video was posted.
Another commenter posts: “You need a hug . . . around your neck . . . with a rope.”
Some offer support and beg Kendal and the other young faces to take down their “Am I Pretty?” and “Am I Ugly?”
they were not-so-subtle attempts by Hollywood to “indoctrinate our children” to turn them into little environmentalists who despise capitalism.
The controversy is rooted in the book itself. Many Dr. Seuss books have an official moral-to-the-story. Take, for, example, “Green Eggs and Ham.” Moral: Try it, you might like it.
“The Lorax,” however, is one of the few “message” books Theodor Seuss Geisel ever wrote. It was not just a story, it was a call to action. At the end of the book, the Once-ler tells a young boy, who is a stand-in for all of us, to take the last seed of a Truffula tree and go plant it. This, our mysterious villain-narrator hopes, will begin to reverse the damage he has wrought. But this is an awkward resolution, a triumph of message over story: If the Once-ler is filled with regret over having despoiled the land by cutting down all the Truffula trees in pursuit of profit, why doesn’t he just plant it himself? Because it wouldn’t leave the reader with marching orders, that’s why.
In Nature in 2011, contrarian environmental writer and mother Emma Marris called the children’s book “a kind of ‘Silent Spring’ for the playground set,” and did not mean that entirely as a compliment. She confessed that she was “hesitant about introducing the book to my young daughter,” because the book “puts a lot of responsibility on small shoulders” that may not be ready for it.
She described the book’s prophet, the Lorax himself, as an “impassioned little nag” and a “parody of a misanthropic ecologist.” Universal Studios saw the Lorax’s nagging as a possible turnoff. It tries to make the message more palatable by leavening it with humor. This Lorax is voiced by comic actor Danny Devito, and he is more cynic than prophet.
The movie makes the Lorax seem the voice of reason by making the voices of business sound completely mad. It’s not enough that the Onceler (voiced by Ed Helms) chops all of the Truffula trees down in a fit of short-sighted, family-driven greed. He also delivers a song about it, dressed in a costume that has him looking like a cross between the Riddler and free money guy Matthew Lesko.
But wait, there’s more! In this version of the story, we meet Mr. O’hare, an enviro-apocalyptic profiteer who sells filtered air to the residents of a completely artificial Thneedville and tries his very best to keep even one new tree from being planted, lest it cut into his market share.
In its original form, “The Lorax” seemed plausible in broad strokes, if not strictly accurate. At one point, industry really did operate with less restraint, and major private and public clean-up efforts were needed. Dr. Seuss’s Once-ler isn’t so much malevolent as thoughtless. He doesn’t realize the great harm that he is doing, until it is too late, and the despoliation gives the Lorax’s preachments force.
Since the famed writer-illustrator’s death in 1991, all Dr. Seuss products undergo the intense vetting of the Seuss estate, especially by widow Audrey Geisel, who has signed off on the movie wholeheartedly. She insisted to Forbes recently that the conservative charges against the movie ring false. She agreed that “‘The Lorax’ is meant to educate rather than to indoctrinate.”
But she’s got it backward, I think, and her moral judgment has colored her creative one. Her husband’s creation was purposeful propaganda for a point of view that managed to be both rooted and timeless. It still seems relevant, not as an accurate picture of man’s management of nature but as a warning against thoughtlessness and backsliding. The latest slick attempt to update the story is a modern crowd-pleaser, to be sure, but it already seems dated.
Commenters on Youtube curse and declare young video creators “attention whores.” This image shows a girl with a koala hat asking “Am I pretty or ugly?” The video has received more than 4 million views and in excess of 107,000 anonymous, often hateful responses.
“The Lorax” is viewed as one of the few “message” books Theodor Seuss Geisel ever wrote. It’s not just a story, but a call to action.