Post­ings get ugly fast on Youtube

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY LEANNE ITALIE

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.

UNIVER­SAL PIC­TURES VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“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.

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