Cancel culture claims another victim: Children’s book publisher pulls Captain Underpants spinoff

Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of educational books for children, will no longer distribute The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future because it ‘perpetuates passive racism’ against Asians.

Critics charge that the book’s storyline includes a Kung Fu master with dashes for eyes who wears traditional Asian garb. He is rescued by two non-Asian protagonists who use Kung Fu skills while invoking Chinese proverbs. 

The move by the publisher, which comes amid a wave of violence nationwide that has targeted Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, has the ‘full support’ of the book’s author, Dav Pilkey.

On March 16, six women of Asian descent were among eight people fatally shot by a gunman at massage parlors in and around Atlanta. The spate of violence has focused national attention to the issue of anti-Asian racism.

‘Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism,’ Scholastic said in a statement.

‘We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory.

Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of educational books for children, will no longer distribute The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future because it ‘perpetuates passive racism’ against Asians. The most problematic illustrations in the book cited by critics were of a 'Kung Fu master' wearing traditional Asian garb. The plot features a Kung Fu master rescued by the book's non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills

Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of educational books for children, will no longer distribute The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future because it ‘perpetuates passive racism’ against Asians. The most problematic illustrations in the book cited by critics were of a 'Kung Fu master' wearing traditional Asian garb. The plot features a Kung Fu master rescued by the book's non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills

Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of educational books for children, will no longer distribute The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future because it ‘perpetuates passive racism’ against Asians. The most problematic illustrations in the book cited by critics were of a ‘Kung Fu master’ wearing traditional Asian garb. The plot features a Kung Fu master rescued by the book’s non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is from the creators of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is from the creators of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is from the creators of Captain Underpants 

On his YouTube page, Pilkey posted an apology on Thursday. ‘About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy,’ Pilkey wrote. ‘The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution.’

On his YouTube page, Pilkey posted an apology on Thursday. ‘About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy,’ Pilkey wrote. ‘The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution.’

On his YouTube page, Pilkey posted an apology on Thursday. ‘About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy,’ Pilkey wrote. ‘The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution.’

Pilkey continued: ‘But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.’

Pilkey continued: ‘But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.’

Pilkey continued: ‘But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.’

‘We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.’

Pilkey, the American cartoonist and illustrator, is best known for his hit children’s novel series Captain Underpants. In 2013, the 10-part series was considered ‘the most banned book in America’ due to complaints from parents about violent imagery.

On his YouTube page, Pilkey posted an apology on Thursday.

‘About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy,’ Pilkey wrote.

‘The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution.’

The decision by Scholastic has the 'full support' of the author, illustrator Dav Pilkey (pictured above in Westwood, California in May 2017)

The decision by Scholastic has the 'full support' of the author, illustrator Dav Pilkey (pictured above in Westwood, California in May 2017)

The decision by Scholastic has the ‘full support’ of the author, illustrator Dav Pilkey (pictured above in Westwood, California in May 2017)

An online petition circulated by Billy Kim demanded that Scholastic apologize for publishing the book

An online petition circulated by Billy Kim demanded that Scholastic apologize for publishing the book

An online petition circulated by Billy Kim demanded that Scholastic apologize for publishing the book

Several of those who signed the petition expressed outrage at the book’s author

Several of those who signed the petition expressed outrage at the book’s author

Several of those who signed the petition expressed outrage at the book’s author

Pilkey continued: ‘But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery.

‘I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.’

Pilkey wrote that Scholastic has ‘stepped forward to share my responsibility’ and ‘together we are ceasing all further publication’ of the book.

‘I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism is harmful to everyone,’ Pilkey wrote.

‘I apologize, and I pledge to do better.’

Scholastic and Pilkey did not cite specific examples from the book that they found to be problematic, but an online petition demanding that the publisher cease distributing the work included a screenshot of controversial illustrations.

The author of one petition, Billy Kim, said the book includes ‘multiple instances of racist imagery and stereotypical tropes, including a “Kung Fu master” wearing what’s purported to be a traditional-style Tang coat, dashes for eyes for the Asian characters, stereotypical Chinese proverbs, and a storyline that has the Kung Fu master rescued by the non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills (despite the fact that they were taught said skills from the supposed master).’

Several of those who signed the petition expressed outrage at the book’s author.

‘I do not want children reading these comics that are insulting and derogatory to Asians!’ Joanne Yoon of Dallas wrote.

‘Please do not show Asians being tied up and persecuted with a common racist slogan in a comic that children read.

‘We need to reinforce positive progressive messaging supporting anti Asian hate!’

Sue Lee, a resident of New York, wrote: ‘This is flat out wrong, Scholastic is a brand I’ve trusted and supported since my own childhood and to see this level of racism in a book meant for young children explains so much about why our society is the way it is.’ 

On Twitter, there was a fierce reaction against the decision as critics said it was another example of cancel culture run amok. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: ‘Bye bye Captain Underpants - say hi to Dr Seuss.’

On Twitter, there was a fierce reaction against the decision as critics said it was another example of cancel culture run amok. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: ‘Bye bye Captain Underpants - say hi to Dr Seuss.’

On Twitter, there was a fierce reaction against the decision as critics said it was another example of cancel culture run amok. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: ‘Bye bye Captain Underpants – say hi to Dr Seuss.’

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘One more book into the banned book list!’

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘One more book into the banned book list!’

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘One more book into the banned book list!’

Mary Bahler Kelly tweeted: ‘Another hilarious book series ripped from our hands. Such a shame!’

Mary Bahler Kelly tweeted: ‘Another hilarious book series ripped from our hands. Such a shame!’

Mary Bahler Kelly tweeted: ‘Another hilarious book series ripped from our hands. Such a shame!’

Another Twitter user commented: ‘Never be exposed to anything other than group think.'

Another Twitter user commented: ‘Never be exposed to anything other than group think.'

Another Twitter user commented: ‘Never be exposed to anything other than group think.’

Alex Baldwin tweeted: ‘So the “passive racism” in the book was...the prevalence of kung-fu? Kung-fu is a harmful Asian stereotype?’

Alex Baldwin tweeted: ‘So the “passive racism” in the book was...the prevalence of kung-fu? Kung-fu is a harmful Asian stereotype?’

Alex Baldwin tweeted: ‘So the “passive racism” in the book was…the prevalence of kung-fu? Kung-fu is a harmful Asian stereotype?’

Another Twitter user pointed out that 'one of the main characters is black'

Another Twitter user pointed out that 'one of the main characters is black'

Another Twitter user pointed out that ‘one of the main characters is black’

Rebecca Cho of Bayside, New York wrote: ‘This is absolutely unacceptable!

‘A CHILDREN’S book feeding young minds this garbage for the last 10 years?! I’m horrified!

‘To have young impressionable minds be fed such racist imagery and cultural derogatory material, I’m appalled to know that Scholastic supports this kind of ignorance/hate/stupidity/whatever you want to call it.’

On Twitter, there was a fierce reaction against the decision as critics said it was another example of cancel culture run amok.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: ‘Bye bye Captain Underpants – say hi to Dr Seuss.’

The tweet includes the hashtag #Cancelculture.

In early March, the publisher of the Dr. Seuss children’s books announced that six of them would no longer be available for distributions due to racist and insensitive imagery.

Another Twitter user commented: ‘Never be exposed to anything other than group think.

‘The blowback to cancel culture will see some very interesting results.’

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘One more book into the banned book list!’

Mary Bahler Kelly tweeted: ‘Another hilarious book series ripped from our hands. Such a shame!’

Alex Baldwin tweeted: ‘So the “passive racism” in the book was…the prevalence of kung-fu? Kung-fu is a harmful Asian stereotype?’

‘Cancel culture is attacking our institutions’: GOP congressman introduces GRINCH Act to protect kids’ books from ‘left-wing censorship’

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A Republican lawmaker wants to prevent children’s books from falling victim to ‘cancel culture.’

House Rep. John Joyce of Pennsylvania is introducing the Guarding Readers’ Independence and Choice (GRINCH) Act, that calls for cutting off government funding to agencies that censor books.

‘The reaction has been so positive…the cancel culture is rapidly attacking our American institutions, our libraries, our school,’ Joyce told Fox News on Friday.

‘I’m alarmed at the left’s attempt to cancel historic books characters.’

According to the proposed law, Joyce said that any state and local government that bans books would have their funds cut by Congress.

House Rep. John Joyce, a Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, wants to cut off federal funding to agencies that cancel children's books

House Rep. John Joyce, a Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, wants to cut off federal funding to agencies that cancel children's books

House Rep. John Joyce, a Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, wants to cut off federal funding to agencies that cancel children’s books

‘If you find that these books are offensive to your children, then the parents should be the ones who make that decision,’ Joyce said.

‘Government should not be making that.’

‘We have to understand that we cannot turn back and ban great historic people, great historic images that are part of our childhood,’ he said.

‘There are important lessons in these books.’

The proposed law was named after The Grinch, the fictional character created by Dr. Seuss.

The business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy announced in early March that six of his books – including ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’ and ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery.

‘These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,’ Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement.

‘Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,’ it said.

The other books affected are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company, which was founded by Seuss’ family, told AP.

‘Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,’ it said. 

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