In a scathing press release disseminated today, the American Society of Primatologists (ASP) condemned the work of the children’s author/artist duo Margret and H.A. Rey on their famous Curious George series. At issue are the frequent allusions to George as a “good little monkey”. As summarized in their blistering indictment, ASP members took exception to George’s portrayal as a monkey:
The ASP expressed particular concern about the effect of the Curious George series on children:
In an effort to counteract the taxonomic propaganda of the Curious George series, the ASP is calling for a full boycott of all books, lunch boxes, t-shirts, videos, dolls, toilet seat covers, and especially coffee mugs emblazoned with graven images of Curious George. “Basically if it is bright yellow and red, we ask you not to buy it,” asserted ASP Executive Secretary Justin A. McNulty.
This is not the first time that the Reys have gotten into trouble for using Curious George as a piece of propaganda. In 1993, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) accused the Reys of “muddying the distinction between humans and primates.” The ICR proclaimed that by suggesting George was a monkey and giving him human-like capabilities, the Reys were promoting the idea of evolutionary continuum to children:
Ever since the ICR campaign, fundamentalist Christians have avoided exposing their children to Curious George, and the series has been banned from public libraries in several southern states.
Having alienated the religious right, it now appears that the work of the Reys has fallen into disfavor with liberal academic scientists. Famous primatologists have lined up to express support for the ASP’s boycott.
“There’s been no greater barrier to my life’s work than Curious George,” claimed Jane Goodall, “he really has set primatology back by decades.”
“I myself am partial to basal primate species,” admitted Patricia Wright, “but I sure can’t condone calling Curious George a monkey.”
“Generally I believe that we are a peace-loving species,” said Frans de Waal, “but I think that it is time that we declare war on the Curious George series.”
“Exposing your children to Curious George is only steps away from committing infanticide,” explained Sarah Hrdy.
“For all these years children have thought that George was a monkey,” smirked Richard Wrangham, “what a load of fools children are.”
The ASP also condemned the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) for its continued support of the Curious George children’s series. “The new Curious George video series provides even more clear evidence that George is a chimp,” asserted the ASP press release, “and yet PBS continues to claim that George is a good little monkey (and very curious).” Some reports have suggested that — amid all the controversy it has generated — the Curious George series will be moved to HBO, a network known for supporting edgy children’s programming, including Sesame Street and The Wire.
The ASP has planned a series of protests at Curious George retail outlets, locations they call “ground zero of taxonomic misinformation”. Prominent Harvard anthropologists, including Wrangham and Joseph Henrich, have lined up to man the picket lines. “The damage that Curious George has done to human culture is incalculable,” said Henrich, “it is the least I can do to take time off from my busy research schedule to stand in front of the Harvard Square Curious George store.”
Joining them will be disgraced former Harvard primatologist Marc Hauser. “Finally I have something to do with myself,” Hauser quipped.
“April 1st will be a day remembered by generations of primatologists” ASP President Marilyn A. Norconk emphatically stated, “as the day that scientists stood up to the big media conglomerates and put an end to taxonomic misinformation”.A Major Post, Activism, Behavior, Cooperation, Empathy, Evolution, Fluidity of Knowledge, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Human Evolution, Phylogenetics, Primates, Primatology, Professional Societies, Reciprocity