Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

America Society of Primatologists condemns H. A. and Margret Rey, calls for Curious George boycott

Posted 01 Apr 2016 / 2
Curious George and his cooperative partner The Man in the Yellow Hat are widely loved by naive children

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:

He is a knuckle-walking primate who performs cognitively-advanced tasks such as riding bicycles, releasing zoo animals from captivity, assisting firemen, and using improvised tools. He has no tail and lacks hair on his face, hands, and feet. He shows empathy for the man in the yellow hat despite not knowing his name. He displays extensive and sophisticated cooperative behavior, and from book to book appears to maintain a fission-fusion social system. He has shown the ability to learn symbolic language and to solve complex problems, albeit not before causing a lot of chaos. He is so clearly either a bonono or a common chimpanzee. To call him a monkey is to mislead the reading and viewing public.

The ASP expressed particular concern about the effect of the Curious George series on children:

George is idolized by children, who due to their dual abilities of self-recognition and perspective-taking can learn from George important lessons about not making a god-awful mess. Those poor children should not be setting their sights so low as to aspire to being “good little monkeys”. Human children are clearly at least capable of becoming “good little great apes”. George is no monkey, and he sure isn’t a gibbon or a siamang either.

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.

H.a._reyH. A. Rey actively sabotaging the taxonomic instincts of young children

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:

Curious George engages in a series of activities that only humans — created by God in his likeness —  are capable of doing. Only humans can use tools. Only humans can feel empathy for and extend kindness to others. Only humans are capable of living in complex social groups. Only humans are capable of committing sins, especially at such high frequency. If the Lord had wished monkeys to behave like Curious George, He would have created them that way. By showing a monkey acting like a human, the Curious George series seeks to indoctrinate children to the evolutionists’ false story of biological creation. We ask that all true Christians purge Curious George from their lives.

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.

The_ReysAccording to the ASP, the Reys teamed up to perpetrate the most successful scientific misinformation campaign ever

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.

Social media exploded following the ASP press release, with the #IamCuriousGeorge and #GeorgeIsAGreatApe hashtags trending on Twitter, Instagram, and Space Ape Games Forum.

HarvardSquare27June07CuriousGeorge (1)The Curious George store on Harvard Square will be among the first sites picketed, part of a massive ASP campaign

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

2 Comments to "America Society of Primatologists condemns H. A. and Margret Rey, calls for Curious George boycott"

Shane Hand 25th February 2019 at 9:48 pm


Where did the ASP publish their press release regarding the Reys and Curious George? I clicked on your link at the beginning of the blog post, but it only took me to the ASP’s home page.



Chris Jensen 26th February 2019 at 7:15 am

Hi Shane,

This is an April Fool’s post. It is fictitious. Perhaps it is not funny enough to be recognized as such.


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