While I was working on last week’s post about my financial woes, I had the pleasure of reading to my daughter, for the first time, Dr. Seuss’s book The Lorax. It was always one of my favorite books as a child and its message of conservation and love for all living things has stayed with me. Those trees! Those Truffula Trees!
But this time around, it is the Once-ler who holds my attention. I’ve returned again and again to his pernicious greed, symbolized by two scruffy, disembodied arms, and made worse by the product of his evil deeds – the Thneed, that flimsy, pajama-looking piece of junk that promised to be a “Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need.” Since then I haven’t been able to shake the Once-ler’s ridiculous slogan: “You need a thneed!” In the grocery aisle, in the department store, on the television, we are surrounded by Thneeds and unseen Once-lers who insist “You poor stupid guy! You never can tell what some people will buy.”
Not surprisingly, the term “Thneed” has been acquired new life outside Dr. Seuss’s book. People knit them and share tips on how you can too. Products refer to the book with eco-friendly gestures that don’t always demonstrate an similar awareness of the story’s critique of material consumption. There are iPhone apps, sneakers, and coal companies that hope to earn cultural capital by seeking the Lorax’s approval. Some of the more hilarious iterations of the Thneed have been MC Hammer Pants, the ubiquitous Snuggie, and whatever this is.
Now, even the Once-ler resolved to change his “biggering” ways, so it doesn’t do me any good to judge these folks. There’s a lesson here and I can’t say that I’ve completely learned it yet, surrounded as I am by Thneeds of all shapes and sizes. But I do appreciate Dr. Seuss for the masterful clarity of his off-beat wisdom. “If you can see things out of whack,” he once said, “then you can see how things can be in whack.”
And so, like the last Truffula seed, I leave you with this: a Grindhouse film parody of The Lorax, He Speaks for the Trees!