New Film of Doctor Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who to Raise Pro-Life Questions

A new animated version of the well-known children's book, Horton Hears a Who, may once again spark debate about the story's pro-life interpretation when it is released next Spring.

The 20th Century Fox production of the well-known children's book, Horton Hears a Who, is a major production that will be in theatres on March 14, 2008. The film features the voice of Jim Carrey as the main character Horton and Steve Carell as the Mayor of Who-ville.

In the storybook version of Horton Hears a Who, famous children's author Dr. Seuss tells the story of a community of microscopic people called "Who's" who live in "Who-ville". The world is a tiny, yet technologically advanced community of people living on a dust-speck. The jungle elephant Horton has excellent hearing that alerts him to the presence of the people, and he promises to protect them from danger.

None of the other jungle animals believe that Horton is protecting real people, however, because they can't see or hear them. Horton nevertheless risks his life to guard the dust speck, and repeats the phrase that has since become well known: "A person's a person no matter how small."

In the end, as the dust speck is about to be destroyed in the "beezlenut stew," all the Who's in Who-ville gather together and yell at the same time in order to make their voices heard. The effort fails until the very last young Who, called Jo-Jo, joins in. His little cry boosts the noise just enough for the larger animals to finally hear them and believe in their existence.

Since the book was published, the phrase "A person's a person no matter how small" has become an unofficial phrase representing the motivation of the pro-life movement. Pro-life advocates have used it on t-shirts, websites, signs, and as teaching material. The book has been viewed as a metaphor for the reality that unborn babies are persons and as pointing towards the need for a concerted effort to end abortion.

Nevertheless, according to an ABC radio interview with Philip Nel, author of Doctor Seuss: American Icon, Dr. Seuss did not intend the story to be interpreted as a pro-life statement. Nel claims that at one point during his life, Dr. Seuss (otherwise known as Mr. Theodore Geisel) even threatened to sue a pro-life group who had used the phrase on their stationary.

Whatever Dr. Seuss's intentions may have been, his widow Audrey Geisel, who is a supporter of Planned Parenthood, abortion and the homosexual movement, has been very upset by pro-life interpretations of the phrase "A person's a person no matter how small". She criticized Action Life Ottawa (ALO) in 2001 for using the phrase with a picture of an 8-week-old fetus on a pro-life poster that was put up in Ottawa Catholic churches.

In a January 29, 2001 report by the National Post, Geisel's San Francisco lawyer Cathy Bencieengo stated, "We don't want to take a position one way or the other, but this is not an area in which Dr. Seuss participates." She also demanded that ALO remove the Seuss phrase from the poster.

Carroll Rees, a spokesperson for Action Life, stated in a news report, "We didn't think it was a problem, as long as it was being used for teaching purposes-and we're a non-profit organization, we're not selling posters, and we gave credit to him." ALO was pleased that the issue was brought to the media spotlight, thereby drawing added attention to the pro-life cause.

National Organizer of Campaign Life Coalition Mary Ellen Douglas commented on Horton Hears a Who, saying, "The parallels to the life issue are fairly obvious in the story because Horton is aware of these people that the rest of his comrades don't seem to notice. And for us as a pro-life movement, we've spent the last 30 some years trying to get the general population to see the unborn child in the womb as being really there, as being truly human. They can't shout from the womb. We're the only voice for them."

She continued, "We can identify with Horton because people are ridiculing him and saying they (the Who's) are not there. They want to deny that the child is there. The statement is exactly what we've been saying."

Referring to the controversy over pro-life advocates using the phrase, she noted, "Mrs. Geisel became very irate in the past when the particular phrase 'A person's a person no matter how small' was adopted by the pro-life movement. But the reality of the story is probably extremely pro-life, and we hope that people viewing the movie will see the parallel between the unborn child and the little Who's."

View Horton Hear's a Who movie trailer.

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  • Guest

    slbute:

    It just goes to show you that the Lord can use even those who oppose life to spread the message that "a persons a person no matter how small."

  • Guest

    I wonder how the Fair Use Doctrine applies to pro-life use of this phrase, particularly when not used for profit.

  • Guest

    "We are here, we are here, we are here!"

    If I only had a nickle for everytime I read that book to my babies.

    The prolife theme of this book was always obvious in our house. 

    "Dr. Seuss did not intend the story to be interpreted as a pro-life statement".

    But interpret it that way, we did. Those who have a "Culture of Life" mindset could see it no other way. 

    "Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God , the angels, and the saints. These are your public. If you are afraid of other people's opinion, you should not have become Christian." St John Vianney

  • Guest

    I have the bumper sticker that says, "a person's a person no matter how small" with a cartoon sketch of an unborn baby on it.   Everybody who sees it on my van can draw their own conclusions.  Isn't that what good literature and active reading is supposed to do?

  • Guest

    Elkabrikir, that's awesome!  I would love to get one.  I agree with Slbute that it is a miracle how God has worked through this "pro-choice" author, by using his own words, to evangelize about the sanctity of life.

  • Guest

    Claire,

    here is the webpage where you can find that bumper sticker.

    http://www.victorywon.com/pro_life_search_results.asp

    It's a great website from which a prolife group could purchase materials.

    Enjoy!

    PS My 19 year old daughter has a simple magnet on her car that says "Prolife" (she got it from the college kids who walk around the country educating people to choose life)

    She has received only positive comments regarding it.  In fact the adults have applauded her saying that not many teens would have the courage to put that on their car.

    I think it is very effective when teenagers speak up for life.

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