Dr. Seuss ‘Banned Anti-War’ The Butter Battle Book ‘Is Now a Netflix Kids’ Show

Dr. Seuss is known for having written and illustrated a number of controversial books during his career. His work covered real-world themes such as environmentalism, anti-capitalism, and equality, to open the minds of young kids and their parents. Now, one of his lesser-known but most controversial tales, The Butter Battle Book, has been adapted into a Netflix animated series. It serves as the backbone for the streamer’s sophomore season Green Eggs and Hamwhich launched last week.

Written in 1984, The Butter Battle Book centered around the war between an orange race called Zooks and a blue race called Yooks. Their countries were divided by a wall over a disagreement on which was the right way to butter bread: Yooks preferred them butter-side up while the Zooks preferred butter-side down. Given the time of the book’s publication, The Butter Battle Book was considered a direct commentary on the Cold War. Seuss unapologetically delved into exploring the consequences of nationalism and the nature of war via the military-industrial complex. Most of the book focused on a heated arms race that got so deadly, it ended with a dour, open-ended conclusion.

The book went on to be banned by many libraries; a book that took an anti-war stance was not going to fly in Reagan’s America. Unlike actual problematic books that featured outdated and racist illustrations like If I Ran the Zoo, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Streetand On Beyond Zebra, all of which were pulled by Dr. Seuss’ estate and got conservatives such as Ted Cruz in arms over “cancel culture,” The Butter Battle Book got canceled primarily for presenting an argument for pacifism during a conservative-controlled, charged moment in time.

Despite that, the firecracker of a book went on to receive an animated TV special produced by animation legend Ralph Bakshi, but its legacy has since become somewhat nonexistent. Kids born after the fall of the Berlin Wall were completely unaware of its existence, especially since it tackled themes that went over their heads and its banning was still in place across the US and Canada. Heck, before watching the trailer for the Second Serving of Green Eggs and HamI had never heard of The Butter Battle Book.

The Green Eggs and Ham team incorporates this underrated story as the basis for the 10-episode season while also modernizing it with a part-spy and part-romantic twist.

Starting right where the first season ended, Sam-I-Am (voiced by Adam Devine), Guy-Am-I (voiced by Michael Douglas), and Guy’s stepdaughter EB (voiced by Ilana Glazer) go on a globe-trotting expedition to find Sam’s long-lost mom. When their paths cross, Sam’s mom Pam-I-Am (voiced by Patricia Clarkson) is revealed to be an international spy who is on a mission to retrieve an explosive weapon that will settle the score in the war between the countries Yookia and Zookia. Through their run-in with Pam, Sam, Guy, and EB find themselves getting caught in the crosshairs of the war.

The series retains Seuss’ Cold War-era influences by enlarging the size of the border wall to be of a gargantuan height, and the arms race between the countries is the overarching plot of the season. The timely anti-war themes are present and are part of the larger picture of a well-integrated spy caper. Instead of focusing on the war between the Yooks and Zooks through their perspectives, it’s done through the lens of Guy, Sam, and EB, who all become integral to the war itself.

While passing through Zookia, Guy winds up becoming the royal inventor for the Zookian Dookess. Though all his inventions blow up in his face, a running gag throughout the series, he creates a pacifistic machine to help protect the Yooks from being attacked by Zooks. What was meant to be a harmless device sworn to protect, the Dookess utilizes it to her advantage as an atomic bomb.

Both this version of The Butter Battle Book and the classic Green Eggs and Ham end with messages about not knowing what you do not like until you try them.

Sam desperately tries to regain the love of his mother Pam, who abandoned him as a baby. He follows her on her mission to retrieve a Yookian artifact called the Moo-Laka-Moo and bring it back into their rightful hands. While on their Bond-inspired journey, Pam and Sam’s relationship and individual moralities get tested, which works within the theme of the source material.

During her stay in Zookia with her stepdad, EB travels beyond the Zookian-Yookian border out of curiosity. At the top of the wall, she meets a suave, high-class Yookian named Looka (voiced by Darren Criss) and the two have a Shakespearean-like romance. Once she learns that he’s not only a butter-side-up boy but also the son of the head Dooka of Yookia, she continues to see him. The two uncover a piece of information that strengthens the message of the original book as well. During one of their dates EB and Looka stroll into a Yookian museum, and they stumble across a room that shows how both nations were once united as one until a dispute between siblings and butter caused the ever-going war.

As the season progresses, all the various parties’ paths cross together to help bring about a resounding conclusion to the book’s cliffhanger. Much like the book it’s based on, the climax of the season results in both countries sending their life-threatening missiles to the sky in an attempt to wipe the other country off the map. Sam is riding in on a missile from Yookia and Pam riding on one from Zookia, both in hopes of diffusing the one they’re on in the sky. They resolve their ongoing mother-son relationship and save the two nations with a goo-textured gadget to hold the explosion. While disaster is averted, it destroys their wall.

With the borders down and tensions still high, it’s the kids who teach the older generations how to settle their differences with a compromise. It’s a more heartwarming resolution than Seuss wrote in his book. Its final page is blank — just a stark white — which could be interpreted to mean that the explosions had ended society entirely. In the series, the Yooks and the Zooks take their variations of buttered toast and slap them together, making a whole new butter sandwich. The Dooka and Dookess try it and both deem it delicious, thus ending their war.

The team behind Green Eggs and Ham: The Second Serving expands the Seussian universe naturally while retaining his style of imagination and incorporating his bold themes. Unlike crossovers such as The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, this aims high by tackling one of Seuss ‘most controversial tales and organically incorporates themes from Seuss’ more popular work. Both this version of The Butter Battle Book and the classic Green Eggs and Ham end with messages about not knowing what you do not like until you try them. It provides a fresh new take that kids can easily digest while bringing visibility to the lesser-known books from Dr. Seuss.

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