Whether you’re a high-profile celebrity or a global pizza chain, trending on Twitter is rarely a good thing. That’s why I was reluctant to click when I saw Pizza Hut trending hard this morning. Lo and behold, prominent members of the far-right Twitter contingency are expressing their displeasure with The Hut after the brand helped promote a book about... a little boy who likes to dress up in fun outfits.
Pizza Hut currently rests at the top of Twitter’s “Trending” panel, with just under 16,000 tweets including the name of the pizza chain. Upon further inspection, you’ll see that most of those tweets hail from the doldrums of far-right Twitter.
The issue? Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! literacy program, which provides tailored book recommendations for young readers each month. In light of Pride month, the chain recently added several book recommendations inspired by the LGBTQ community. Titles include Be Amazing: A History of Pride, a children’s book from teen LGBTQ activist Desmond Napoles. The chain also recommended Big Wig, a picture book about a child who dresses in drag to compete in a costume contest. Simon & Schuster describes Big Wig thusly:
“When a child dresses in drag to compete in a neighborhood costume competition, he becomes B. B. Bedazzle! A key part of B.B. Bedazzle’s ensemble is a wig called Wig. Together they are an unstoppable drag queen team! But Wig feels inadequate compared to the other, bigger wigs. When Wig flies off B. B.’s head, she goes from kid to kid instilling confidence and inspiring dreams in those who wear her.”
Ah, the unspeakable horror of instilling confidence and inspiring dreams!
Now, right-wing pundits are seizing on the issue, accusing Pizza Hut of “going woke” and vowing to boycott the chain. “I warned you about what Pizza Hut had become but you weren’t ready to hear it,” tweeted self-described “Communism disrespecter” Jack Posobiec. “Pizza Hut has gone full woke, now we must make them full broke,” tweeted Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and chairman of the grassroots movement Act for America, an organization dedicated to combating what it describes as “the threat of radical Islam.”
A couple of things here. First, reading a picture book about the divine art of drag is not enough to convert a bumbling child into a drag queen. Many children are born without a sense of rhythm or the forehead space to accommodate a flashy wig. Reading a book about a subject does not instantly transform the reader into that subject. If that were the case, I’d be in big trouble after reading Walter the Farting Dog.
It’s also worth noting that lots of little kids love playing dress-up. My kid brother spent years running around the house in a giant polka-dotted bow with my mom’s lipstick smeared across his mouth. This had zero bearing on his gender or sexuality. Dressing up is fun.
Finally—and I can’t believe I have to say this in 2022—diverse books are important. Every kid deserves to see themselves represented in a vibrant, colorful children’s book. That includes kids with queer parents, kids who think they might be queer, kids with queer friends, kids with queer teachers, and, yes, little boys who enjoy dressing up.
In conclusion, Pizza Hut, you’re fine. Let the Twitter pundits engage in their faux culture war. More breadsticks for me.