Pizza Hut's Book Club Controversy, Explained

If there are two things that go hand-in-hand, it's book clubs and controversy. Everyone knows that most book clubs are really a front for gossip-laundering and scandal and that authors' notes and discussions of the hero's journey come second (if at all) to a good real-life yarn about whodunnit. And Big Pizza is no stranger to scandal, either; who could forget Pizzagate 2016, or its controversial resurgence in 2020? As Esquire explains, just one email about the owner of a pizzeria potentially hosting a fundraiser for then presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton led to years of child-trafficking rumors, the rise of alt-right extremism, and one of the most outlandish conspiracy theories of our generation. Sad.

Today's Pizza Hut book club controversy is far tamer than the email that launched a thousand conspiracy theories, but maybe that's because books take so much longer to circulate than emails do. This drama, according to Newsweek, all started with a well-intentioned notion: a program aimed at increasing literacy in children. Back in 1984, Pizza Hut delivered its "Book It!" to classrooms. Teachers could incentivize students to read by awarding them with personal pan pizza perks when they reach their monthly goals, according to Every Child a Reader. Unfortunately, in 2022, it's only ever a matter of time before a thing you think is good winds up being something people (read: Twitter) must explain to you is actually evil, corrupt, or otherwise not cool, bro.

It's a new pizza drama

In the case of "Book It!," the Pizza Hut book club controversy is more incendiary than a piping hot personal pizza. Newsweek explains that everything was going just fine until Pizza Hut decided to throw some LGBTQ+-friendly books up on the Book It! website, in honor of June – Pride Month. "Big Wig," by Jonathan Hillman, and "Be Amazing: A History of Pride," by Desmond is Amazing are a couple of the examples of the program's kid lit that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community; both of which encourage children to find their "truest and best selves" and be brave enough to share that with the world. To which Twitter (as usual) has responded: not on its watch.

According to Twitter users like Brigitte Gabriel, "Pizza Hut has gone full woke, now we must make them full broke." Everyone appreciates a good rhyme, of course, but when you drill down on just what the heck Gabriel is talking about, a whole bunch of angry, negative tweets rise to the surface, filled with people who think Pizza Hut might be trying to "turn kids into drag queens," according to Newsweek. Because Twitter is known for its backlash-to-the-backlash business model, Newsweek reports that there are also plenty of tweets calling out those conservative voices who want to "cancel" Pizza Hut, suggesting that maybe, as a country, we have more pressing issues to deal with. We'll just see about that at the next book club meeting.