Thursday, January 20, 2005

Spongebob slandered

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results. SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

Dobson’s remarks are not elaborated at length so I don’t know if he is of the opinion that Spongebob is a symbol of homosexuality, or just that he shouldn’t have been in that video. The former is certainly hinted toward by the article, but this being the NY Times, such hinting could be the usual Christian-Right slander that is standard operating procedure down there at the Gray Lady.

If just the latter is true, that Dobson only objects to Spongebob being used in a film that promotes a lifestyle that he thinks shouldn’t be taught in public schools, then that's hunky-dory. Personally, I would object to the whole concept of a multicultural video. If you think you’re going to imbue into children an idea as basic as “tolerating others” through the use of a few cartoon characters and a catchy tune, then you are sadly mistaken. Such techniques are all the fad now with the diversophile agenda as strong as it is, but they are a misguided use of resources at a time when our schools are strapped for cash.

But, if Dobson meant the former, that Spongebob is a “gay” cartoon show, then he’s way off base. Spongebob SquarePants is a show about the innocence, wonder, magic, goofiness, playfulness and naïveté of childhood, all wrapped up in its square, yellow lead character. To interpret subliminal homosexual subtexts into this delightful cartoon is to appeal to the basest caricatures of gays.

But, even worse, this delusional, neurotic tilting at homosexual windmills is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A child watching SpongeBob’s cheery antics will make nothing of them—not even brief moments when *gasp* hands of like-gendered characters might touch. But, if it’s brought to the children’s attention that there’s something wrong with Spongebob—something wrong with his zest for life, his carefree innocence, his gratuitous male-on-male hand touchage—another part of a child’s life is needlessly sexualized. The dark clouds of the grown-up world intrude upon what should be a guilt-free, innocent children’s show. The world is complicated enough for children without barring them from watching a cartoon just because phantoms of gayness haunt the paranoid minds of some parents.

Obviously, there is material that children shouldn’t watch—even cartoons, such as the hilarious, but off-color, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” or “Futurama.” But… Spongebob? C’mon, he definitely has the hots for Sandy Cheeks.

Related, from a review of the Spongebob SquarePants movie:

For kids, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie presents a level of cartoon violence that, while now all-too routine, is still influential, and needs to be addressed if your family sees this flick. Will your child laugh as Plankton shrieks in pain when he’s repeatedly squashed? The answer is telling, and should guide what kind of conversation happens afterwards.
Father: Son, I heard you laughing when that little bug guy got squashed. Why is that?

Son: He’s not a bug, dad, he’s a plankton which are little green things in the sea and it was funny because stuff would fall on him like WHAM! and he never could get out of the way because the stuff would follow him around no matter where he went and still fall on him even under rocks and squish him again and again like fifty times and I want to marry a man.


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