Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, January 21, 2005
 
Watch Out--It's Sponge Bob Square Pants!--And He Wants You to Tolerate!!!

I guess it had to happen sometime. Jill Seargent of Reuters reports that conservative Christian groups, the American Family Association and Focus on the Family, have released statements objecting to the children's cartoon, Sponge Bob Squarepants because they think a video the character appears in takes the promotion of tolerance too far.
"Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity" within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary but it crosses a moral line," Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement on Thursday.
Hear that? A Moral line! Not only is it wrong to grant gays equal rights, it's morally wrong to even ask people to simply tolerate them.

What provoked this particular outburst, it seems, is this: Sponge Bob, along with a 100 other beloved characters of children's television, is in a cartoon music video of the hit song "We Are Family" that is being shipped to U.S. schools in March. The mission of the video, and the We Are Family Foundation, is to "promote our common humanity" in a post 9-11 world. Clearly, a dangerous, dangerous mission.

It's interesting that, unlike the 1999 Falwell-inspired outcry against Tinky Winky the lavender Teletubby, people are not objecting to the fact that SpongeBob might be interpretted as being vaugely gay. SpongeBog has a high pitched voice and he's always happy, but the creator has firmly stated that he considers all the characters to be appropriately asexual. Instead, people are objecting to the promotion of coexistence, tolerance, & harmony.

Despite their seemingly broad name, the American Family Association's website is pretty much devoted to objecting when their views are not allowed on campuses and when opposing views are allowed on campuses. The only remotely positive item I could find on their front page was an exhortation for sound investment based on the idea that one's money is not one's own but belongs to God. Focus on the Family seems a little more sincere, with wide array of topics, a pitch for Tsunami-relief donations, and articles on dealing with grief. But their bristly anti-Homosexual activism is pretty apparent if you just dig. Weirdly, they appear to be blaming a hypothetical teenager's realization that he's gay on the fact that his fellow school children made fun of him and called him queer. So somehow all this gay bashing is supposed to fix that cycle? Your psuedoscience alarm bells should start ringing when you read things like, " Let’s face it: science is meant to be fact . . . not theory." Some of the outgoing links go to sites trumpetting the fact that completion of Human Genome Project did not find a gay gene, not informing readers that most genes haven't been characterized yet. I would like to know how Hollywood is to blame for gay geese.

I was never too crazy about Sponge Bob Square Pants, because, frankly, he reminds me of housework. I watched one episode with a young friend not so long ago, however, and found it pretty adorable--the power of imagination transforming a simple cardboard box into every kind of possible adventure, from piracy to space travel. I think I'll try to be a little more supportive of the program now.

Only tangentially related, Scott points out that Dilbert now has a gay character.

 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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