Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kooks Put Squeeze On Absorbing Cartoon Character (January 27, 2005)

After reading this week about Fox News implying that Hollywood leftists have influenced the new Muppet movie with biased views to influence impressionable children, I felt duty-bound to post this column I wrote six years ago.
There’s much to grumble about the obsession with pop-culture. But last week I read one of those are-you-kidding-me stories that make a laughing stock out of faith-based associates of the conservative movement, as well as an excess of over-the-top political correctness.
Political correctness, originally meant to bestow respect and acceptance for minorities, the handicapped and others who society typically ignores and treats as second-class citizens, has strayed from the boundaries it intended to mend.
Last week, amidst the inaugural hoopla taking place in Washington, DC, came perhaps the most preposterous reaction to a four-minute video, starring the popular, porous cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, scheduled to be sent to almost 70,000 school districts nationwide, including New York City, in conjunction with its March 11 debut on Nickelodeon, PBS and the Disney Channel.
The pro-multiculturalism video — which I have not seen — was produced last November by music impresario Nile Rodgers, for his nonprofit We Are Family Foundation. It is a remake of the 1979 Sister Sledge disco hit, “We Are Family,” which Rodgers penned, and employs the voices and images of about 100 cartoon characters, with the absorbent yellow, kiddy character as the focal point. Rodgers set up the foundation to facilitate the nation’s healing process and encourage tolerance in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It features scores of recognizable kiddy characters, such as Barney, the purple dinosaur, the Rugrats and Winnie the Pooh, as well as human cameos by Bill Cosby, Diana Ross and Whoopi Goldberg.
A few conservative, pro-family activist groups claim the video includes veiled references to homosexuality that could persuade young children to embrace the gay lifestyle.
(Stop laughing and continue reading, please.)
At the forefront of the uproar is Focus on Family, a conservative Christian organization, which implied the video subtly substantiates that SpongeBob is gay!
The group’s president, Dr. James Dobson, recently told The New York Times, “We see the video…as manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids.”
Where, of all places, did Dobson choose to disclose his revulsion for the video? At one of last week’s countless black-tie inaugural events in DC for political supporters and Congressional allies.
In other words, after President Bush talked about freedom (27 times) and liberty (15 times) for the world in his inaugural speech, some reckless, rabid, supporters essentially rejected those very notions for fellow Americans.
A few Christian groups also object to We Are Family’s web site tolerance pledge that reads in part: “To…have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.”
They have a problem with that? Sounds like a phrase that wouldn’t be inappropriate if it were included in the Declaration of Independence!
It certainly doesn’t sound like an invitation for youngsters to consider homosexuality!
Do these narrow-minded media watchers believe that homosexuals have conspired to entice children into their particular lifestyle through cartoons they judge subtle, subversive, civilization-dooming propaganda?
SpongeBob, who resides in a giant pineapple on the Pacific Ocean bottom, is frequently shown holding hands with his pink starfish friend, Patrick, and occasionally watching an imaginary television show, “The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.” Those instances previously led intolerant right-wingers to question the animated, gap-toothed, yellow sea sponge’s sexuality when it was discovered he was popular in the gay community, only to have the assessment quickly dismissed.
Would they publicly disapprove — without being branded racists — of Patrick, if he were black or brown?
I’d think these homophobic, do-good pretenders have something better to do than analyze cartoon characters that bring joy to children around the world.
Their time would be better spent exposing facts about scores of clerics who escaped justice after being implicated in sexual molestation cases in which dozens of children’s lives were adversely affected, or condemning the latest edition of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton’s “The Simple Life” for promoting idle, rich-girl stupidity!
So, now, as television networks fall in line and do everything to avoid repeats of last year’s Janet Jackson Super Bowl gaffe and the Nicolette Sheridan towel-dropping “Monday Night Football” vignette, foolhardy conservatives chose to target beloved, harmless cartoon characters they perceive as homosexual.
Rumors are rampant that they plan to expose other cartoon character relationships, i.e., the longtime ménage a trois between Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, and the May-September tryst between aging Yosemite Sam and naïve, young Dora the Explorer that is reported to be an upcoming National Enquirer exclusive.
Perhaps the saddest news is that these same kooks plan to out — from the proverbial closet — Wily Coyote and Road Runner, and Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat, citing their antagonistic rivalries as masquerades to conceal homosexual relationships. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Then again, sometimes a cartoon’s just a cartoon.