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January 24, 2005

Beyond DecentDome: SpongeBob SquarePants v Focus on the Family

Sponge184

Yes, the gloves have come off, and may the best sponge - or group - win.

Last Thursday, David Kirkpatrick reported in the New York Times that Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, has declared all-out war on SpongeBob.

It seems, said Dr. Dobson, that SpongeBob's creators have enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video."

Yes, you read correctly.

Dobson says the video, in which SpongeBob appears alongside children's TV colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, is being sent to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

The video has appeared on Nickolodeon and other networks without any objection; nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity.

The "tolerance pledge" is not mentioned on the video either; it's only present on the We Are Family Foundation's website.

The We Are Family Foundation was formed after 9/11 by Nile Rodgers to teach children about multiculturalism.

Rodgers, who wrote the great disco hit "We Are Family," which the Pointer Sisters took to the top of the charts, also created the video in dispute.

However, Focus on the Family believes the video is a Trojan Horse of sorts, a way to get unhealthy values into the minds and hearts of the young and defenseless.

Paul Batura, Dr. Dobson's assistant at Focus on the Family, said, "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It is a classic bait and switch."

Well.

The New York Times editorial page this past Saturday weighed in on the subject, in a beautifully written editorial entitled "Nautical Nonsense."

It follows.

    Nautical Nonsense

    "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?"
    "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!"
    "Absorbent and yellow and porous is he ..."

    ... not to mention dopey and charming and more hugely overexposed than ever, thanks to an anti-homosexual attack from the Christian right.

    Because of a media fuss ignited by the American Family Association and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, this cartoon character is well on his way to culture-war immortality, up there with those moral saboteurs Murphy Brown and Tinky Winky.

    It's not that Dr. Dobson has a problem with Mr. SquarePants per se.

    He is angry, rather, about a video made for grade schools by the We Are Family Foundation that features SpongeBob and other TV characters.

    It doesn't mention sex.

    But the foundation's Web site says this: "I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."

    How could anyone be against that?

    Dr. Dobson is.

    He has denounced the video as a bait-and-switch, one that uses cartoons to legitimize a group that will corrupt children with a homosexual agenda.

    We find it strange, actually, that the intolerant Dr. Dobson has not taken aim at SpongeBob himself, who is naughty and rude enough to give many parents pause.

    After "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" came out, a Christian family Web site made a long list of worrisome bits, including "cartoon rear male nudity, repeatedly," "pinching of banner staff between nude buttocks" and "suggestion of sadomasochism in transvestitism."

    As any weary parent knows, America's children spend billions of hours watching movies and shows like that, absorbing underwear jokes, flatulence gags and mushy messages of tolerance until their brains run out their ears.

    There may be a threat in all that, but Dr. Dobson and his allies seem to have missed it entirely.

January 24, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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