4 min

SpongeBob is seducing the children

Conservative groups take aim at kids' cartoon

He’s an adorable yellow sponge. He lives in a pineapple under the sea. He flips burgers at the Krusty Krab diner. And he’s out to recruit precious heterosexual children into the dirty, immoral homosexual lifestyle.

Ridiculous? Yes. But when the US-based Christian group Focus on the Family (FOTF) recently complained about cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants’ appearance in a music video destined for elementary schools to promote tolerance and diversity, it was just the latest in a long line of paranoid reactions to kiddie characters.

The group was also aghast to discover that sometimes SpongeBob holds hands with his sidekick Patrick on the show.

The video that really ruffled FOTF’s feathers is a reworking of the Nile Rodgers-penned We Are Family. Rodgers is also the founder of the We Are Family Foundation and says the video was intended to help teach children the values of cooperation and unity.

But conservatives of FOTF’s particular religious ilk seem to find any attempts to cast fags, dykes or trannies in a positive (or even humorous) light as dangerous, subversive and evil.

A week after the SpongeBob story hit, another group, the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), claimed the animated movie Shrek 2 “promoted” cross-dressing and contained subtle “gay messages” because there is a joke about Pinocchio lying about wearing women’s underwear. There apparently is also a transgendered bartender character who expresses a sexual desire for Prince Charming.

Let me add the following items for their case file: Bugs Bunny was the inspiration for a certain drag queen named Miss Cookie LaWhore; Fred and Barney had a sexually ambiguous “close-buddy-and-lifelong-pal” sort of relationship; Bert and Ernie probably engaged in mutual masturbation after the cameras on Sesame Street stopped rolling; Peanuts’ Marcie was a sexually confused baby dyke (she was always referring to Peppermint Patty as “sir”); and the first three letters of Homer Simpson’s name almost spell “Homo”.

What will become of little Johnny and Sue?

I had never seen an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants prior to this fiasco, but I felt it my duty as a responsible queer to see what all the fuss was about.

The show itself is a fairly well-drawn, quirky program that made me laugh out loud several times. I did not see SpongeBob hold hands with his friend Patrick but I did catch him dressing as a woman to sneak into a party where he was not welcome. Perverse!

I blame it all on Milton Berle who, back in the ’50s Golden Age of Television, wore dresses and had “the merry men of Texaco” as a sponsor.

Puzzled by all the uproar, I decided to learn a little more about FOTF and TVC, those tireless watchdogs of public morality.

The former was founded by a Dr James Dobson and offers a vast array of resources to help you live a good Christian life.

It’s also heavily involved in lobbying the US government to draft laws which favour censorship, would restrict reproductive rights and which are extremely anti-gay.

The “Hot Topics” links on the group’s website include sections on abortion, video games, pornography, divorce and, right at the top of the list, homosexuality.

Articles and books for sale include: Helping Boys Become Men and Girls Become Women; How Parents Can Prevent Homosexuality; You Don’t Have to Be Gay; and Helping People Step Out of Homosexuality.

The TVC homepage features a grandfatherly-looking Rev Louis P Sheldon, the proud founder of a group that makes FOTF look positively gay-loving by comparison.

TVC is also obsessed with identifying, analyzing, exposing and eliminating homosexuality. It sells videos like “Gay Rights/Special Rights.” And a large portion of its site is devoted to “Ministry and counselling for those struggling with same-sex attractions and other gender identity disorders.”

The site also cites studies (done by doctors associated with the organization) which claim that 46 percent of homosexuals were sexually abused as children; over a third of sex crimes against kids are committed by queers; and 74 percent of gay men have had sex with “underage boys.” TVC defines underage as “under 19”. Uh-oh, I’m guilty, your honour!

The TVC website also has a very lengthy section called “Homosexual Urban Legends” where it ‘debunks’ the lies the group says we have used to further our so-called agenda.

You can download Special Reports with sensational titles like “Homosexuals recruit public school children” and the diabolical “Homosexual propaganda campaign based on Hitler’s Big Lie technique.”

What does all this have to do with poor old, devilish SpongeBob? Well, everything.

Because these bible-thumping crackpots (and I apologize to tolerant, decent church-goers and spiritual seekers everywhere) believe there is a well-thought out agenda to recruit, convert and seduce children into a wicked, negative lifestyle-and that we are using movies, TV shows, music and the Internet to do it.

Furthermore, these groups believe that if only they could rid popular culture of all references to gays which show us in a positive, normal light, little Johnny and Sue will grow up straight, God-fearing and, truth be told, will be spared disease, loneliness and eternal damnation in hell.

These crusaders have real power in the political climate of George W Bush.

Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of like-minded folk contribute money, conduct studies, rally the troops, lobby Washington (and Ottawa) and spread nasty half-truths, outright lies and hateful venom meant to eradicate sexual diversity.

They recently pressured US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to censor the PBS kids’ show Postcards from Buster. The crime? The animated rabbit visited children with lesbian parents in an episode.

The network pulled the show.

Conservative Christian groups like FOTF and TVC seem to feel their way of life is under attack. So they attack back. And we’re the enemy-fighting a war where we use cartoon sponges, rabbits, Teletubbies and pixilated ogres as tools of propaganda.

Welcome to the New World Order.