Monday, January 24, 2005

Sponge Bob has SQUARE Pants

What more is there to say? Sponge Bob is a secret square. Just like Paul Lynde.

Peter Marshall: In the "Wizard of Oz," the lion wanted courage and the tin man wanted a heart. What did the scarecrow want?

Paul Lynde: He wanted the tin man to notice him.

An old fashioned filthy little square. We can tell because just as Tinky Winky had a big winky on his head, Sponge Bob has square pants. Anyone can tell from the little asides, winks, and nods, that the Sponge is a Square. He doesn't drink; he'd rather binge on ice cream. He doesn't smoke. But he holds hands with the tin man, er, Patrick.

Focus on the Family has had it's sights on Sponge Bob for a while now. Cartoon characters as symbol, as representation of the terrible sign of the times, proof that "popular animated personalities are being exploited... agenda ... morally offensive" There are people who work hard to find these analogies. This excerpt is from Focus' Plugged In Online (an online magazine of Conservative Christian reviews and discussions of entertainment), an undated review of the Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie, by Marcus Yoars. I occasionally use this review site because they so completely give away the plot, content, jokes and ending, so I can informatively decide if I'm taking any of the children in my life to a movie. Most review sites work hard to give you a sense of the content without a blow by blow, but not FotF, oh no, they can really blow.


One of the times Patrick’s bareness is beheld, he has a pole wedged between his, ahem, cheeks ... a pole with a flag labeled “SpongeBob.” (Patrick asks SpongeBob, “Did you see my butt?) Plankton gives a (male) TV reporter an adoring "look" when he asks for an interview, then coquettishly replies, “Anything for you.” SpongeBob creeps into Squidward's shower and begins scrubbing his back for him. And Patrick prances about wearing women's high-heeled boots and stockings.

It's obvious, though I’m loath to write it, that The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie doesn't just allude to the building mystery surrounding its characters’ sexuality (see the Conclusion for more on this), it repeatedly plays with it. It revels in adult-minded asides that fly right over kids’ heads and straight into the disbelieving stares of parents.

“Is it just me, or do SpongeBob and Patrick act even more immature and effeminate than ever before?” asks Christianity Today movie critic Russ Breimeier. “I had to shake my head in disbelief at the site of Patrick in thigh-high leather boots and fishnet stockings—I squid you not. Do not take your kids to this if you felt that
Shrek 2 was inappropriate.” Lawrence Toppman, in the Charlotte Observer, noted the peculiarities by quipping, “It took some guts to make Bob and Pat so apparently gay.”


So when a buzz began a couple of years ago about SpongeBob being gay, I shook it off as yet another sign of his not-so-innocent times. First Bert and Ernie, then a Teletubby, now a sea sponge? I was content to hear SpongeBob’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, vow that his animated star was not homosexually inclined. Sure, he acknowledged the gay community’s affinity for the show that periodically features SpongeBob and his (pink) best friend holding hands. But his explanation seemed to hold water. “The attitude of the show is about tolerance,” he pointed out. “Everybody is different, and the show embraces that. The character SpongeBob is an oddball. He’s kind of weird, but he’s kind of special.”

Case closed, right? Believe me, I wish it were that easy.

Not that nods to sexual uncertainty are the only trouble spots for parents to consider before allowing little ones to cozy up to Bikini Bottom.

The larger issue, of course, is one which gets lost underneath this drama. It is a simple one. Which members of congress attended the incredibly partisan event, at which James Dobson, head of one of the most powerful anti-gay, anti-diversity groups in the US proclaimed this shocking announcement? Which members of congress do Mr. Dobson and the other political activists claim as their own?

The answer to the first, according to the sponsor of the event, the Family Research Council, is Senators Bill Frist (R-TN,) Sam Brownback (R-KS,) and Representatives Mike Pence (R-IN,) Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Joe Wilson (R-SC). The second is 106. One Hundred and Six members of Congress threw a no-hitter in the eyes of the anti-diversity, anti-equity right.

The FRC press release the following morning tells you all you need to know about this event at which these congressmen and women were honored and a cartoon character vilified (should that be your perspective on gayness):

Washington, D.C. - Last night at the Historic Willard Hotel, 106 members of Congress were honored for their unfailing commitment to protect pro-family values at the 4th Annual True Blue Awards Banquet. Among the nineteen Senators and eighty-seven House Representatives to be honored, Senators Bill Frist (R-TN,) Sam Brownback (R-KS,) and Representatives Mike Pence (R-IN,) Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) were on hand to receive an award.

To qualify for the prestigious conservative award, members must have voted 100% in favor of a pro-family stance on a number of critical issues during the second session of the 108th Congress. Votes taken in to account include, for the House, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, rejection of legalized prostitution, protection of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and sponsorship of a Marriage Protection Amendment. In the Senate, votes included opposition of "hate crimes" legislation, approval of pro-life judge confirmation and sponsorship of a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council was on hand to present awards and Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of Traditional Values and the Honorable Claude Allen took the stage as key speakers for the over 350 attendees.

Featured speaker and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hailed the November election as an historic victory for the conservative movement. Senator Frist pointed to the election of five pro-family senators as a huge boost to overcoming filibusters to the president's judicial nominees. The majority leader announced plans to build on last year's pro-life legislative victories and vowed to push the mandate given by the "values voters" to fully protect marriage.

The Family Research Council has been kind enough to prepare a complete voting list on these issues.

Don't be distracted by Sponge Bob's Squareness. The real issue is one hundred and six members of congress who voted "100% pro-family" in the last session. They voted against millions of people and their human and civil rights, Sponge Bob isn't just a sign of the times or an analogy, he's a distraction.

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