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Beyond DecentDome: SpongeBob SquarePants v Focus on the Family

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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.

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About bookofjoe

  • Rzebro

    Nile Rodgers seemed to be shocked that anyone would think the We Are Family Foundation makes any reference to homosexuality. Anyone who reviewed the We Are Family Foundation web site would have found more than the tolerance “pledge”.

    Among the things on the website is the “Writing For Change” Teachers lesson plans. Here are some of the topics:

    Section 1.1 – Help students examine assumptions about the “natural order” in gender relationships.
    – Write the first sentence in a description of the term “lesbian”
    Section 1.2 – Specify the characteristics that learners think define a person as homosexual.
    Section 1.3 – Explore the frequency with which students engage in behaviours that challenge or perpetuate “-isms”
    Section 1.4 – Talking About Being “Out”
    Section 1.5 – Uncovering Attitudes About Sexual Orientation
    – Introduce the concepts of homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality

    And “Write For Change” has more:

    – Find some examples of compulsory heterosexuality in your daily life.
    – How are you affected by compulsory heterosexuality?
    – How are you affected by homophobia?
    – How would you be affected if your sexual orientation were different than it is now?
    – How would others you know – friends, family members, classmates, members in your clubs or organizations – be affected?
    – How will understanding these definitions change your thinking about compulsory heterosexuality and homophobia?

    and there is still more.

    Since all the controversy, the We Are Family Foundation have conveniently removed the “Write For Change” material. But you can still access old copies through the Google “cache” feature, which web pages that have been removed.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    What age group was this curriculum aimed at. That’s pretty inappropriate stuff for the Spongebob audience age group. I’ve got nothing against discussing gender issues and same sex relationships in high school, but if they are aiming at elementary kids than that’s hideously inappropriate.

    That aside, Dobson is still a nutter.

    Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    I agree: high school, okay, younger than that highly inappropriate. I don’t believe there is no such thing as a “homosexual agenda,” I just don’t see it under every bush

  • Rzebro

    Nile Rodgers, the man behind We Are Family Foundation (WAFF), goes on the news saying the “only” reference to sexual orientation is their tolerence pledge. Obviously there is more.

    Then when the American Family Association reports the same information you see here, WAFF threatens a lawsuit. See:

    http://www.afa.net/afa_waff.asp

    Personally, my issue with the homosexual message being presented is that it is only half the story of homosexuality. There other half is the ex-gay movement – people who leave the homosexual lifestyle. What do LGBT groups say about ex-gays and ex-gay support organizations – they call the them sick, sad, shameful, dangerous, lies, propaganda, and myths. There are flesh-and-blood people who can declare they are ex-gay and they are called “myths”? Where is the validation of individuals? Where is the elimination of hate-speech? Where is the acceptance of diversity? Where is tolerance? The LGBT organizations do not walk-the-walk.

    This would probably be labeled hate-speech. I don’t hate LGBT. It’s just I’ve met and known ex-gays.

  • Rzebro

    Also, the We Are Family Foundation website has a “Kids” section. The kids section provides links into tolerance.org and alternet.org. The articles a kid could find on alternet.org includes:

    * Masturbate Online! – In the “we’re not sure we’re part of the United States” Bay Area, we like to enjoy a little masturbation with our free speech – http://www.masturbate-a-thon.com

    * You Sexy Animal, You – Bestiality is back, and its hotter than ever, now that famed bioethicist Peter Singer has taken up “the love that dare not bark its name.”

    * The World’s Weirdest Sex Machines – What do you get when you cross a bicycle rim, three pairs of used women’s shoes, and a metal chain gear? Why, the best masturbation device available in 1920s Germany, of course. Such curious inventions dot the landscape of the little-known history of sexual machinery.

    Second, some of these articles have links to other sites. For example, once you’re on http://www.masturbate-a-thon.com there’s plenty of places to go.

    Going back to We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) – the “Kids” section links them right into articles on altenet.org. The WAFF Kids are then surfing alternet.org.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Among the things on the website is the “Writing For Change” Teachers lesson plans.

    The “Writing for Change” lesson plans are not designed to go with the “We Are Family” video. Those would be the “We Are Family” lesson plans. And Dr. Dobson has apparently not seen them or found anything offensive in them, since he’s not complaining about them. In fact, it’s pretty clear that he hasn’t seen the WAF video, either. But why let that stop him from whining?

    Since all the controversy, the We Are Family Foundation have conveniently removed the “Write For Change” material. But you can still access old copies through the Google “cache” feature, which web pages that have been removed.

    Got a link? I did a search and didn’t find it. But Eric will be happy to know that this BC entry was the #1 hit!

    Also, the We Are Family Foundation website has a “Kids” section.

    Really? I don’t see a “Kids” section on the site. What I do see is a “Sponsors” page with a link to Tolerance.org, which has a “Kids” page. Can’t find any “dirty” content on that page, though, darnit.

    * You Sexy Animal, You – Bestiality is back, and its hotter than ever, now that famed bioethicist Peter Singer has taken up “the love that dare not bark its name.”

    Hey, I found this one on Alternet.org. Do you even know what it’s about, besides bestiality? No? Didn’t think so. I’ll help you out: it’s an article that discusses recently published books about bestiality. It’s commentary on today’s media and our taboos. Oooooh, scary stuff.

    Going back to We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) – the “Kids” section links them right into articles on altenet.org. The WAFF Kids are then surfing alternet.org.

    I can’t find any links to Alternet.org on the WAF web site, even on the pages that do actually exist.

    Did the Kool-Aid taste good?

  • http://www.bigtimepatriot.com Big Time Patriot

    I am quite worried myself. My kids watch Sponge Bob and we even took them to see the Sponge Bob movie at the theater. I am going to be kicking myself later when my daughter chooses to reproduce through asexually producing buds instead of being in a fine heteroseual marriage.

  • http://www.bigtimepatriot.com Big Time Patriot

    “heteroseual” See this Sponge Bob thing has me so confused I am inventing unknown new kinds of marriages. I obviously meant a “heterosexual” marriage in the manner so sacredly honored by Jesse Helms,Rudy Guliani and Newt Gingrich. (but I didn’t mean to bring up the secret “Philanderer’s Agenda” that the Republicans keep supporting).

  • HW Saxton

    SpongeBob Squarepants isn’t a man or a
    woman. To confuse the kids even further,
    Sponges are hermaphroditic. There is no
    set role for who does what regarding the
    reproduction. Any sponge can recive the
    spawn of another sponge and make little
    sponges.

    In showing Patrick and Bob as being real
    close friends,Hillenburg,the creator of
    the show is just showing how all these
    undersea critters live in harmony with
    one another is what I think. Hillenburg
    was a Marine Biologist before creating
    the show and he imbues a lot the cartoon
    characters with traits that their real
    life counterparts would have.

  • HW Saxton

    Well,he ain’t Benny Goodman that’s for
    sure.

  • Eric Olsen

    indeed, you haven’t lived until you have heard a squid play the clarinet

  • Billy Bob (not)

    Lol this is the most insane thing i’ve ever heard. First of all, a sponge is a hymapherdite (heh i wonder if i’m spelling that right), an animal who doesn’t have a gender to begin with.

    Secondly, here is a link to the actual video…spongebob was seen for like two seconds! he was barely in it! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6852828/
    My conclusion? Guys like Dr. Dobson need something to complain about.

  • Eric Olsen

    in thinking about this, remember when SBob, Patrick and Mr. Crabs go out on the town culminating with a panty raid? They were clearly male and that was clearly a hetero agenda

  • HW Saxton

    Billy Bob,NO you didn’t spell that right
    and I had brought up that same fact in
    post#9.Shouldn’t have bothered though,
    since no one reads them anyway.Oh well.

    True dat, Eric O. About the panty raid
    thing: Talking about a Freudian episode.
    The drawer they are caught raiding turns
    out to be Mr. Krabs Mom!

  • Eric Olsen

    I read your comment, HW, and you spelled it right

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Hey, HW, we have to read the comments in order to qualify as “sinister” (as in “a sinister cabal of superior bloggers…”), rather than “superficial”.

  • HW Saxton

    Hello Dr. Pat, I’m not sure that I catch
    the meaning of your drift there, amigo.

    Are you implying that “I” did not read
    these posts? That I’m being superficial?
    Explain yourself, sil vous plait.

    Who in the flaming f**k is “WE”? Is that
    to be interpreted as the royal we? Or do
    you have a gerbil in your pocket?

    Whatever the case may be,your post makes
    no sense whatsoever chumlie.

  • Eric Olsen

    I believe the “we” is the collective sinister cabal, ie, us

  • HW Saxton

    Well,OK that makes sense. But I’m still
    unsure just what he or she meant by the
    rest of that remark.

    Off the subject sort of: Aren’t “Cabals”
    considered sort of sinister & Eeeee-vil
    anyway making “Sinister Cabal” kind of
    an exercise in redundancy ? You’ve most
    certainly been asked this already though
    right?

  • Rzebro

    The We Are Family Foundation had a section called “Educational Gateway” which was removed. Here is a link that still shows it:

    http://www.wearefamilyfoundation.org/MOVIES/WAFF_ChildrensDVD_Single.htm

    There were sections for Parents, Teachers and Kids. You can’t get to this from the home page any more.

    To find the “Writing For Change” on WAFF, use this Google search:

    site:www.wearefamilyfoundation.org “section i”

    Use the Google “cached” link to see what used to be there. Google retrieved this page from WAFF on January 25, 2005.

    The “Kids” link is still there:
    http://www.wearefamilyfoundation.org/kids/Kids_Index.swf

    To get from Kids to alternet.org you
    – Click on “kids 10 and up”
    – Click “News”
    – Click on “Do you Believe?”
    This will open alternet.org in another window.

    Nile Rodgers, the We Are Family Foundation guy, says the only reference to sexual orientation is their “tolerance pledge”. That’s not the case.

    If parents want to know that WAFF endorses, WAFF endorses Writing For Change (along with other things). If parents disagree with Writing For Change, then they should question WAFF.

  • http://emeraldcitycomments.blogspot.com/ Roy Smith

    Do people like James Dobson think it helps their cause to make themselves the subjects of ridicule? (Well, maybe it does.)

    More seriously, does he think he has done anything but promote SpongeBob as well as the idea of tolerance by this attack on liberal values?

    Spongebob and the We Are Family Foundation have gotten more free press and attention than they could have ever dreamed of. If I ever create a cartoon character (or any other cultural artifact), one of my first priorities will be to get James Dobson to make a silly attack against my creation. That way I won’t need an advertising budget.

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com NancyGail

    The video wasn’t the issue, but rather the website.

  • http://emeraldcitycomments.blogspot.com/ Roy Smith

    In response to post 20:
    And if parents agree with Writing for Change, they should question James Dobson.

  • http://emeraldcitycomments.blogspot.com/ Roy Smith

    In response to Post 22:

    The video is the issue, but Focus on the Family can’t just come out and say it is against diversity, because then they would publicly identify themselves as bigots, so they say it is about “the homosexual agenda” (which identifies them as bigots, but in a more politically tenable way)

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Plus, the fuss IS about the video. Dobson is objecting to the video being shown in public schools. He can’t complain about any of the video content itself, so he’s using content on the website to do it.

  • Rzebro

    I see alot of references to bigots. Here’s a little quiz out there on the web.

    This quiz is for those who care about current issues. Please pass it on to anyone you think should ponder these questions.

    – Do you believe in free speech about homosexuality for everyone except conservatives or Christians?

    – Do you participate in name-calling of those who object to homosexuality — names like bigot, hate-monger, etc.?

    – Do you believe those who object to homosexuality are motivated by fear or ignorance? Do you believe they could never be motivated by compassion for the people involved, and if they say so, they must be lying?

    – Do you automatically dismiss any conservative comments about homosexuality without listening? Do you believe you are well-informed, while refusing to learn about what homosexuals actually do and the risks involved?

    – Do you automatically dismiss the idea that anyone could be a former homosexual, despite the hundreds of groups started by ex-‘gays’ and the thousands who live in America?

    Are You a Pro-‘Gay’ Bigot?

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Do you believe in free speech about homosexuality for everyone except conservatives or Christians?

    No, I believe conservatives and Christians have a freedom to speak their mind. However, as a gay man, I have a right to be free from constant condemnation. Every single mention of my presence does not need to include a counter claim. That is inflicting on my Right to the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Do you participate in name-calling of those who object to homosexuality — names like bigot, hate-monger, etc.?

    No.

    Do you believe those who object to homosexuality are motivated by fear or ignorance?

    Yes.

    Do you believe they could never be motivated by compassion for the people involved, and if they say so, they must be lying?

    No. I do not believe they can be motivated by compassion. If they knew of the end results of their actions, they would be unable to continue, if they had any compassion.

    Do you automatically dismiss any conservative comments about homosexuality without listening?

    The conservative arguments against homosexuality are the same arguments they have been for decades.

    Do you believe you are well-informed, while refusing to learn about what homosexuals actually do and the risks involved?

    I’m pretty well informed about what homosexuals actually do. We pay taxes, we abide by laws, we raise children, we should be free from your constant condemnation.

    Do you automatically dismiss the idea that anyone could be a former homosexual, despite the hundreds of groups started by ex-‘gays’ and the thousands who live in America?

    I do not dismiss the idea that there are sexually confused people out there and that they can eventually find one path to settle down on. For me to have to be told so by you, everywhere I am mentioned is harassment. Put the number in the phone book, if someone is interested they will call, and quit harassing the rest of us.

  • SFC SKI

    Good points, Steve S.

  • http://emeraldcitycomments.blogspot.com/ Roy Smith

    A bigot is somebody who believes that the rights of a group should be restricted because they are members of said group.

    I don’t have anything against the “Christian right” (they aren’t acting like Christians, but that is a discussion for another day) but I believe in calling people what they are. If they are bigots, then call them that.

    “Pro-gay bigot” would only make sense if somebody advocated restricting the rights of those who they disagree with (which as far as I know the supporters of gay rights aren’t advocating). Bigots may continue to be bigots, but they shouldn’t be allowed to restrict the rights of others without cause. I have the right to continue calling them what they are.

  • http://noURLforyou! Anon

    It would just be so splendid if these Christian, or any anti-homosexuality organizations turned their focus on the bigger issues. Attacking a very happy, life-loving cartoon character who has NEVER shown any sexual interest in any other male character on the show is not going to end bullying in schools. It is not going to end domestic violence. It is not going to prevent shool shootings. Its not going to feed starving children, cure any diseases or raise money for a shelter for the homeless, or as some may say, the meek(suffering and going to heaven for it). Nothing is beng accomplished with these political battles except that people are learning to hate each other more than ever. If for just once in their lives, it would be a true act of God to turn their eyes toward the children of the world who need their help most. God loves all. These people seem to hate all but God. What exactly does that make them? No one has the right to control what a child watches exceot for that child’s parents. I was raised on TV shows for boys, and for girls. I played with Barbie, and with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My parents riased me to be repsectful of all human life, regardless of gender, color and sexual orientation. Homo/Bi/Transsexuality is not a choice, it is being. Show respect for all, that’s all there really is to it.

    oh yeah…spongebob is a sponge. how often do you see sponges fornicating in your sink, anyways?

  • Mark

    If you can’t see the clear gender confusion with Spongebob, you are blind. Granted, Dobson can come across as the clear standing figure in the cultural war, however he was quite tame on this issue. I have to explain to my kids constantly that Sponge bob is gender confused. He is clearly effeminate, often cross-dressing, and would have been better cast as spongebobbie. We have a female chipmunk, Sandy, who is the most manly character on the show, Patrick who is often wearing provocative women’s clothes, and Squidward the NPR fanatic. The closest normal gendered character is played by villain Plankton, who is married to a female robot. If I sound like a Right-wing Christian freak, then good. At least you got something right. Face it. Our culture is being destroyed by the destruction of the family. Left wing media would have you believe that 90% of the population is gay. At least Dobson is fighting to restore values and keep the family unit in-tact. The downfall of any great nation will always begin with the destruction of the family. We are falling beyond repair. Wake up America!! Turn back to God and know that His laws are good. They are not bad. He is not bad. Take off the glasses.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I thought you were joking. Your analysis makes for great comedy. Beyond that it makes an excellent emetic.

    Try living your own life instead of everyone else’s. Your construction of gender is offensive. May your son become a fashion designer and your daughter…well, let’s keep her away from male gender roles too, they’re not really that good for anyone–male or female.

    Subvert and undermine bullshit, sexist gender roles.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh…32 was re 31