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Not Sponge[Bob] Worthy

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SpongeBob SquarePants has made a dirty video.

Did he get himself stuck in a cervix, you ask? Why, no. He’s way too young and square for that.

And besides, I’ve heard he’s gay.

But that isn’t exactly why two Christian groups are complaining that the music video in question, whose goal is to teach tolerance to elementary school students, has “enlisted” SpongeBob and his pals in a “stealth effort” to advance the nebulous and nefarious homosexual agenda. It’s because the publisher endorses tolerance of people with “sexual identity” differences.

The music video, which will be released on DVD, contains a rerecording of the song “We Are Family” by over 100 children’s television characters. It also includes wrap-around comments by some of the characters, as well as cameos by Bill Cosby, Diana Ross, and Whoopie Goldberg.

I know. It’s just too horrible to comprehend.

The video is a remake of the 1979 hit song “We Are Family” using the voices and images of SpongeBob, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and other TV cartoon characters. It was made by a foundation set up by songwriter Nile Rodgers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in an effort to promote healing.

Christian groups however have taken exception to the tolerance pledge on the foundation’s Web site, which asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race. [Emphasis BHW]

No complaints about the actual video so far — just the text of a tolerance pledge on the publisher’s web site. Here’s the offending part of the We Are Family Foundation’s tolerance pledge:

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

That’s it. It’s a pledge that asserts having respect for people who are different from you. Wouldn’t that be the Christian thing to do?

Ah, never mind.

In his complaint, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, doesn’t mention any specific problems with the video’s content. He just doesn’t like that the producing company has endorsed — in other media — tolerance of sexual differences. So I’ll assume then that Dobson has either not seen the video or hasn’t found any of the video’s specific content objectionable. At least Jerry Falwell had some evidence: he’d seen Tinky Winky’s lavender purse. And it offended him.

The other Christian group, The American Family Association, appears pestered that those pesky, permissive Jews have a hand in the video: the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] has created educational materials to complement the DVD. The ADL has a history of promoting tolerance and understanding of homosexuality.

[Jesus, didn’t those guys write “Leviticus”?]

Focus on the Family’s Dobson writes:

What we vehemently object to is using these beloved characters to help advance an agenda that’s beyond the comprehension of 6 and 7 year-old children, not to mention morally offensive to millions of moms and dads. The video in question is slated to be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools throughout the United States. Where it is shown, schoolchildren will be left with the impression that their teachers are offering their endorsement of the values and agenda associated with the video’s sponsor.

Well, they would be offering their endorsement of the values promoted in the video. That seems to be the point. But what about values not addressed in the video? How would young children know they existed if nobody said a word about them? We still don’t know if sexual identity is covered in the video or how/if any teachers will discuss it after showing the video. And if it’s absent from the video, then the Christian groups’ complaint is that teachers would be endorsing everything the publisher espouses, even things they don’t talk about.

But these logical flaws don’t seem to matter to Dobson or the folks at AFA. It doesn’t matter if sexual identity is addressed in the video or not: even though it’s only one of many differences the organization mentions on its web site, it’s enough to make this video bad news.

If the producers have included sexual identity in the video, then I’m hoping for a skit in which Ernie and Bert finally admit their dark secret. Too obvious? Then I’ll take a surprise event, where all the sexually ambiguous characters — and that’s most of them — share a big, group … hug.

Either way, as the parent of a kindergartener, I’m not too worried about the video showing up at her school, nor am I surprised by the sight-unseen objections to it.

[P.S. Yes, I proclaim my intolerance of religious prudes who would have schools teach a creation myth in place of science, while rejecting a message about respect for all people. Oh, the irony.]
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About bhw

  • Keith Obermann showed the song in it’s entirety on his show last night (Thurs.). It’s a very adorable video. SpongeBob has one of the smallest parts though. It’s clear they’re using his name to get attention. They don’t even mention Winnie the Pooh, who has more camera time and sings pantless, just blatantly exposing his fabric.

    Media whores.

  • I posted on this topic myself under “Make Love, Not War (No Really) both here at Blogcritics and also at my own blog at cowbells.blogspot.com. In response to comments at cowbells to a separate post entitled “In theory…” I expressed my view that this is really a war of semantics. Your post is well written and hit the crux of the issue: these groups haven’t a leg to stand on when it comes to the videos content. They have determined that “tolerance” is a dirty word, which is why Sponge Bob and the others are being castigated. Like you, I wonder what the Christian thing to do is. I’m pretty certain it’s not what these fanatics have in mind. Thanks for your perspective.

  • Clambering on to the posting-about-SpongeBob bandwagon, I’ve ranted about it this morning, too:


    Oh, I’m a sad and embarrassed Republican today, let me tell you.

  • I never heard of Sponge Bob, what is he?

    I don’t watch TV much since my big brother threw my TV out the window for some reason. I told my big brother “Please don’t break my TV”, and he said “Why?”, so I said “Because I need it to watch Barney and Elmo”, then he threw it out the window! I still don’t understand why he did it, because I stopped watching Tella Tubbies a long time ago!

    Sponge Bob looks kinda cool here, kinda reminds me of something. I don’t have time to watch it anyways now, because I play alot of concrete football on the concrete, streethockey in the street, and play with my hamster Duckie.

  • Perhaps I should borrow Barry’s line: Aaaaaaaagh! Now can we go back to discussing real issues, like whether or not Seal’s lady is worthy?

  • Leave it to James Dobson to stick his snout in where not wanted or needed. There is a way to get his message across, but isn’t a law about something called separation of church and state?

  • I never heard of Sponge Bob, what is he?

    Favorite SpongeBob story:

    This year, for the first time, there was a giant SpongeBob balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade here in New York.

    Apparently SpongeBob isn’t well-known outside of the English-speaking world. According to the New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary, a puzzled French tourist asked someone in the crowd, “Who is this great and famous cheese?”

  • So that’s what’s wrong with the school system. Kids need more opportunities to watch music videos with commercialized characters and happy messages. Huh?

  • Eric Olsen

    great line Barry! If SpongeBob were a great and famous cheese, he would be swiss

  • Somewhat off-topic: I saw Sponge Bob the cartoon for the first time a few weeks ago (while realized I had Nickelodeon as part of my crappy cable package) and am now, I must admit, a huge fan. It borrows a lot from Ren & Stimpy in terms of animation and style, and like The Simpsons’ it works at both the kid and adult level of humor.

    Am I a maniac for thinking this (if not for other reasons)?

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash

  • How can I possibly listen to a message from a guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

  • Eric Olsen

    on the contrary Eric, I would say that is the typical reaction from those who don’t suck

  • Love the title of the story bhw!

  • Tommy Moore

    Whoever it was who started saying that Spongebob is gay has a problem. He’s a CARTOON. Kids who watch Spongebob never would have considered him gay until now. My Christian son watches Spongebob and I do not appreciate the media or whoever putting that information into our childrens heads. May God have mercy on their souls.

  • This sort of nonsense is why I find it embarassing to admit I am a Christian. Of course teaching your children to be tolerant of and have respect for others, even if they are different, is the Christian thing to do. The only conclusion, regretfully, that I can come to, is that James Dobson and his ilk aren’t actually Christians. That is, not if you define Christian as following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  • HW Saxton

    SpongeBob Squarepants may just well be
    the most moral cartoon out there in the
    field of kids entertainment these days.
    For anyone to get themselves into some
    kind of a frenzy as regards The Sponge
    makes this whole scenario that much more

    If the Fundamentalists,Mr Dobson and the
    rest of his ilk would actually WATCH the
    show,they would likely shut the hell up.

    SpongeBob promotes the values of loyalty
    friendship,hard work,acceptance of other
    people,school/studying,enjoyment of Art
    (in it’s various forms)and all of life’s
    simple pleasures and not taking yourself
    too seriously. Nothing wrong with any of
    that is there?

    I don’t have any children but if I did,
    I certainly wouldn’t mind them watching
    SpongeBob. Something I can’t say about
    “Ren & Stimpy” for example.As much as I
    do like that cartoon myself, it’s really
    not a young kid’s cartoon.

    I know that they aren’t just crucifying
    the Spongy One in particular but just
    the sad fact that it is an issue at all
    is down right disturbing.

  • HW Saxton

    RE: Comment #10 Eric B., It isn’t that
    SpongeBob borrows from “Ren & Stimpy”.
    It is more like a case of two different
    cartoonists watching & being influenced
    by the same cartoons and coming up with
    unintentionally similar results.

    The cartoons in question here being all
    those UA cartoons from the mid to late
    50’s.They used minimalist backgrounds &
    made full use of their colors,depth and
    angles in lieu of “busy” background art
    such as the folks at Warner Bros. were
    so fond of, to move the cartoon along.

    Although by the 1950’s the WB cartoons
    were starting to follow similar trends

    Besides the classic Warner Bros & United
    Artists faux-futuristic influences,I’ve
    also noted a strong R.Crumb influence on
    the show (Crumb was so great at bringing
    inanimate objects to life)as well as the
    influence of Mad magazine’s Don Martin
    (just look at Squidward for a second) &
    Basil Wolverton who drew for Car-Toons
    and whose creature featured lots of big
    bloodshot eyes bulging out of the head
    and tongues flapping in the breeze.
    Basil was also an influence on Big Daddy
    Roth and all of the Rat Fink monsters of

    I’m sure more discerning viewers than my
    self could find many other influences.
    Not to mention the faux Jacques Costeau
    narration that always cracks me up.