Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bigger. Better. Spongier.

Well, considering I have mentioned the Spongebob controversy in both my MTS blog and my Faith in Faith blog, I suppose I should make a few comments here as well.

As of this writing, I am rather appalled with James Dobson and the Focus on the Family group. I have always respected Dobson and his group for working with families and people and helping them find Biblical solutions to their emotional strife. But whenever this group takes political stands, I cringe.

But the latest rant against Spongebob (which has been ratcheting up each day in the conservative blogs and talk radio) is beyond my threshold of ridiculousness. The actual controversy is not about the television show, though as more voices weigh in, th show and the characters are receiving quite a bit of attention.

I have seen dozens of Spongebob episodes. I understand why some members of the homosexual community latch onto Patrick as a symbol of acceptance of their worldview, but they do so by adding their text to the character, not drawing on the "gayness" of way he's portrayed in the cartoons. Patrick is a starfish, which means he has no gender or sexuality in the first place.

I see the failure to recognize that the homosexual textuality many people are concerned about as external to the text itself is a fundamental blow to American democracy. Removing texts that others reinterpret is a dangerous path to take. I mean, these same communities reinterpret Archie comics into homosexual texts. Should we next ban Archie from schools?

Potentially banning Spongebob from the classroom is not the end of free expression, but it's just a symbol to me of everything that's wrong with the way the political right approaches American life. These groups mounted political assaults on Disney (the company and specific titles and characters), the Smurfs, several comic books (including Superman specifically), Jar-Jar Binks, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter and now SpongeBob. And let's not forget how many times the Simpsons have come under fire.

If these texts do indeed contain subversive texts (the Simpsons certainly does, which is where the show crafts its humor), then I say so be it. Let people think about complex issues and try to grapple with why different people believe different things. Sanitizing our public world only makes us illiterate and unable to be hospitable to those who are different from us.

I think James Dobson is a good man. And that goes for many people in his circle. But I think stands like these undermine our democracy and restrict one of the very freedoms we founded this nation upon: free speech and expression.


Blogger prying1 said...

Perhaps in the confusion the mainstream media put forth you missed what many believe to be the main point. - Dobson did not rant against ANY cartoon character nor did he imply that spongebob was homosexual. New York Times and LA Times LIED!!!

and please check the hobbsonline - Jan 29, 2005 -
Letter from Dr. Dobson

The ones that should be ashamed are the New York Times and the LA Times for taking ONE SENTENCE and twisting it, adding to it, and purposefully deceiving their readers concerning the person and character of Dr. Dobson. - Dr. Dobson has long stood against the homosexual agenda being taught in schools. - Nothing new there. Trying to portray him as a hate filled spiteful vindicitive christian really shows what these 'news' organizations think of all Christians regardless their stance on the homosexual agenda.

9:32 PM  
Blogger jrichard said...

Thank you for your comment.

However, I do not believe I missed the point you mentioned. The only position I attributed to Dobson is the opposition to the video. It is the right-wing blogs and conservative talk radio shows I listen to that took the message the rest of the way.

There has indeed been a lot of confusion about this issue. The original complaint mentioned on the air turned out to be about the wrong Web site. The mistake was never admitted, nor were positions retracted.

And blaming media outlets for twisting one sentence when the whole controversy was created from two words buried in a tolerance pledge (quoted from a third source, btw) that don't appear anywhere in the video or its packaging? You'll pardon me if my sympathies are not gushing for those who get burned when playing with fire.

Personally, I think we ALL could stand to be a little more tolerant of one another. Tolerating each others' differences is not the same as condoning behavior we believe to be wrong.

If you happen to read the other blogs quoted in the article you responded to, you will probably get a more thorough understanding of my position and why I had the reaction that I did when I wrote this one.

Again, thanks for writing.

10:22 PM  
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4:21 AM  

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