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Teletubbies, Calvin Klein, and SpongeBob SquarePants:

Great Foolishness for a Strange Morality

Copyright © 1999, 2005 by David E. Ross

Some are so moral and pious that they are offended if someone else finds enjoyment.
(The proper term for this is constipated morality.)

On behalf of a strange and twisted morality, great foolishness is being foisted on the American conscience.

graphic of Tinky WinkyFirst, Jerry Falwell warns parents that Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies is gay. It is unimportant how Falwell "knows" this (but then all gays are supposed to be able to tell about each other). What is important is that he has tried to stir up parents about the asserted sexual orientation of a fictitious, genderless, non-human character in a TV show. Whether Tinky Winky is indeed gay is no more important than whether a unicorn, dragon, or any other mythological creature is gay. Falwell is concerned that Tinky Winky might be seen as an inappropriate role model. Since when is every famous character — real or fictional — supposed to be a role model? And what would be wrong if the 10% of our population that is homosexual had a role model?

Next, Donald Wildmon forces Calvin Klein to suppress advertisements for its line of children's underwear because Wildmon asserts the display ads would encourage child molesters. Not so long ago, children's bare behinds were used to advertise suntan lotions and diapers. We all considered the pictures to be cute if not outright wholesome. Now, CK cannot even show its product being used as intended, on behinds that are covered.

Falwell and Wildmon share an obsession. They are driven to find obscenity in a shadow and eroticism in a sigh. I find it strange that they so eagerly search for pornography (as if they were sexually retarded) and then wave it around for the rest of us to see (another juvenile behavior). Yes, Falwell and Wildmon are pious perverts.

Calvin Klein deserves to be condemned — not for creating a lascivious advertisement but for legitimizing Wildmon's obsession by suppressing the advertisements.

21 February 1999

The warning appeared in an unsigned column in National Liberty Journal, a magazine published by Falwell. He might not have actually written the warning, but he certainly sponsored it.

While others might have commented on Tinky Winky's orientation, only Falwell thought it necessary to wave the issue in our faces. Similarly, Wildmon might not have been the only person to express concern about the Calvin Klein advertisements; but he was the individual who garnered the publicity.

1 March 1999

James Dobson is also afflicted with constipated morality.

U.S. Christians Issue Gay Warning Over Kid Video

By Jill Serjeant

Christian Conservative groups have issued a gay alert warning over a children's video starring SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney and a host of other cartoon favorites. The wacky square yellow SpongeBob is one of the stars of a music video due to be sent to 61,000 U.S. schools in March.

The makers — the nonprofit We Are Family Foundation — say the video is designed to encourage tolerance and diversity. But at least two Christian activist groups say the innocent cartoon characters are being exploited to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. "A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality," wrote Ed Vitagliano in an article for the American Family Association.

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 100 TV cartoon stars. It was made by a foundation set up by songwriter Nile Rodgers after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks to promote the nation's healing process.

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. "Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity' within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary but it crosses a moral line," Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement on Thursday.

Rodgers was astounded at the attack. "That is so myopic and harsh. You have really got to look hard to find anything in this that is offensive to anyone. The last thing I am going to do is taint these characters," he told Reuters.

Dobson was quoted by the New York Times on Thursday as having singled out the wildly popular SpongeBob during remarks about the video at a Washington D.C. dinner this week.

SpongeBob, who lives in a pineapple under the sea, was "outed" by the U.S. media in 2002 after reports that the TV show and its merchandise was popular with gays. His creator, Stephen Hillenburg, said at the time that although SpongeBob was an oddball, he thought of all the characters as asexual.

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited.

Just as with Falwell's attack against Tinky Winky, Dobson's wrath is directed against a fictional, non-human character. The message of the video and the mission of the We Are Family Foundation is tolerance. We must therefore conclude that Dobson's message and mission is intolerance, indeed a strange morality for the head of an organization that is supposed to promote family values.

20 January 2005

Will the silliness and hatred never stop? Now it's Louis Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), attacking Shrek 2. On the TVC Web site, there is now a page with the headline Parents Beware: 'Shrek 2' Features Transgenderism And Crossdressing Themes. The page goes on to warn parents not to allow their children to see this movie, again featuring fictitious, non-human animations. The real "sin" committed by Shrek 2 is that it promotes tolerance and an end to bigotry.

My daughter Heather comments:

Hey did you know that there's a war going on, homeless people, child abuse, global warming, and the Cubs haven't won the World Series in my grandmother's lifetime? You'd think that these people could find something else to worry about.

Charles Keil, a film studies professor at the University of Toronto, has a more reasoned criticism of TVC's attack. Professor Keil says that such humor is designed for parents and goes way above the heads of the children in the audience. "If the kids don't get it, it doesn't really matter." He also says the whole idea behind the Shrek movies is a general message of tolerance — that outward appearances don't matter and that it's what's underneath that counts — and such complaints defeat that larger, more important message.

Targeting minuscule elements within a much larger work and then trying to extract from that some kind of argument that borders on the paranoid is really misconstruing the general aim of this entertainment.

In other words, this is very much like my earlier comment about finding "obscenity in a shadow and eroticism in a sigh." In their attempts to expose SpongeBob SquarePants and Shrek, Dobson and Sheldon exhibit the same obsession as did Falwell and Wildmon a few years ago. They hungrily search for sexual themes and then wave them around like titillated children — all to further their constipated morality.

My mother — Heather's grandmother — was born in 1910, the same year Mark Twain died. (And just think of what comments Twain would have made about all this.) Mom was born and raised in Chicago and — at age 94 — is still a Cubs fan. Mom also supports full rights for gays.

21 February 2005

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