Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? These days, the answer is a yellow-hued homosexual member of the phylum Porifera. Yes, SpongeBob SquarePants has been publicly “outed” and attacked for his appearance in an upcoming educational video promoting tolerance. With the absurd accusations at hand, we need to learn the much-valued lesson that cartoon personalities are best kept out of the world of politics.
The controversy began on Jan. 19 at an event sponsored by the Christian group Focus on the Family. Organization founder Dr. James C. Dobson condemned SpongeBob’s appearance in the music video of the song “We Are Family,” which features about 100 other famous cartoons. Dobson’s group views the video not as a rally for tolerance, but a promotion of homosexuality.
Nile Rodgers, co-writer of the 1979 song and founder of the We Are Family Foundation states the project is meant to encourage America’s children to embrace people’s individuality. The video will be distributed to over 61,000 elementary schools in March.
“A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality,” said Ed Vitagliano, a member of the American Family Foundation. Apparently, the group feels diversity is fine, but homosexuality is not. This illustrates the ignorance of the people posing this argument. Their myopic perspective is hindering them from understanding the ultimate goal of We Are Family, which is to unite Americans.
Despite the absurdity of an outcry over a video that aims to unify, the more laughable issue is the sullied name of SpongeBob SquarePants, an innocent sea creature caught in political crossfire. Why would anyone ponder the sexual orientation of a cartoon, especially one that is not human? It is an example of people reading too far into something that is not that complex.
In 2002, the media began to report that SpongeBob’s television show and merchandise were popular among gays. Thus, people began to believe that SpongeBob himself was homosexual. This character was created for the entertainment of children; he is not supposed to have a sexual preference. Even SpongeBob’s creator Stephen Hillenburg said he thought of all his characters as “asexual.”
The We Are Family group, however, isn’t entirely blameless. The group should not be using cartoon characters to spread messages in the first place, as they become vulnerable to criticism such as this.
Only if the characters deal with political issues on the show should they be involved in politics. It seems like an odd switch for a yellow sponge who spends his day talking to a pet snail that meows to suddenly care about whether or not children are accepting of homosexuals.
Focus on the Family and AFA are wrong for taking a delightful character of entertainment and exposing him to political debate. We Are Family is just as faulty for involving SpongeBob and others in their campaign.
Cartoon characters have no right participating in issues of serious concern. The concept is an awkward juxtaposition, as characters who normally deal with inconsequential affairs in their shows are suddenly being rendered as mascots to spearhead polemical issues. It is the equivalent of Condoleezza Rice appearing on Rugrats to help Tommy and Chuckie in their search for Reptar the dinosaur.
The controversy the educational video has sparked serves as an example that our society reads too far into certain issues. Focus on the Family and AFA have made a noble cause look like an insidious plot to corrupt children. Likewise, We Are Family has gone overboard by enlisting over 100 characters to speak on their behalf. If the fanaticism on both sides of this argument could be lowered only slightly, this controversy would not exist.
The damage is done. These organizations have ruined the reputation of a cartoon character with one of the most delightful laughs America has ever heard. This is an affront to sponges and cartoons everywhere, and for that, all groups involved should be ashamed.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.