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Conservatives "out" SpongeBob

by Loren Moreno, editor

 

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? The oddest, perhaps we should say the queerest face in animation, SpongeBob SquarePants, of course. At least this according to the American Family Association (AFA), a Christian conservative group. They and other conservatives are angry over a new music video entitled “We are family” and produced by the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) that features the frilly sea sponge, among other children’s characters. AFA claims that the video promotes homosexuality.

 

On March 11, WAFF intends to launch its new version of “We are Family” on children’s television networks and in 61,000 public schools. According to WAFF, the music video is intended to “promote tolerance and diversity to America’s children.” The American Family Association claims otherwise, saying the video intends to “promote the normalization of homosexuality.”

 

WAFF calls the project “unprecedented” message of tolerance and diversity and cites the backing of political organizations and media partners such as the Anti-Defamation League, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Sony, Scholastic, Sesame Workshop, and many others.

"Cooperation and unity are the most important values we can teach children,” said Nile Rodgers, co-creator of the video.

Following the premier of the music video on broadcast networks, it will be sent, along with teaching materials, to public schools across the country. This is where the problem begins for Donald E. Wildmon, AFA Chairman. “Parents need to be aware that their children could be required by the school to participate in a discussion promoting the homosexual lifestyle,” he said.

According to the WAFF Web site, the video contains no references to sex in general or homosexuality in particular. The teacher’s guide and material contain no specific references to homosexuality, but does discuss, in brief, non-traditional homes such as those made up by: adoptive parents, foster homes, grandparents, same-gender parents, and single parents. The AFA claims the contrary. Kahtryn Hooks, in an AFA press release said the teacher lesson plans “explicitly promote the homosexual lifestyle.” Hooks said, “In these lesson plans, teachers are taught how to introduce students to ‘the concepts of homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality.’”

Wildmon and the AFA believe that characters such a Bob the Builder, Big Bird, Dora the Explorer, Lilo & Stitch, Muppet babies, Rugrats, and of course the accused homosexual SqaurePants, are being exploited to speak to the impressionable minds of young children.

"Innocent little children should not be encouraged to accept homosexuality by any teacher or other authority figure,” Wildmon said.

WAFF has filed a lawsuit against Wildmon and the AFA for misconstruing the facts.

SquarePants has been at the center of the controversy since WAFF first made announcement of the campaign back in November. Conservatives have accused SquarePants of exhibiting stereotypical gay traits such as a high pitched voice, a tendency to be slightly feminine, exposing his underwear, and most shockingly holding hands with his friend Patrick, a pink male starfish.

The creator of SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, told the New York Post that the allegations are outrageous and he considers SquarePants to be “almost asexual.”

AFA’s attempt to undermine a creative endeavor that serves to educate students about tolerance of different races, religions, cultures, families, and even sexual orientations is an example of a growing trend of intolerance in our country. More than half of the American population, if we believe post-election commentary, voted fro President for reasons that were unethically homophobic.

While the “We are Family” education material does make reference to homosexuality in passing, it is not what AFA paints it to be. AFA would have people think that a public project is entirely pro-homosexual in nature. It is not a promotion of homosexuality nor is it a conspiracy to convert children by covert use of cartoon figures.

The video and accompanying campaign is a way to educate children that all people, while different, deserve the same access and opportunities in life. The entire project is about promoting tolerance of different racial, cultural, and religious diversity in the world.

In denouncing the “We are Family” project because it includes homosexuals, AFA undermines all the other groups included as well. It is accusations like those of Donald Wildmon that force children to live in a world of hatred. Conservatives’ hatred of homosexuals has created a world in which children are no longer blind to the differences of people. This project serves a purpose far beyond the comprehension or acceptance of the AFA and the rest of the Christian right. Nile Rodgers, chairman of the WAFF, makes the point perfectly: “We [are] building understanding through education. The more we know about each other, the less we fear each other.”

 

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