The Animation Critic Continued: Society and its Discontents
Controversy One: SpongeBob is gay.
These allegations began to pop up in the (mostly conservative) media during 2002. At first they centered mostly on SB's relationship with Patrick (who is pink) and then spread to SB's neighbor Squidward, who was perceived as being effeminate. Hillenburg actually went so far to address the issue, stating that SB was "somewhat asexual". It should be noted that by 2002 SBSP was perhaps the most popular animated show on cable/satellite television; therefore SB's influence was perceived as being widespread enough to draw the suspicion of not only the Religious Right, but various funsters making their own inferences. The gay community never openly "adopted" SB as one of their own, but that didn't stop the sponge from being drawn into the culture wars.
Controversy Two: SpongeBob also has an openly gay agenda.
The suspicions of the Evangelicals never truly abated, and when SB (and many other animated characters) appeared in a 2005 video promoting tolerance, diversity, and acceptance of all humankind, the boom was lowered. James Dobson and his starkly conservative Christian watchdogs accused SB of promoting a gay agenda, especially since they believe SB to a be favorite among audiences of gay men.
Controversy Three: SpongeBob is a friend to childhood obesity.
2005 saw the release of a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation that implicated media and marketing in the rise of childhood obesity. Sugary treats, cereals, and beverages, it was claimed, were often hawked by charming and popular animated characters. Whether this made the foods in question more desirable is open to debate, but when faced with an epidemic, a multiplicity of cures is often tried. It was noted by New York Times columnist Marian Burros that SB was prominently featured on boxes of Pop Tarts (Wild Bubbleberry flavor, yum!), a product in which half the calories are composed of fat and sugar.
It was recommended (perhaps facetiously) that SB begin selling broccoli instead. The report called on Congress to enforce restrictions on advertisers using cartoon characters to promote unhealthy food products. Shades of Joe Camel.
Controversy Four: SpongeBob's Burger King commercial (2009).
Whether or not one lauds the efforts of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, one must admit that they are sharp-eyed. SB was seen in a 2009 commercial for Burger King's Kids Meal imitating the famous hip-hop/rap artist Sir Mix-A-Lot. SB's funky rendition of "Baby Got Back" was accompanied by what CCC described as "sexy gyrating women" with phone books stuffed into their pants to give them a square appearance. SB paraphrases Mix-A-Lot by changing the lyrics to "I like square (originally 'big') butts." SB stood accused of promoting the objectification of women through the use of "sexualized images". It's rather confusing, considering that SB was widely accused of being gay just a couple of years beforehand.
Controversy Five: SpongeBob has promoted a global warming agenda unproven by science.
In August of 2011, the crew of Fox News cast an evil eye on SB for daring to suggest that glaobal warming may be a man-made, rather than epochal phenomenon. SB and Mr. Krabs had appeared in a book titled SpongeBobGoes Green! in which Mr. Krabs opens a swimming pool outside the Krusty Krab restaurant as an additional draw for customers. The weather is cold, however, so SB helpfully pumps carbon dioxide into the ocean to warm things up, with dire results. It's up to the sponge to reverse the effect, learn to respect nature, and care for the environment. Since the concept human-induced global warming is anathema to conservatives, the sponge also has to take the heat from Fox.