Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic's Art - Society and it's Discontents Part II
Thus, I fulfill my duty to you, my readers, and to the subset of people who read this column for whatever reason. I shall address the six controversies individually.
1. SpongeBob is gay. So what if he was? So are a considerable number of our citizens, and they are not the reason that America may be suffering any sort of decline. There have now been openly gay characters on television since 1974, and every year there are more of them. Acceptance of gay individuals is on the rise, and it matters little whether SB is or is not.
One of the most repugnant conversations I have ever had was with a former acquaintance who, along with his wife, actually changed their religious alliance because the sect they belonged to was considering the selection of a gay bishop. It appeared to me that their lifelong religious identities were defined by homophobia; although I'm sure they believed they were following God's inerrant word.
With SB, it's even worse: he's condemned by people who don't even know the facts; SB's creator calls him "asexual." As far as I will address SB in future writings, this is an irrelevant and stupid point not worth addressing. Gay, straight, or bisexual, this is one damn fine cartoon character and one damn fine cartoon.
2. SpongeBob has an openly gay agenda And this can be seen…where? This is the inference made by the conservative Right based on their interpretation of the video itself and "hints" they allegedly ferreted out of individual cartoon episodes. Therefore, the video must also suggest that SB has an African-American agenda, a Jewish agenda, a Hispanic agenda, an Asian American agenda…but why go on? The burden of proof is on the accusers, and that is exactly what they lack. They have yet to provide the specific scene, dialogue, and sequence where SB promotes a gay agenda. They can't. They never will. In addition, their opinions are, de facto, as worthless as anything in the Krusty Krab's dumpster is. Only the similarly bigoted and ignorant are entitled to share them.
3. SpongeBob is a friend of childhood obesity SB is well recognized and therefore is a desirable spokesperson for any product that can be marketed. However, he happens to be most familiar to a certain demographic market, children of a specified age group. This is why SB is used to advertise Pop Tarts and not extra large maxi-pads with wings or Glock pistols. Care must be taken here to differentiate the spokesperson from the product; SB was not created or commissioned by Kellogg's to sell Pop Tarts in the way that Sugar Bear was developed by Post in order to push Sugar Crisp.
SB is as much a player in the free market as Michael Jordan was for Nike. In his cartoons, SB neither eats nor espouses the consumption of Pop Tarts. SB (or his writers) likely do not think about childhood obesity when they lay out their storyboards. That being said, even if Congress does not mandate that advertisers stop using animated characters to sell foods detrimental to children's health, it's a good idea for SB to bow out of this sector of the advertising business .It won't dent his popularity or sour his legacy. He may cease to be a market force in a specified area, but his cartoons will still be just as good.
4. SpongeBob promoted sexual exploitation This refers to the 2009 Burger King commercial where SB cavorted with square-butted babes to the tune of "Baby Got Back" in order to sell Kids Meals. SB purported to love "square butts". This might be considered an unusual stance for a character widely rumored to be gay (or at least pro-gay), but again keep in mind that SB functions as a synecdoche in times of moral panic: he is all evils to all people. I have viewed this commercial twenty times since I began this column and have concluded that it is: a) terminally silly, and b) so ridiculous that the images cancel out any possible sexual connotations. Besides, any kid that has seen MTV, BET, or VH1 (and let's not kid ourselves here) will instantly recognize this commercial as risible parody. This accusation is a laughable overreaction from the moral watchdogs who don't seem to realize that SB exists in the very free market system that supports their lifestyles.