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SpongeBob: Unsafe at Any Depth?

January 26, 2005
By Joy-Ann Reid

Is SpongeBob SquarePants gay? This has become a very important question for my household. I have three children, all under age 10, and they love Spongebob. The little dictators even dragged me (on my dime) to the Nickelodeon movie, in which the little sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea embarks on an adventure with his best friend - a pink starfish named Patrick. Hmm... a pink starfish. In one part of the movie, the two sea creatures even launch into a glam rock version of "I'm a goofy goober... yeah!" in which Patrick winds up in thigh high spiked boots.

It's all so confusing. My kids are too young to have to contend with the sexual orientation of the people on TV, let alone the cartoons (I didn't figure out the Village People until I was in college, but then I was kind of sheltered). So when I find out that SpongeBob, Bob the Builder, Jimmy Neutron and other cartoon characters are being used to "surreptitiously indoctrinate young children into" the homosexual lifestyle, I pay attention. I can't even indoctrinate the little rugrats to keep their rooms clean. I'll be damned if some cartoon is gonna get to them first.

The controversy involves a remake of the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family," including a video, which is to be distributed on DVD and CD to 61,000 schools nationwide in March along with a study guide on promoting tolerance. The song will also be aired as part of a special on Nickelodeon, PBS and The Disney Channel, all sponsored by FedEx. The video coincides with a proposal to create a national We are Family Day on March 11, the six month anniversary of Sept. 11 and also the anniversary of Spain's "9/11".

But "pro-family activist group" The American Family Association says that the project is "an 'open door' to a secondary discussion of homosexuality," according to the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.

The AFA specifically objects to a tolerance pledge it says children will be encouraged to sign, which includes sexual identity along with "culture, race" and "other characteristics." The pledge, taken from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Declaration of Tolerance, is not part of the curriculum, but can be found on the Foundation's website.

Beyond that, the WeAreFamilyFoundation.org site is short on details that might help ferret out the truth about Bob. It contains lots of warm language about "tolerance," "global unity," and "acceptance," but the only link to an apparent gay agenda is a ubiquitous multi-colored heart logo generally reminiscent of the gay pride flag (plus a highly suspicious reference to Studio 54.)

According to the site, the We Are Family project was launched shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks by '70s super-producer Nile Rodgers, who wrote the 1979 song of the same name. The project migrated from a grown-up celebrity recording, to a children's version aired in March and September, 2002, to the current project, which was recorded last November.

The new video will include the children's characters, from the cast of Blues Clues to the cast of Sesame Street (including the notorious sponge), plus humans like Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg. The organization's Board of Directors includes education advocates, corporate big-wigs, as well as Larry King's lawyer, musician Steven Van Zandt and talk show host Montel Williams. According to the Foundation's website, the proposed Family Day is supported by two Republicans - retired Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Orrin hatch.

But the AFA is not alone in not feeling the love. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for Focus On The Family called the video "insidious" and a "classic bait and switch," aimed at "brainwashing" kids into accepting the gay lifestyle. The group's leader, James Dobson, reportedly attacked Spongebob by name at a black tie pre-inaugural dinner, expressing outrage that 'Bob and Patrick are frequently seen holding hands. Sounds awfully Teletubby to me.

WorldNetDaily claimed that the Foundation's website outs the group as "a voice of informed straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people" who are "working to spread (the) truth about homosexuality."

That message can be found on a We Are Family website, but not the one associated with the tolerance video. Charleston, S.C.-based We Are Family Organization is a local non-profit that offers counseling and support services to gay and lesbian teens and young adults. That group's president, Ken Hubbard, confirmed to me by telephone that the organization and the foundation are not related.

Hopefully that clears Spongebob's name, and my children can safely force me to buy the "SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" DVD.

Joy-Ann Reid is a freelance writer in South Florida. Her work has appeared in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Commondreams.org and Salon.com. Contact Joy-Ann at editor@reidreport.com or visit her website at http://reidreport.com.

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