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Right wing targets SpongeBob

By |2018-01-16T05:54:05-05:00January 1st, 2017|Uncategorized|

A popular cartoon character is being targeted by the right-wing after his appearance in a video for children that promotes tolerance.
SpongeBob SquarePants was accused of appearing in a “pro-homosexual video” by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson during remarks to a pre-inaugural dinner in Washington. The New York Times reported the story Jan. 19.
SpongeBob appears alongside nearly 100 other children’s characters including Winnie the Pooh, Arthur, Barney, Big Bird, and Clifford in a music video produced by the We Are Family Foundation. The aim of the video is to promote tolerance and respect for people who are different.
The motives of the right-wing leaders condemning the video have been criticized in the national press.
“It goes along with the religious rights’ ongoing task of trying to make gay rights look awful by somehow suggesting that we’re out to get the children,” Alonso Duralde, deputy arts and entertainment editor of The Advocate, was quoted as saying on E!Online Jan. 21.
Other critics poked fun at how ridiculous the controversy was.
“When you’re looking for an insidious message, it’s hard to beat one that promotes something as downright evil as ‘tolerance.’ Once children start being accepting of one another, well, it’s hard to imagine anything good coming of that,” wrote Linwood Barclay in a Jan. 24 column in the Toronto Star. “Once they start thinking it’s okay to like kids of different colors, different ethnic backgrounds, different abilities, it doesn’t take any leap of the imagination to figure out they might lose the will to shun and ridicule gays and lesbians.”
It is not clear why Dobson singled out SpongeBob, though it has been reported in both The Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly that the cartoon sponge has a large gay male following. SpongeBob also holds hands on the show with his male best friend Patrick, a big pink starfish.
In a Jan. 21 column in The Post-Standard, actor and SpongeBob voice Tom Kenny said he doesn’t see SpongeBob as a gay icon. “Talking to friends of mine in that community, they say, ‘Yeah, I like SpongeBob, but everybody likes SpongeBob.'”
Kenny ridiculed critics of the We Are Family Foundation video.
“I could maybe see it their way if this was a video with Barbra Streisand and Madonna and Judy Garland,” he said in the Post-Standard. “We’re talking about cartoon characters here, and these people are just trying to make a video that (says) it’s a positive, good thing to be respectful of people different than you.”
The video features a remix of the song “We Are Family,” written by We Are Family Foundation’s Founder and Chairman Nile Rodgers. The 1979 Sister Sledge hit does not mention sexuality or gay rights.
The video will air in March on a variety of television networks including PBS, the Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon and the Foundation is distributing over 60,000 copies of the video to elementary schools across the country.
Conservatives are upset because they claim the video promotes “the gay lifestyle.”
“On the surface, the project may appear to be a worthwhile attempt to foster greater understanding of cultural differences among all Americans,” Ed Vitagliano wrote in a posting on the American Family Association’s website Jan. 10. “However, a short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality.”
At issue is a “Tolerance Pledge” on the We Are Family Foundation website borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a progressive legal organization. The pledge reads: “Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America’s diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination. To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.”
The Tolerance Pledge is not included with the video.
A Jan. 6 article on World Net Daily accused “homosexual activists” of “using popular children’s TV characters … to surreptitiously indoctrinate young children into their lifestyle.”
The World Net Daily article initially contained a link to a similarly named organization called We Are Family (www.waf.org) misidentifying it as the organization distributing the video. A welcome message on the WAF website reads, “In light of recent events we suspect that you may have come to our website looking for the We Are Family Foundation website.” WAF is a South Carolina GLBT organization dedicated to helping GLBT youth and is not affiliated with the We Are Family Foundation.
The We Are Family Foundation is not a gay organization, but a non-profit group that, according to its mission statement, “Celebrates our common humanity and the vision of a global family by creating and supporting programs that inspire and educate individuals of all ages about diversity, understanding, respect and multiculturalism; and to support those who are victims of intolerance.”
According to their web site, the Foundation was started in response to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Over 200 celebrities gathered to re-record “We Are Family” as a way to promote healing. Shortly after, a version of the song was recorded for children using over 100 different children’s characters. The music video originally aired in 2002 as a Public Service Announcement on PBS, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.
Rodgers told the Associated Press Jan. 23 that he was astonished that the video is being attacked by conservatives.
Mark Barondess, lawyer for the We Are Family Foundation called the critics “insane” in the New York Post and said that they “need medication” in the New York Times.

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