Spongebob joins an all-star cast
January 28, 2005 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Spongebob is pointed at as causing moral decay today. But the idea of blaming animated characters for societal ills is nothing new. The 1934 Production Code changed the scantily-clad Betty Boop into a wholesome girl. Racial stereotyping dominated cartoons of the 1940s. The Flintstones even shilled for Winston cigarettes. Should cartoon characters reflect the morals of cartoon watchers?
posted by u.n. owen (30 comments total)
Somewhat OT, but there's far from unanimity among religious groups about SpongeBob's contested morality ... UCC 1, FotF 0.
posted by expialidocious at 10:38 AM on January 28, 2005

At least one church isn't scared to embrace the Sponge that is Bob.

On Preview: Nice link, expialidocious!
posted by fenriq at 10:39 AM on January 28, 2005

Cartoon artists who want to deal with adult themes have always gotten unfair flak because cartoons are presumed to be "for children", even when they are clearly not, and our society tends to fall into a panicked Victorian faint whenever "protecting the children" is mentioned.

There is at least one example of a comic book store owner selling an adult comic book from a section of his store marked as the adult section to an adult undecover agent and getting arrested and losing his trial on the grounds that it was potentially damaging to children.

This is before we even get into the fact that, even when cartoons genuinely are for children, the bowdlerization and censorship are to an insane degree, since, apparently, we cannot pollute young minds with the idea that it's OK to be tolerant of those different from themselves, or whatever.

posted by kyrademon at 10:40 AM on January 28, 2005

Don't sponges reproduce asexually? I'd be more worried about Spongebob making kids want to divide themselves in half.

But, honestly, I don't think cartoons (or any work of art, really) is obliged to reflect the morality of anyone other than it's creators.
posted by jonmc at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2005

To be fair, I of course don't believe cartoons should be censored to reflect prevailing public morality. I was researching this for a little info section to go along with an editorial and I came up with these -- I loved that the movies are now available for download. Yay internets!
posted by u.n. owen at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2005

I recently made a comic about this.

(interior self-link ahoy!)
posted by jpburns at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2005

Don't sponges reproduce asexually? I'd be more worried about Spongebob making kids want to divide themselves in half.

Sponges do not, in fact, reproduce asexually. But most sponges are hermaphroditic... so maybe we need to worry about our kids trying to be hermaphrodites.
posted by salad spork at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2005

Should cartoon characters reflect the morals of cartoon watchers?

In my case, they already do.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:20 AM on January 28, 2005

Jesus Castillo is the fellow kyrademon is thinking of, (I think)

link to a quick synopses of the story. There is much more out there so go find it if interested.
posted by edgeways at 11:30 AM on January 28, 2005

A little off topic. Read recently about Syphilis rates rising and the reason for it. A new study showed that today's higher rates are due to its cycle. When the study said “cycle”, I took as meaning, cycle of time every so many years. This study showed that today’s promiscuity is not the cause as previous studies had shown. I could not find a link to support this, why off topic.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:36 AM on January 28, 2005

Cartoons? I thought FOX was the only thing causing "moral decay today" (With some obvious exceptions.)
posted by Hanover Phist at 11:47 AM on January 28, 2005

Obviously, those humans shocked by Sponge Bob et al never saw Invader Zim.
posted by signal at 11:52 AM on January 28, 2005

So let me get this straight. (heh heh mheh heh.)

If you told Spongebob to go fuck himself, he actually could?
posted by chicobangs at 11:57 AM on January 28, 2005

That UCC link is great.
posted by homunculus at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2005

Should cartoon characters reflect the morals of cartoon watchers?

I don't know, 'should' is a funny word sometimes.

Let's look at the actual mission of Mr Pants: to sell soap (appropriate for a sponge, no?). Now considering this he 'should' be one thing only and that's entertaining.

If your question is, do people want to relate to their cartoon characters, I say yes obviously and anything the characters might do that doesn't reflect how the audience sees itself might get in the way of the relationship.

Heh, the Flintstones pushing cigarettes. Yeah looks really weird now and wouldn't stand a snowballs chance on TV today. So since this would prevent good old Fred from reaching his audience and therefore performing his main purpose, then I guess one would have to conclude he 'should' reflect the morals / beliefs of his watchers.
posted by scheptech at 12:05 PM on January 28, 2005

Should cartoon characters reflect the morals of cartoon watchers?

Do children have a rigid set of morals?
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:10 PM on January 28, 2005

The Flintstones even shilled for Winston cigarettes
You may be mixing apples & oranges here. The Flintstones are based on the TV show, The Honeymooners. When I was born it was on every Wednesday night at 7pm on ABC which was prime time. In LA this time slot came on after the news at 6pm and the Bob & Sally Dornan talk show at 6:30pm. Sponge Bob is shown during time slots set aside for children unless it is on cable TV.

Also advertisement for the cigarettes would have been shown during its original airing. As cigarette advertisements are not shown on TV today or when the Flintstones were rebroadcast during the afternoons of my childhood.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:25 PM on January 28, 2005

Meh. The link to scantily clad Betty Boop wants to charge you for viewing the cartoon in which she is scantily clad. Bummer.
posted by Doohickie at 12:31 PM on January 28, 2005

Boy, too bad this current news about Sponge Bob would have happened this past fall, the post I could not find enough supporting links to post. The past Fall Burgler King(sic) had a promotion with Sponge Bob and placed large SB dolls on their roof tops. They were being stolen through out the USA and the police were clueless for answers. Because then the nuts would have some true sins to talk about.

Did they ever find out who was stealing them? They were worth $2K+ iirc.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2005

Now James Dobson of the religiously conservative group Focus on the Family is accusing the producers of a music video for children, intended to promote social tolerance and featuring scores of beloved children's show characters, of promoting homosexuality.

Yet some Christians don't agree with his sex teachings;
A Bone to Pick with Dr. Dobson: Masturbation
posted by thomcatspike at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2005

wow, thomcat, reading that made me impossibly sad.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:16 PM on January 28, 2005

While the examples cited by the original poster are related to the current SpongeBob "controversy," I'd think that it's important to draw a line here. I know that the sponge, as an anthropomorphic character, is in essence partly human, but he's made to be ridiculously not-realistic in any superficial way that would invite comparisons to humans.

Sponges who live in pineapples under the sea have not yet been observed to have any particular sexual behavior. Or, indeed, existence. People, however, can have sexuality or be categorized by their race. Which is why I feel free to be disgusted by those racial stereotypes (no argument with Ms. Boop, though) while thinking that the "gayness" of SpongeBob (or Tinky Winky) is ludicrous.
posted by desuetude at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2005

By the way, I happened to catch Drawn Together, the Comedy Central "reality" show of cartoons and there was a scene where the pig, the superhero and the zany guy are all playing spin the bottle and making out.

The funny thing was that one got excited and the superhero guy said "You can't do this if you get all gay, man!" or something to that effect.

It was strange and not very funny. But the rest of the show is pretty decent.

I hope I didn't catch The Gay from watching it though.
posted by fenriq at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2005

James Dobson, who is spearheading the complaints, has been lying about the nature of the video.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:41 PM on January 28, 2005

James Dobson is a crackpot who is also responsible for this kind of nonsense:

Dobson warns Senate not to block Bush's judicial nominees
| Jan. 1, 2005 | AP

DENVER In the words of conservative Christian leader James Dobson, some senators will be "in the 'bull's-eye'" if they block President Bush's judicial nominees.

He suggests that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost re-election in November, partly for blocking votes on Bush nominees.

Dobson lists six Democrats who he says should beware when they seek re-election next year. They include Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2005

I feel so dirty even talking about this topic. There are Americans who can’t afford health care, people are dying from AIDS, the environment being destroyed, and our soldiers are killing Iraqi families. This is all just a big yellow, absorbent smokescreen to make everyone forget about the real issues. Republicans just love to bring up social issues like this to get everyone riled up so they can quietly lower taxes and give more money to big business.

And the bad news? It seems to be working.
posted by Nematoda at 8:38 PM on January 28, 2005

nice, jpburns : >

This is also just another example of their pathological need to keep their supporters riled up about something--anything at all will do. The real victories they're expecting (amendment against same-sex marriage, outlawing of abortion, etc) just aren't happening, and this keeps them distracted and giving.

Now that Powell's gone from the FCC, and they're rejecting complaints they weren't previously, we're not going back to a Hays code or anything, i hope. Don't forget that some of the most edgy--and classic--Bugs Bunny cartoons happened in a pretty conservative era too. With so many choices and channels, maybe people should listen to Bush (the first time i've ever said that!) “As a free-speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, you’re the first line of responsibility; they put an off button (on) the TV for a reason. Turn it off,” Bush told C-SPAN interviewer Brian Lamb.
posted by amberglow at 8:54 PM on January 28, 2005

"Sometimes I cut myself to relieve the pain! Teeheehee!"

So speaketh Gothic Betty Boop Toot Braun in Drawn Together.
posted by Voice of God at 12:39 AM on January 30, 2005

Yabba-dabba-do, here we go again ...

Flintstones Are ‘Way Too Gay’
"Fred and Barney should be banned because they are virtually inseparable, are never seen wearing pants and live together in the suggestively-named town of Bedrock, complains a conservative activist" [Newsweek | February 8, 2005]
posted by ericb at 7:25 PM on February 8, 2005

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