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January 22, 2005

Dr. James Dobson Gives SpongeBob The Squeeze

Everyone has already read about this, and the bloggers are having fun skeet shooting Dobson, but this New York Times editorial lays him out flat.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?"

"SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!"

"Absorbent and yellow and porous is he ..."

... not to mention dopey and charming and more hugely overexposed than ever, thanks to an anti-homosexual attack from the Christian right. Because of a media fuss ignited by the American Family Association and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, this cartoon character is well on his way to culture-war immortality, up there with those moral saboteurs Murphy Brown and Tinky Winky.

I wrote about Dobson and Focus On The Family for Feminista a few years ago. Here is an excerpt:

The first thing you notice about Focus on the Family Magazine are the smiles. Big, happy, Stepford smiles. Each cover is graced with cheery faces: dad hugging son; mom, dad, and three tow-headed kids gathered around a tortoise; man and wife hugging and smiling for the camera; grinning mom, dad, and daughters hiking in the mountains, yellow wildflowers blooming at their feet. You can almost hear Julie Andrews singing "Climb Every Mountain" in the background. One daughter even has a band-aid stuck to her knee! Illustrations and photographs within the issues continue the image. Drawings accompanying the animated series "Adventures in Odyssey" are drawn in sweet, apple-cheeked splendor. All faces smile for the camera. All bodies intertwine in friendly hugs. True, cavity-inducing moments. Pro-family propaganda at its most cloying.

That message is being plastered to billboards across the country, according to Focus on the Family Gets Plastered. [FOTF, Feb. 1997. p. 14; Aug. 1997, p. 13] The corny pun comes across as the nerds' pitiful attempt to crack a joke. A billboard depicting a smiling (of course he's smiling) dad holding baby at o-dark-thirty in the morning, while nearly asleep -- yet smiling -- mom looks on lovingly is entitled "My Husband Works The Night Shift." A smiling family roasts marshmallows on a Hibachi inside a tent -- not a very safe thing to do, but that doesn't matter because they're smiling -- is entitled (please forgive me for this; it's really bad) "My Family Love In-tents Moments." A third shows dad and daughter sitting at her little table having a tea party. It's entitled "My Dad Always Makes His Tea Time," another horrid pun referring to golf. Such wholesome symbolism, leaning heavily towards the mawkish, permeates each and every issue.

The premise is quite simple: God's family according to James Dobson is a happy, smiling, white, middle-class heterosexual family where dad works outside the home, mom tends to the children, and the most serious problem the family will encounter is the eldest daughter finding a zit the size of a communion wafer on her forehead on the day of the prom. There is a fixation with dad and golf, a decidedly white, middle/upper-class sport which even today has a 1950's back-when-families-were-wholesome feel to it.

Despite popular misconception, FOTF is not strictly an American phenomenon. Literally while you were sleeping, FOTF has spread to all four corners of the earth over the past twenty years, with a high concentration in Asian countries including South Korea, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Japan. Offices also exist in Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba, Norway, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia. [FOTF, Jan. 1996. p. 2-3; March, 1997. p.14-15.] Dobson claims that he wished he had foreseen what FOTF would be like today and that he carried out a systematic plan. This worldwide spread was strictly God's will, and he professed shock and surprise that it took on so well. He stated that ,"since about 1985, I have been aware that God had a specific purpose here that had very little to do with me. My assignment has been to be a good steward, and hopefully to avoid doing anything stupid to mess up the Lord's plan." A phenomenal, worldwide spread like this does not happen without the very human leader of the organization making a systematic plan. Bringing up God helps to enable that FOTF maintains its tax-exempt status.

Dobson really missed the mark on SpongeBob. My husband told me that SpongeBob is very popular with college kids because they like to get stoned and watch the show. Dobson should have gone in that direction if he wants to mess with SpongeBob.

Posted on January 22, 2005 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

Comments

Trish:

Check out this link if you want to know the truth about Dr. Dobson and his supposedly calling calling SpongeBob "gay". http://www.family.org/docstudy/newsletters/a0035339.cfm

Posted by: Eric Bjerke at Feb 21, 2005 1:32:09 AM