If you live in the US and pay attention to the news, you know that a lot of religious right-wingers take cartoon characters seriously. Very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that an animated asthmatic rabbit is feeling the heat.
In the recent past, Religious Wrongers have lost their minds over “Teletubbies”‘ Tinky Winky (he was purple and carried a “magic bag” that looked suspiciously like a woman’s purse!) and the pineapple-dwelling SpongeBob Squarepants (who has long, girly eyeblasheo and — egad!– is unnaturally affectionate with his starfish pal Patrick). Over the past few weeks, the target has been Buster Baxter, friend of Arthur, the aardvark who is the title character of one of America’s best-loved public-TV children’s shows.
The right-wing and its Bush-Administration accomplice, new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, aren’t accusing Buster the bunny of being gay. Instead, they are riled that one of the many families Buster visits in his animated/live-action spinoff series “Postcards from Buster” includes two lesbian moms.
(Oh my god, the sky is falling! Hide the children’s eyes! Close their ears! We can’t let the kiddies know that different types of families exist — it may turn them queer and consign them to damnation and hellfire for eternity. Somebody hand me my rosary; I am getting the vapors…)
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Apparently, Andy Borowitz couldn’t stop himself from blasting the fundies too: The Newsweek humorist engaged in a little right-winger goosing in a hilarious bit of satire in which Borowitz recounts the misadventures of a “family-values” group called Focus on the Flintstones.
Harland Devane, leader of the group Focus on the Flintstones, said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. today that his organization was issuing the demand because, “Quite simply, everything about ‘The Flintstones’ is way too gay.”
The conservative activist distributed a memo itemizing over 50 ways in which the self-styled “modern Stone Age family” series promotes homosexuality, but left little doubt that most of his concerns centered on the relationship between the two main characters, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
“Their relationship is more flagrantly homosexual than anything in Oliver Stone’s ‘Alexander,'” Devane said.
He pointed out that Fred and Barney are virtually inseparable, are never seen wearing pants and live together in the suggestively-named town of Bedrock. …
He added that Focus on the Flintstones’ efforts will not stop at banning the cartoon series from U.S. television stations, telling reporters that the group is also “taking a close look” at Flintstone-related consumer products such as Flintstone vitamins.
“We are very uncomfortable with Fruity Pebbles,” he said.
In a more serious vein, Linda Campbell of Texas’ Star Telegram says that Buster and his adventures in tolerance aren’t the problem — it is the right wing’s actions and attitudes that are truly offensive.
Traveling with his father, who flies a rock band around North America, Buster has visited Mormons in Utah; Inuits in Canada; a gospel choir in Seattle; and Arizona siblings who were adopted from South America. …
He’s introduced viewers to a South Carolina boy who lives with a sister, an aunt, three cousins and their grandmother; a family of nine living in a trailer in Virginia Beach; and a Tennessee Kurdish family in which 20 people living in one house eat on the floor.
It was a single episode filmed in Vermont that caused a ruckus because the children featured have lesbian parents. …
Certainly, a children’s program is going to direct attention to the children and not discuss sexuality, what it means to be a lesbian or whether their “lifestyle” ought to be universally sanctioned. Kids would tune that out pronto as too serious and boring.
It’s entirely likely that younger kids watching “Postcards” would focus on what the kids are doing, not on their parents.
If older kids ask questions, that gives parents an opportunity to explain their values. Those who feel uncomfortable with same-sex couples can convey that.
Perhaps: “Families come in many varieties; ours is what we think works best.”
Or even: “Our religion doesn’t approve of two parents being the same sex, but kids don’t get to choose their parents.”
But I suspect that the outcry against Buster from anti-gay groups indicates a fear that children will see a family with two mothers and NOT consider it freakish. After all, if the two women don’t wear giant A’s (as in “abomination”) or sport red horns and carry flaming pitchforks, they won’t be seen as the social pariahs that they ought to be, right?
An excellent question. Still, Campbell neglects the obvious: If parents with certain religious beliefs don’t want their kids to see a neutrally portrayed gay couple on TV, why can’t they use an OFF switch or channel changer? Why dictate what the rest of us can or can not watch? And why is the government reluctant to fund a program that shows a neutral portrayal of any of its citizens? Those are the things that offend me.
As long as the Religious Wrong continues to inflict its beliefs upon the rest of society, as long as it insists upon controlling all of America, it can expect more ridicule. Satires like Borowitz’s might not be polite or kind, but then, neither is the right wing.