Sunday, January 23, 2005
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.)
Animation of course is at its best when its subversive (constructively of course) or sheer mayhem results. In the case of Bugs Bunny, he straddles both categories in many cases, and the results are spectacular. The problem with sheer mayhem cartoons is just that there aren't too many of them, since Peggy Charren decided to take her terminal PMS public. There hasn't been a classic Heckle and Jeckle cartoon seen on broadcast television in ages (there were those ghastly New H&J cartoons sometime in the 70s, but of course every time you see "New" prepended to anything, as in "The New Dick Van Dyke Show", you can bet money that that entertainment fluff will fail miserably - assuming you can find a bookie to take the action, as they won't be able to find anyone to lay off bets on. This is known in the financial markets as hedging). All of these ahem, Parents Groups were responsible for Thunderbirds being pulled from syndication for the longest time, and being completely bowdlerized in its most recent airings (adding in politically correct live action kids sequences, airbrushing out cigarettes, that sort of thing). As a result, we tend to get some really good subversive animation here and there, which depending on its subtlety level can sail completely under the radar of the Morality Police.
The case of SpongeBob is interesting, in that it's a classic dumb buddy cartoon. It's at its best when Squidward is being frustrated by SpongeBob's inanities, or in the episode where SpongeBob and Patrick are conned by what seems a classic MLM type into a chocolate bar sales scheme. There were some rumblings a while back that SpongeBob was perceived in some quarters as being gay, or at having appeal to the gay community. This generates a big "so?". They're entitled to laugh at cartoons the same way anyone laughs at cartoons. There've been any number of classic comedy bits which an overly paranoid person could characterize as "gay-oriented" - how many times have you seen the Three Stooges all sleeping in the same bed? And let's face it, sometimes Costello was a bit too close to Abbott. Complete nonsense. It's a freaking cartoon. Sometimes it's quite funny. Sometimes it misfires badly. My kids love it.
I wonder if a lot of this arises out of Frederic Wertham's "Seduction Of The Innocent". That was the infamous book that called comic books the source of juvenile delinquency and the like, and caused the Senate hearings on comics that resulted in the Comics Code (and indirectly, gave rise to Mad Magazine, because of Bill Gaines' tussles with the publishers). Some pretty whacked out stuff came out of Wertham, ferinstance the accusation that Batman and Robin, were, well, you know, an item. The interesting thing was that if people like Dobson and such are using this as a template, they're actually using something from a liberal. Wertham was a classic liberal (in the Dorothy Schiff vein, if you're old or erudite enough to get the reference), inner-city do-gooder type, settlement houses, that sort of thing. I suppose the irony would escape them.
What Dobson et al. don't realize is that there is plenty of kumbaya stuff that is going to be produced, and they might as well just deal with it. There are plenty of more important things to worry about in this world than the kumbaya videos produced by the likes of the ADL. And the ADL should take a listen also. Making SpongeBob videos about tolerance while Jewish kids are getting assaulted in Paris and Antwerp, and being persecuted on college campuses by keffiyah-wearing terrorist sympathizers isn't the way to deal with a problem.