Essay / Culture

Dobson and Sponge Bob “And how to explain the difference in treatment within the blogosphere accorded to Harvard’s President Lawrence Summers and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson? The New York Times ran a story yesterday on Dobson’s criticisms of this music video. I have been unable to find Dobson’s remarks except as chopped up by the Times, but today’s acid editorial by the Los Angeles Times must have a copy as it concluded that Dobson concluded that Spongebob’s ‘a menace.'”First, no evangelical is ever allowed to denounce anything in pop culture. That is the first media rule. Since we all know, in a breath taking piece of stereotyping not seen since we danced Jim Crow, that all evangelical leaders are prudes and irrational no one ever asks if such concerns are valid. If an evangelical says it, then we know it is false and hopelessly reactionary. At this point, Michael Jackson’s best p.r. hope is for some evangelical to denounce him. The LA Times would then find some way to praise the King of Pop.Second, evanglicals will by and large run away and hide when one of their own is outed for denouncing a pop culture icon, especially a cartoon. Nothing makes an evangelical young person or academic more nervous than that their carefully cultivated apologetic that “God can be cool!” will be blown away by a Jim Dobson in a minute. Such Uncle Tony award winners (to grasp the Uncle Tony award see here and here. . . put simply an Uncle Tony is a traditional Christian who enables the left in order to be taken “seriously” by the left), quickly pile on folk like Dobson to make sure they save their cultivated reputations. But to paraphrase William Shatner in his new album most of these folk are “never was” taking on “were and will be again.” Dobson has done heroic labor for the Kingdom. He deserves the benefit of the doubt until we know we he said and whether what he said is defensible.I would like to offer our third Uncle Tony Award to the best example of an overly heated, before the evidence was out, distancing of a person from Dobson over Sponge Bob. Mail hopeful Uncle Tony hopefuls here.What if he said it? How bad is it? What he said needs to be taken in context of “harm done.” The president of Harvard has the power to harm the self-esteem of his students. Does Dobson really have the power to finish off a cartoon sponge? If so, then Hewitt is right and he is the most influential man in America. If he did cause the Sponge to thrown in the, well, sponge, what harm? The Republic will stand without Patrick and Bikini Bottom, though my kids would be sad for at least ten minutes.Compare that to Harvard’s president and his weird ramblings about women. Dobson is unlikely to kill Sponge Bob, the creators are busy doing that for him, but the President of Harvard may keep some girls and young women out of math and science. Call me crazy, but that seems worse than life without a Crabby Patty. If Dobson said what he is accused of saying, then he is at worst being overly dramatic and a bit culturally tone deaf. However, ABC goes on making Desperate Housewives which is gulity of the same problems and gets ads not vitriol. If the President of Harvard said what he said, without strong evidence to support it, then he was wrong aobut something important.Finally, Sponge Bob was a creative and very funny cartoon, a PG South Park, that made fun of everything and everyone. It was parody that the whole family could enjoy! It always had a spam-like quality, given low animation standards and jokes borrowed from elsewhere, but it did not take itself too seriously. Sadly, Sponge Bob jumped the shark when they made the Spong Bob movie. If the creative energy that went into landing David Haselhoff for the movie goes into attacking traditional families, traditional families are safe for another century.

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