First it’s gay animated sponges, now it’s gay animated penguins, starring in what conservative radio host Michael Medved calls possibly “the darkest, most disturbing feature-length animated film ever offered by a major studio.”
As detailed in this week’s Public Eye column in the Colorado Springs Independent, controversy over the kids movie Happy Feet, now in theaters, has cranked up the volume of suspicion among the rigid right. The good news is, the “Homosexual Ahead! Homosexual Ahead!” warnings are starting to become merely amusing, rather than galling and maddening, as they were a few short years ago.
Just try to take seriously this following exchange, transcribed by Media Matters for America, between Medved and James Dobson that was broadcast on Focus on the Family’s daily radio show on Dec. 11. And remember, these two grown men are talking about an animated movie about penguins.
Dobson: There is a movie that’s out now, called Happy Feet. It’s about penguins. It’s obviously designed to pull children in and yet, you don’t like it … I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to see it, but from what I’ve heard, I don’t like it either. Explain why.
Medved: Because it’s depressing and it’s dark… And then there’s this whole subtext, as there so often is, about homosexuality. Not that the penguins are gay – they’re not gay – but the one penguin hero doesn’t fit in and the religious authorities – the so-called religious right in the penguin world – are very judgmental. They say, “You are not a penguin. You’re not a real penguin.” And then he makes this heartfelt plea, he says, “Dad, you have to accept me as I am. I can’t change.”
Dobson: Are they getting at the idea that homosexuality is genetic? Is that what the subtle implication is?
Medved: Well, how many times do we hear that in the media? That it’s not a matter of choice, it’s not a matter of change, and my problem with that – as I understand, that there are some people, who – for whom that may be true, but they’re other people – and you and I know them – who have changed their lives and have turned around their lives.
Here’s a one-word response to all that: Moo.
Things haven’t really been the same for Dobson since the whole SpongeBob SquarePants episode in 2005, during which he became the source of mirth over his criticism that the cartoon character was starring in a “pro-homosexual” video.
Dobson, whose massive Colorado Springs-based ministry has an entire division dedicated to changing gay people into straight people, quite possibly could have regained some of his street cred this year when a guy – OK, a Republican U.S. congressman – named Mark Foley resigned in disgrace after he was caught sending disgustingly explicit text messages to a 16-year-old page.
Instead, in an initial statement, one of Dobson’s top executives, Tom Minnery, tried to blame Foley’s perversion on a vast left-wing conspiracy and chastised critics who were calling for then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert to step down. (An investigation has since determined that Hastert had been told about the Foley problem months before the story broke.)
“If any lasting cultural good could come out of this awful incident,” Minnery said, “it would be Americans discarding the politically correct notion fed to us by those on the left that obscenity is just another form of free speech.”
As for Dobson, after initially describing Foley’s perversion as “morally depraved,” he responded by attacking Bill Clinton.
“We condemn the Foley affair categorically, and we also believe that what Mr. Clinton did was one of the most embarrassing and wicked things ever done by a president in power,” Dobson said on his Oct. 6 radio program. “As it turns out, Mr. Foley has had illicit sex with no one that we know of, and the whole thing turned out to be what some people are now saying was a – sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages.”
So the moral to this story is Clinton = Villain, Foley = Victim of Joke?
Yes indeed, perhaps Dobson should stick to what he knows best: penguins and sponges.
Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and writer at the Colorado Springs Independent, where this column originally appeared.