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Last week, a number of evangelical Christian organizations were protesting an upcoming episode of The Simpsons which would feature the legalization of same-sex marriage in Springfield, the fictional Simpsons' fictional home town. The claim was that by broadcasting this episode, the show and the network were clearly promoting gay marriage. The show was broadcast last night, (20 February, 2005) in spite of the protests.
This has not been the first time the Christian right has come out against what it imagines to be a gay agenda on television. A few year ago, there was the "outing" by Jerry Falwell of the Teletubbies character, Tinky Winky, on the grounds this character was both purple, and carried a handbag. More recently, James Dobson decided for undetermined reasons that Sponge Bob Square Pants is gay. And then the PBS cartoon character, Buster Baxter made the mistake of visiting a farm family to find out how maple syrup was made - and that farm family turned out to have two mommies and no daddy. And it wasn't maple syrup that hit the fan over that issue.
As so many of those that protest these issues tend to be of my generation, I wonder what influenced them to find so much improper sex in the cartoons of today? (Teletubbies is not a cartoon - but is very close) Could it be that in their tender years they got a subliminal message from the cartoons they viewed; perhaps the cross-dressing Bugs Bunny passionately kissing Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, or Daffy Duck? Or was it the macho Popeye homoerotically fighting the testosterone-charged Bluto over the androgynous Olive Oil, with the sexually ambiguous Swee'pea lurking in the background? Or was it the less-than-subtle S&M roleplay between Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner? Whatever the influences, these protesters have an unhealthy obsession with sexual issues.
In view of the protests, I did something I had never done before. I watched a complete episode of The Simpsons last night. And the protesters were right about the one thing - Springfield did legalize same-sex marriage.
But - did the show promote gay marriage?
This is largely subjective, however, in my view it did not.
First of all, approval of gay marriage in Springfield was not motivated by civil rights, but solely by the profit motive. And Homer Simpson became an ordained minister (ordained online, not by us, but by the ePiscopal Church) solely to make money from performing same-sex marriage.
Secondly, again motivated by money, Homer got on the so-called slippery slope, and took on marrying anything to anything; and in the show married brother to sister, Reverend Lovejoy unwillingly to his Bible, and a sea captain to his wooden figurehead.
These two factors - the disassociation of same-sex marriage from the basic civil liberties justification and the acceptance of the Christian right's slippery slope argument suggest, at least on the surface, that the show's message was in opposition to same sex-marriage, not promoting it.
So - in the end, it turns out that those protesting the airing of the show were protesting something which ultimately supported their mistaken viewpoint on gay marriage.
But will this matter to them? Of course not. For they would still prefer the show not have aired. They are not just against same-sex marriage. They are against the very discussion of the issue. Don't talk about it! Push the gays and lesbians back into the closet! Pretend it does not happen!
And that is understandable. A full and frank discussion of the issues will make it clear that this is a civil liberties issue. And a full and frank discussion of the issues will make it clear that same-sex marriage will not lead to the so-called slippery slope. In the event of a rational discussion, the opponents of same-sex marriage cannot win.
- Perhaps there was an ironic subtext - but as this was the first full episode of The Simpsons I had watched, (I'm a South Park fan - that's my cartoon quota) I am not attuned to the nuances.