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Feb 21 2005
Shrek Character Is Latest Target of Anti-gay Religious Group

Shrek Character Is Latest Target of Anti-gay Religious Group

Mon Feb 21,12:15 PM ET


TORONTO (CP) - Uh-oh!

That other jolly green giant could be in trouble.

Shrek 2 is the latest animated film title to be "outed" by Christian fundamentalists in the U.S.

On its website the Traditional Values Coalition is warning parents about the cross-dressing and transgender themes contained in the hit DreamWorks feature, now on DVD.

"Shrek 2 is billed as harmless entertainment but contains subtle sexual messages," says the coalition, which describes itself as a grassroots inter-denominational lobby with more than 43,000 member churches.

"Parents who are thinking about taking their children to see Shrek 2 may wish to consider the following."

The article then proceeds to describe one of the characters, an "evil" bartender (voiced by Larry King) who is a male-to-female transgender in transition and who expresses a sexual desire for Prince Charming.

In another identified scene, Shrek and Donkey need rescuing from a dungeon by Pinocchio and his nose, which is made to extend as an escape bridge by getting the wooden boy to lie about not wearing women's underwear.

The TVC report, A Gender Identity Disorder Goes Mainstream', raps DreamWorks for helping to promote crossdressing and transgenderism.

But Charles Keil, a film studies professor at the University of Toronto, says transgendered groups might also have reason to complain about being parodied.

"You have an image within a comic context that could be read either way," says Keil, who adds quickly that such humour is designed for parents anyway and goes way above the heads of the children in the audience.

"If the kids don't get it, it doesn't really matter."

Keil says the whole idea behind the Shrek movies is a general message of tolerance - that outward appearances don't matter and that it's what's underneath that counts - and such complaints defeat that larger, more important message.

"Targeting minuscule elements within a much larger work and then trying to extract from that some kind of argument that borders on the paranoid is really misconstruing the general aim of this entertainment."

So far, the Coalition's gaydar doesn't seem to have picked up on DreamWorks' Shark Tale, in which a shark mafioso, voiced by Robert DeNiro, must come to terms with the fact he has a vegetarian son who likes to dress up as a dolphin.

But the Shrek accusation follows hot on the heels of other cases of animated characters being accused of infiltrating the minds of America's children with pro-gay messages, much to the detriment of traditional family values.

Recently, PBS was upbraided by the group Focus on the Family - and supported by the U.S. secretary of education no less - for an episode of the cartoon series Postcards From Buster, in which Buster the rabbit encounters a couple of kids with lesbian parents.

Christian activists have also targeted SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney the dinosaur and Sesame Street's Bert & Ernie as children's characters who are conduits for a soft-on-gays message.

Just last month, the American Family Association took exception to the makers of a new video being distributed to thousands of U.S. elementary schools and which the organization said used characters like SpongeBob and Barney to indoctrinate children into a homosexual lifestyle.

The video is designed to coincide with National We Are Family Day in March. But what upset the AFA in particular is the We Are Family Foundation's website and a tolerance-for-diversity pledge (including sexual orientation) that children and others are asked to sign there.

It seems all of this began back in 1999 when Rev. Jerry Falwell described that purse-toting Teletubby, Tinky Winky, as a gay role model.

One wonders how far back critics could go, though, in seeing pro-homosexual context in cartoons. Remember when shotgun-toting hunter Elmer Fudd realized Bugs Bunny was in drag? He was furious, but only because he saw Bugs's cotton tail and learned he was a rabbit in disguise.

"There's all sorts of things going on in those cartoons that are pretty suggestive," concedes Keil. "But (the kids) are laughing at the pratfalls, the funny voices, the very basic humour.

"Kids at that age don't even have pre-formed notions of sexuality."

In the recent SpongeBob movie, there is a scene in which the oddball undersea character suddenly pops up in his neighbour's shower (and quickly gets the boot). It's also been pointed out that he holds hands with a pink friend and gets boating lessons from a teacher called Mr. Puff. Creator Stephen Hillenburg assured the Wall Street Journal that the sponge-man was not gay but that the show had become a gay community favourite because of the tolerant attitude displayed by the show's characters.

"Everybody is different and the show embraces that," Hillenburg said. "I always think of them as being somewhat asexual."

Keil wonders what these religious groups would accomplish if they managed to get a law passed banning any representation of untoward social behaviour in children's entertainment.

"It would still be there covertly," he argues. "What would these groups see as the ideal state of affairs?"

Feb 23 2005
I know what went wrong.

I now know what is wrong with the America. H.R. Puffnstuff. That pyscadelic head trip warped all our little brains when we we younger. I wonder if I could sue for the long term trauma that '70's cartoons have caused me.

Watch out! the new McCarthyism doesn't target it's uncovering insideous gay conspiracies. I wonder when the first list of closet "homosexuals" will be released.

Feb 26 2005
Public Television, but only for part of the Public

PBS chief: FCC fines worry broadcasters

WASHINGTON (AP) Worried about big fines from the government, the Public Broadcasting Service is carefully monitoring the content of its shows for profanity, nudity or anything that may be deemed indecent, the nonprofit network's chief says.

The Federal Communications Commission's standards on indecency that kicked in after the Janet Jackson breast-baring debacle have made broadcasters and producers nervous, Pat Mitchell said in an interview with The Associated Press this week.

Mitchell said PBS, where she is president and chief executive, seems to be under a higher level of scrutiny because it is partially financed by federal taxpayers.

"We're very concerned about the regulations," she said. "They're not as clear as all of us in the media business would like them to be.

"We have to make assumptions, second-guess what is liable."

That's exactly what PBS did recently with "A Company of Soldiers," a documentary on Iraq that contained foul language. Besides offering a version of the film that had questionable parts bleeped out, the network sent out the raw version to stations that were willing to sign a waiver that acknowledged they were not being protected by the producer from FCC penalties.

"We were trying to protect stations from any liability," Mitchell said, adding that some stations could go bankrupt if a hefty fine was placed on them. "We agreed some stations would want to take the chance anyway."

Next week, another documentary on Iraq which has some strong language will be offered to stations. They've been told that if they air "The Soldier's Heart," they must do so after 10 p.m. A toned-down version will be offered as well.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mitchell, 62, discussed her decision to step down as PBS chief in June 2006, the network's financial challenges, her feelings about the "Buster" controversy and her goals during her final year in the job.

Securing sustainable funding on a national and local level, broadening public television's reach and resources in education and strengthening children's and news and public affairs programs top her agenda.

But achieving these and other goals hinges on the need for more money, Mitchell said.

"How do you continue in today's media environment, with everything being transformed by technology and new expectations?" she asked. "How do you continue to raise 80% of revenues just to keep doing what you're doing now?"

Finding new support is critical, and Mitchell's resolve is firm.

"I'm completely passionate about a stronger and better resourced broadcasting service," she said. "I want this to be my legacy. That would be the best thing any leader can hope for to leave an organization stronger than when you came in."

Mitchell has her work cut out for her.

When PBS launched there were only three other TV networks. Now there are scores. Cuts in corporate underwriting and the fact that production and other costs have outpaced the small increases in government funding have also made things difficult.

PBS operates on a $319 million annual budget. Less than 20% of PBS funding comes from Congress. The rest comes from fund raising, corporate underwriting and station member dues.

Under Mitchell, PBS established a foundation so it could accept large donations. She says it plans to announce its first multimillion-dollar gift from a national foundation in April.

A committee has been created to look into ways for PBS to take advantage of digital opportunities, as well as how to pay for such projects. The panel's report, due in late March, should highlight how public television can make educational content accessible on cell phones, computers, Blackberrys and more.

Mitchell drew recent criticism for spending public money on a children's show, "Postcards from Buster," that featured a real-life lesbian couple in Vermont. The focus of the episode, entitled "Sugartime," was on farm life and maple sugaring.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the episode didn't fulfill the intent Congress had for public-TV programming and said many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

PBS decided not to distribute the episode to its 349 stations, but Boston public television station WGBH-TV, which produced the series, has made it available to other stations.

"I think it is most unfortunate," Mitchell said of the flap.

"This is a program that has great positive impact on children. It's performed exactly as it was supposed to its mission was to explore America for children, introduce children to a lot of American families, teach children learning skills."

She said it was "regrettable" that there was so much emphasis on one half-hour out of the series' 40 episodes.

"It obscured all the good work of a very successful and important series."

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