Groundbreaking: Homosexuality finding its way into cartoons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Seven years after ABC aired its controversial "coming out" episode of "Ellen," homosexuality appears to be breaking new ground again -- this time in cartoons.

The producers of the PBS children's show "Postcards from Buster" have filmed an episode in which Buster -- a cartoon bunny who travels the U.S. meeting real people -- visits a lesbian couple in Vermont. A little girl introduces Buster to "my mom and Gillian" before everyone sits down for dinner, USA Today reported. Although PBS has since said it will not air the episode, the producer -- WGBH in Boston -- says it will provide the episode to stations that want it.

In February, a regular character on "The Simpsons" is scheduled to come out in an episode that reportedly will feature a same-sex "marriage." Homer "marries" the couple, and his daughter, Lisa, supports the couple's relationship. The episode will air in the midst of a nationwide culture battle over the definition of marriage.

The PBS Buster episode drew a letter from new education secretary Margaret Spellings, who told PBS: "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode."

Pro-family leaders say both cartoons are another indication that homosexuality is moving further into the mainstream of society.

"As any parent knows, kids are riveted to cartoons," Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, told Baptist Press. "... You're taking a kid and what he loves to do most -- which is watch cartoons -- and you're introducing an adult topic which is inappropriate."

LaBarbera, who has been involved in promoting a marriage amendment to Illinois' constitution, said The Simpsons episode isn't so surprising, being that its producers often push the envelope. The show has featured an openly homosexual character before, although there was not the build-up this episode features.

LaBarbera said he watches Postcards from Buster with his children.

"It's extremely offensive that they would even consider doing this issue," he said. "... They're teaching the acceptance of homosexuality to toddlers."

In the questionable Postcards from Buster episode -- dubbed "Sugartime!" -- Buster visits the lesbian couple and learns about maple sugaring, the Associated Press reported. In 2000 Vermont legalized civil unions, which give homosexual couples all of the state's legal benefits of marriage. The move was court-ordered.

Spellings, who began her role at the Department of Education Jan. 24, asked PBS to consider refunding the money used to make the episode. PBS is publicly funded.

"Congress' and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television," she wrote, according to the AP.

Simpsons' staffers began working on the episode after San Francisco issued marriage licenses to homosexual couples in early part of 2004, the Baltimore Sun reported. The California Supreme Court subsequently invalided the licenses.

"We thought it would be an interesting thing for Springfield to do," Simpsons executive editor Al Jean told the newspaper. "Lisa thinks it's good for civil rights. The reverend of the local Protestant church is opposed to it. Other people think tourists will come to town. Mayor Quimby wants the money. We don't take a position as much as explore everybody's positions."

For months, the homosexual community has been abuzz, trying to guess which Simpsons character comes out. The current favorite is Patty, Marge's sister.

In April 1997 ABC aired the controversial episode of "Ellen," in which the lead character, Ellen DeGeneres, announced that she was a lesbian. A subsequent episode showed Ellen walking into the bedroom with a woman.

Since then, homosexual characters have been somewhat of a staple of television, led by the popular NBC sitcom "Will & Grace."

"People are sick of homosexuality being everywhere -- when they turn on the TV, when they open the newspaper," LaBarbera said. "Everywhere you turn in the culture homosexuality is being promoted and celebrated and treated as if it's no big deal. The average American -- not just the average Christian -- but the average American is sick of it."

The Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's largest homosexual activist organization -- denounced the secretary of education for criticizing the Postcards from Buster episode.

"The secretary's first act in office denies children an education about the diversity of American families," HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg said in a statement. "Teaching children about respect for differences promotes tolerance of their fellow human beings. Those are the values our children should be learning."

But LaBarbera said homosexual activists miss the point. Children need both a mother and a father, he asserted.

"They're trying to get kids used to the idea that having two moms or having two dads is normal, when actually it's very abnormal and it's very harmful to children," he said. "This is the liberals' way of indoctrinating our children -- all the while they lecture us about being intolerant and respecting diversity."

Marc Fey, director of Christian worldview and education analyst at Focus on the Family, called the Postcards episode an "insidious attempt" to teach children what many traditional parents would find unacceptable.

"Our kids are targeted particularly in schools and in the media to adopt a worldview consistent with a group that we would vehemently disagree with," he told BP. "There are big stakes with cartoon characters because they have the power to define for a child what's real or what's acceptable or what's true."

The producer of Postcards from Buster, WGBH, is located in Massachusetts -- the only state with legalized same-sex "marriage."

"What they're doing is they're showing the repercussions of the whole gay marriage movement," LaBarbera said.

The news about the two controversial shows comes days after a media uproar over Focus on the Family founder James Dobson's comments about a children's music video featuring SpongeBob SquarePants. In the music video, SpongeBob and other children's characters -- such as Arthur, Barney and Big Bird -- sing the popular '70s tune, "We are Family." While the video does not mention homosexuality, the video's distributor, the We Are Family Foundation, has a tolerance pledge on its website that includes "sexual identity." The video is being sent to 61,000 public and private elementary schools nationwide.

Speaking on his radio broadcast Jan. 26, Dobson said he has never had his "words more misrepresented" than they were during the SpongeBob episode. Although Dobson initially was criticizing only the tolerance pledge, some in the media were quoting him as saying SpongeBob is a homosexual.

Since Dobson made the comments, teachers' resources that focused on homosexuality have been removed from the We Are Family Foundation's website, Dobson said.

"Where [the video] is shown, schoolchildren will be left with the impression that their teachers are offering their endorsement of the values and agenda associated with the video's sponsor," Dobson said in a statement. "While some of the goals associated with this organization are noble in nature, their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity' within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line."


For information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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