Mitt Romney's comments, during Wednesday night's debate, about cutting funding for PBS despite his “love” for Big Bird, immediately got a response from the Internet: FiredBigBird popped up on Twitter shortly after the comments and was quickly joined by Sesame Street colleagues FireMeElmo and FiredOscar, as well as BigBirdRomney.
PBS has long been a conservative target, despite the minuscule amount of savings that cutting it would actually produce. As Laura Clawson noted at Daily Kos, “Romney's setting up the need for $9.6 trillion in non-defense cuts. His answer? Fire Big Bird to save $445 million.” Big Bird and his cohort are just collateral damage in the Right's war on anything public; Romney can sadly shake his head and say that even though he loves Big Bird, the big yellow guy just has to go because of the deficits!
Whether Romney gets to fire Big Bird or not may be up to the voters this fall, but it's certainly not the first time right-wingers have painted a target on a fictional character. From children's books and movies to TV, conservatives—especially the religious right kind—have declared war on many a beloved character. Here's a rundown of the top 6 attacks on fictional favorites.
1. Harry Potter worships Satan!
Google “Harry Potter Witchcraft” and you'll find a plethora of Web sites from various ministries claiming that the multi-million-selling children's series is teaching children how to worship the devil and leading them away from Christianity.
Linda Harvey of Mission America claimed that Harry Potter was turning children to an especially dark source: therapy. No, really. “[T]he therapy that they need is to find special powers within themselves to battle the demons, real or imagined, out there, so they never look to Jesus Christ.”
Not to be outdone, televangelist John Hagee ranted:
“Think about that, we’re in a moral free fall where your children can be taught witchcraft by Harry Potter; that Heather has two mommies; you can substitute Christmas for a midwinter holiday, call it anything you want to but don’t call it Christmas, kick God out of the Christmas event; you can let your daughter go to school and she can get an abortion without your permission or without your knowledge but she cannot get an aspirin without your knowledge.”
Hagee, you'll remember, is the pastor whose endorsement got John McCain into hot water because when he's not slamming Harry Potter, he's insulting the Catholic Church. At least Potter's in good company.
2. Elmo will lead to gay male prom queens!
Yes, that's right. According to author Ben Shapiro (who wants to take Big Bird and Elmo “out back” and “cap 'em”), former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and of course, Sean Hannity, watching "Sesame Street" will lead to families embracing gender-neutral parenting, little boys playing with dolls, and yes, Blackwell claims, schools allowing gay boys to be prom queen.
Of course, it's Fox News, so none of them bother to explain what's wrong with any of that, but in their minds, it's terrifying.
3. Muppets hate capitalism!
In the most recent Muppets movie, the villain was an oilman named Tex Richman (subtle, that) who wanted to get rid of the Muppets theater to drill for the oil underneath. This, according to the Fox Business Network, means that the Muppets are wily socialists “using class warfare” and “trying to brainwash your kids against capitalism.” Obviously! Because oil is totally great, you need it to power cars and ambulances and stuff.
Tom Chivers at the UK Telegraph joked, “One only needs to look at A Muppet Christmas Carol to realise that the whole furry lot of them are anti-business, anti-the hard-working capitalist trying to make an honest living: demanding crippling impositions on small firms, like a day off for workers at Christmas.”
The only solution, Chivers noted, is for the right to cough up some counter-propaganda, “Putting the Fun in Hedge Funds” or something else. But Glenn Beck already had that idea, and it didn't seem to get anywhere...
4. SpongeBob Squarepants has a radical green agenda!
That's right, folks, SpongeBob is the reason your kids might be aware of this little problem called climate change. Don't believe me? Just ask Glenn Beck's site, the Blaze, which warns that the U.S. Department of Education is “indoctrinating children” with the idea that “man-made global warming” is a fact, using free books featuring the Nickelodeon character.
Fox & Friends got in on the SpongeBob bashing with a scary on-screen ticker declaring “SpongeBob's Bias." Gretchen Carlson complained that SpongeBob didn't show kids that global warming was “a disputed fact,” and Steve Doocy claimed that parents were uncomfortable with the “over-the-top green agenda."
5. G.I. Joe wants you to be part of a one-world-government nightmare!
Glenn Beck isn't only angry at Glee and SpongeBob. Nope, he's angry about the way the recent G.I Joe movie made the former military hero, star of a kids' cartoon and a heck of a lot of toys, into a “casualty in the war on the American way.”
You see, in the new movie, Joe is out of the Army, and according to Beck, “Hollywood now has him answering to some bullcrap international force like the U.N. We all know that the U.N. is a toothless bunch of pansies. They don't deserve somebody like Joe, even the little plastic version.” He followed that up with, “I believe some are trying to indoctrinate our kids into hating their own country, turning us into some one-world-government nightmare; hating America, turning it into a dirty word."
For Beck, G.I. Joe is a “symbol of national pride,” just like Superman, and you don't mess with those. (Nobody's told him that Superman was created by a couple of Jewish immigrants, right?)
6. Dora the Explorer is an undocumented immigrant!
This one's a bit disturbing, as my colleague Julianne Escobedo Shepherd pointed out earlier this year. Right-wingers took to posting a mugshot of cartoon character Dora, a young Latina, that had been doctored to give her a black eye and busted lip. The “charges” against her? "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest." (Oh, and the number they gave her? 666 666 666. Um.)
The images came up after Arizona's “Papers, Please” law was passed, and wound up in the middle of the debate over the issue—in part because Dora is bilingual and travels the world, apparently. Still, it's bad enough that a children's cartoon character became a target for the Right, but did they really have to beat her up, too? Sure, she's not real, but the fact that the response right-wingers have to an immigrant child is to want to see her with a black eye and bleeding?