Clips, L.G.B.T.

Queer Washing Fictional Characters

Zouch, August 13, 2012.

Two mustachioed gentlemen, one wearing a top hat; another, a bowler, are splitting after years of togetherness.

Considering that we’re in the 21st century, at first glance, their sartorial choice may cause one to raise their eyebrows. Sure, that’s surprising. But what should instead, throw a curve ball is that they’re fictional men, who only exist on the box of a confection.

In a faux divorce, the packages have the names of either Mike or Ike crossed out.

Meet Mike and Ike, the faces of a brand of chewy, fruit-flavored candy of the same name. And—they’re having a divorce.

What adds piquancy to this is that they’re not separating of their own volition, but of quarrels manufactured by an advertising campaign.

Yes, their divorce is orchestrated.

A Scituate, Massachusetts-based advertising agency is bearing a cost in marketing (not legal) fees of an estimated $15 million to make it happen, all in the hope that the development will get young consumers between the age of 13 and 17 to take notice and nosh on the colorful, sweet and sour pellets.

That the two are walking out on each other, albeit an unreal event, makes me oddly forlorn.

It troubles me to see fictional characters being imbued with a sexual orientation. Couldn’t we have been content with perceiving Mike and Ike as a playful pair instead of a romantic couple; as chums, not lovers?

Last year, around the time New York legalized gay marriage, a Facebook petition exhorted the makers of the “Sesame Street” muppets, Bernie and Bert, to let the two long-time pals tie the knot.

The show producers quieted the hullabaloo by saying, “Bert and Ernie are best friends.” Even though they’ve been anthropomorphized and do exhibit human traits and frailties, “they remain puppets and don’t have a sexual orientation.”

“Sesame Street” played it excellently.

Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street.”

Let’s not forget the thick veil of controversy surrounding SpongeBob SquarePants, a Nickelodeon cartoon character.

Many would argue that the little yellow sponge, who lives in a pineapple under the sea is gay. He’s a sentimental fellow and sure enough, he weeps copiously, often engendering saline pools of tears.

His best buddy is a pink starfish named Patrick Starr. His neighbor, Squidward Tentacles, is a bon vivant, who luxuriates in bubble baths, listens to classical compositions, and eats artisanal breads. Moreover, his social circle is marked by an absence of female friends.

Maybe my gaydar is malfunctioning, but none of these habits and attributes is the acid test of his blunt gayness. Indeed, SpongeBob is male, but he’s “asexual,” in the words of his creator Stephen Hillenburg. Neither straight nor gay, he’s also sexless.

The idyllic land of imaginary beings has been turned by activists into a battleground, where the cold war of identity politics is being waged, relentlessly.

Extremists of every stripe spare no opportunity to turn denizens of the worlds of fairy tales, animation, ad mascots, and cuddly toys, into soapboxes to further their group interests.

Retrofitting Mickey Mouse, or SpongeBob, or Mike and Ike, or Bernie, or Ratatouille, or the Pillsbury Doughboy, with genitalia, and by extension, carnal desires, is brutish, I think. It despoils them.

Spare them their cute innocence, please. Why can’t we allow them to lead lives, uncomplicated and unmarred by sexuality?

The recent trend toward queering just about everything appears to be a (mutated) update on the age-old advertising concept of “sex sells.”

Take the “Fly Me” campaign. In 1971, National Airlines began a blitz that featured attractive stewardess with tag lines such as “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.” It immediately fell into hot water for its overt sexist pitch.

People, by and large, today, try to stay clear of such brazenness and embrace a politically correctness (however phony that may be.) But leave it to activists, marketers, talking heads, and hacks, to infuse sexual themes in a fresh, roundabout way.

At this rate, I wouldn’t be so alarmed to learn that the two bumbling, bowler-hatted detectives in “The Adventures of Tintin,” Thompson and Thompson, weren’t, in fact, partners in crime-solving—but in bed.


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