I suppose it had to happen eventually, given the aggressive trend to stamp a corporate logo on everything mobile or inert. Forget spending millions to name a sports arena after your company. An advertising firm in Denver has discovered a hot new niche: signs for the homeless. The company handed out signs to local street people emblazoned with its logo and slogans like "At Least I'm Not Spamming Your E-Mail." The company doesn't pay them to hold up the signs; apparently the signs' ability to attract additional handouts is payment enough.
The local homelessness activists are, predictably, upset about outsiders moving in on their self-proclaimed turf. They have only themselves to blame for not exploiting this gold mine sooner. They look at a homeless man and see more open sores to be wept self-righteously over; an advertising guru looks at the same man and thinks: "potential cognitive bandwidth."
It's not what you think. I'm using the word "sex" here in the way it was used before Women's Studies hysterics began insisting that we replace it with the word "gender," in order to signal that the side of the gym one chooses at the school dance is at root socially determined. Anyone with common sense and/or children knows that sex is biologically determined, however, despite the fact that many of the Women's Studies majors I've known explore the biological perimeters of sexual designation.
My aim today, however, is not to pick a fight with the gyno-marxists. Instead I want to defend one of my favorite cartoons: "VeggieTales." For those of you who haven't heard about them, VeggieTales depict a collection of endearing computer-animated vegetable characters acting out various stories, many directly from the Bible. The slogan of the VeggieTales creators is "Sunday morning values, Saturday morning fun." Despite the Sunday reference, Jews needn't feel left out; the vast majority of the Biblical stories are drawn from the Old Testament, and the theistic references are to God, not Jesus. One of my favorites, for example, is "Josh and the Big Wall," which recounts the story of the fall of Jericho. In the VeggieTales version, Larry the Cucumber plays Joshua, and the French Peas (yes, they have French accents) play the guardians of Jericho. Their taunting of Larry (they call him a pickle, which in their accent comes out "pee-kel") is derivative of the hilarious scene in Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail," and just as funny. Other characters include Bob the Tomato, Junior Asparagus, and a host of episode-specific creatures (e.g., one tale features the Grapes of Wrath).
The creators were brilliant in that they didn't adopt the marketing plan of most producers of Christian and Christianesque items, which is to churn out third-rate products and market them at exclusively Christian outlets. Instead, they developed a top-quality product and marketed it through mass retail outlets, without making ostentatious appeals to the religion of prospective buyers. The result is 25 million videos sold in eight years.
Now, I'm sure there are some atheist libertarian designers out there, irritated by the religious message of VeggieTales, working busily to develop an Ayn Rand-approved secular version. Until then the militants among them will have to be content with forcing their children to watch old bootleg Robert Lefevre videos. Most people not threatened by moral messages rooted in appeals to God's authority, however, find in VeggieTales a great alternative to the ADD-inducing techno-static that passes for children's cartoons (notwithstanding the cool stuff coming out of Pixar and Blue Sky Studio).
Of course, there are exceptions. And that brings me to the purpose I had when I began composing this essay. I read this weekend an article recounting the dramatic success of VeggieTales, which featured this comment from a disgruntled professor at Michigan's Calvin College, one Dr. Otto Selles:
"VeggieTales are sorely lacking in the gender equity department. They present vegetable characters that are mostly guys..."
Right. Somehow children have been able for centuries to draw moral lessons from characters outside their species (remember Aesop's Fables?), but the sex divide is too great a chasm to cross. Little Susie can learn that it's wrong to lie from a vegetable, mind you, so long as it has a vagina.
Perhaps the dear professor's concern is that, seeing only male characters in VeggieTales, legions of young girls will not properly aspire to themselves become vegetables. Wise parents, however, can counteract this bias; we can explain to our children that being a vegetable is not strictly the purview of males, although professors at Calvin College appear to have an edge on the rest of us.