Monday, June 24, 2024

Dispatches From The Culture Wars

This is from 2005:
Wayne Godwin, chief operating officer of PBS, got a bit tangled as he tried to explain the PBS stance on gay characters appearing on children's television shows.

"In fairness I would have to say a gay character is not one we would not include," he said, and then clarified. "The fact that a character may or may not be gay is not a reason why they should or should not be part of this series."

Yet on Tuesday PBS decided not to distribute to its roughly 350 PBS stations an episode of "Postcards From Buster," which was scheduled for Feb. 2 and included lesbian mothers, even though a few days earlier PBS officials, among them PBS's president, Pat Mitchell, viewed the episode and called it appropriate. That was before Education Secretary Margaret Spellings denounced the program, starring Buster Baxter, a cute animated rabbit who until now has been known primarily as a close friend of Arthur, the world's most famous aardvark. Ms. Spellings said many parents would not want children exposed to a lesbian life style.

Buster joined another cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, as a focus of the nation's culture wars. SpongeBob was recently attacked by Christian groups for being pro-homosexual, though SpongeBob's creator said it was all a misinterpretation. Buster's offense was appearing in "Sugartime!," the undistributed "Postcards From Buster" show, in which he visits children living in Vermont whose parents are a lesbian couple. Civil unions are allowed in Vermont.
As I've long said, the "culture war issues" are always actually some of the fundamental issues in politics - should gay people have rights and uncontroversial representation, for example - but slotting them into the "culture wars" let political big brains and journalists trivialize them. Silly people, fighting over whether a cartoon character should be gay!!!

The current "culture war":
The Culture Wars Came to a California Suburb. A Leader Has Been Ousted.

Voters recalled a Southern California school board president after his conservative majority approved policies on critical race theory and transgender issues.

From the start, the three conservative board members of the Temecula Valley Unified School District made clear where they stood. On the same night in December 2022 that they were sworn in as a majority, they passed a resolution banning critical race theory from classrooms in their Southern California district.

Months later, they abruptly fired the superintendent, saying they believed the district needed someone with new ideas. After that, they passed a rule requiring that parents be notified whenever a student requests to be identified as a different gender at school.
The "framing" is funny. Like the culture war was something that existed as polite debate between Pamela Paula and Michelle Cottle, but somehow it traveled outside of Midtown and infected a poor innocent California suburb. There's no sense anywhere in the piece that these are things that matter, that the live of real people are affected by this stuff, instead of just being an Op-Ed debate that escaped confinement to annoy people.
But this once rural area, about 60 miles northeast of San Diego, had transformed in recent decades into a diverse bedroom community, and many other families grew frustrated by what they considered to be the unwelcome incursion of national culture wars into their prized public schools.
Why are the "national culture wars" happening somewhere in the nation? We thought anti-trans bigotry was just a little fun we have in the group chat here at n y t i m e s dot com. These suburban hayseeds just want to get back to their quiet, pastoral lives, before The Discourse intruded!