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Issue Date:  February 18, 2005

Plankton's insidious technosexual agenda


Lost amid the foolish media chatter about the sexual orientation of SpongeBob SquarePants -- a cartoon character best described as an exuberant, good-natured and totally nonsexual sponge-shaped kid who has a full-time job as a fry cook at the bottom of the sea -- is the one matter that should rightly concern every parent of an impressionable child: the alternative lifestyle of the character who, because of his tiny stature, is most likely to appeal to tiny viewers and shape their choices as they mature.

I speak of Plankton, the articulate archvillain of the SpongeBob show, who devotes his energies to stealing the secret formula of the Krabby Patty, that delicious sandwich that SpongeBob prepares a thousand times a day at The Krusty Krab.

As you may have guessed from his name, Plankton is a specimen of plankton. Aside from his evil nature, Plankton at a casual glance would appear to embody the values and entrepreneurial spirit of our red-state heartland: He owns his own small business (the Chum Bucket restaurant), he’s ambitious and he’s happily married. In fact, he’s the only regular character on the show who is married.

Parents who share Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ belief that the absolute worst thing America’s children could see on TV is a positive portrayal of a homosexual couple must confront this frightening fact: Plankton isn’t gay; he’s technosexual. His wife, Karen -- the apple of his one and only eye -- is a computer.

A technosexual is someone whose most significant loving relationship is with a piece of technology. It is the world’s fastest growing PAL, or “perverse alternative lifestyle.” At its current growth rate, in 2042 technosexuality will surpass heterosexuality as America’s lifestyle of choice.

Not every technosexual chooses a computer for a mate. Some love their TVs, autos, Harleys or iPods. Regardless of the machine, appliance or gadget, technosexuals receive from their special somethings the stuff that’s missing from their interactions with humans (or, in Plankton’s case, sea critters). Maybe it’s responsiveness, cheap thrills, visual or intellectual stimulation, unconditional companionship or some combination of these.

SpongeBob’s creators push their diabolical “technosexual agenda” not with trumpets but with a low-key soft sell, portraying Plankton and Karen’s relationship as normal as can be and as comfy as an old shoe. Karen is a traditional stay-at-home wife, and she’s always there to greet her hubby with kind words, encouragement or constructive criticism when he returns from yet another long, fruitless day trying to steal that secret formula.

Sure, Plankton would prefer that Karen serve “holigraphic meatloaf” for dinner a tad less frequently. And yes, when he’s on the losing end of an argument he’s likely to snap, “Can it, Computer Wife.” But it’s easy to see why they’ve been together for an animated eternity: They’re still very much in love.

The SpongeBob braintrust provides additional aid and comfort to the technosexual cause by painting in depressing hues the lives of the show’s only two regular characters who are heterosexual adults. A child who grows up associating the heterosexual lifestyle with Mr. Krabs and Mrs. Puff will upon maturity look long and hard for an alternative.

Mr. Krabs is the penny-pinching owner of The Krusty Krab; Mrs. Puff leads a life of quiet desperation as boating instructor to the dumbest fish and sponges in the sea. Both have lost their spouses but have many years still to live.

Mr. Krabs expressed scant interest in the opposite sex until the episode where, from across the room, he laid eyes on Mrs. Puff. “Get a load of that curvy cutie,” he told SpongeBob, unaware that she was his boating instructor. When SpongeBob offered to introduce him, Mr. Krabs nearly had a cow. The show’s sole representative of hot-to-trot adult-male heterosexuality blubbered in her presence like a whale, unable to remember his own name.

After Mr. Krabs mustered the courage to ask her out, impressionable young viewers witnessed the most hapless courtship in underwater history, with Mr. Krabs torn between love for his money and his fevered desire to shower Mrs. Puff with expensive gifts. It was a relief to both when they agreed they’d be better off as friends.

So here is the subliminal message from SpongeBob’s insidious creators: The heterosexual lifestyle is for clumsy losers who punctuate long stretches of loneliness with an occasional date from hell, while the technosexual lifestyle means bonding forever with your one true love.

Which will your child choose?

Dennis Hans’ essays on basketball, foreign policy and many other topics have appeared in a host of places, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, Slate, and

National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2005

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