The Right Coast

October 04, 2004
Shark Tale agenda
By Tom Smith

Some readers thought I was nuts to suggest I, Robot held a subliminal message that whites were sub-human, robotic clones, but I take it we can all agree that Shark Tale is a thinly veiled parable about accepting gays. Which is fine. Who am I to say that cartoons about fish should not be used to propagandize about sexual politics. Lenny is a shark who will not kill anything and is unable and unwilling to take over his father's crime empire. The Godfather shark, whose name I forget, is played by Robert De Niro. Lenny runs away from home, dresses like a gay dolphin, paints himself and wears a strap to change the shape of his nose to complete the disguise. I will note all the explicitly sexual scenes (nothing beyond kissing, we see no milting or egg depositing) involve obviously male and female fish.

I enjoyed the movie. It is funny, full of wit, and has something like a plot. It is full of sappy sentiments that I could do without, but whatever. The critics are giving it very mixed reviews, but it's not that bad.

It does make one wonder, however, about what is appropriate in propagandizing children. Shark Tale is a Dreamworks production, one of the initialed partners of Dreamworks SKG being David Geffen, perhaps the richest gay man in America, and until his famous coming out at an AIDS benefit in 1992, a famously closeted gay. After a donation of 200 million to the UCLA school of medicine, it has been renamed the David Geffen School of Medicine. Strangely enough, Shark Tale, as the story of a closet vegetarian shark, could be a metaphor for the life of David Geffen, except that no one has ever suggested that there was anything remotely vegetarian about him. In an industry famous for sharks, he is a great white.

I'm not sure what I think about this movie. I think it is important to teach children not to be hateful toward gays, and as I have made clear before, I think hatred of gays is an evil prejudice. There's something creepy, however, about using children's entertainment for propaganda. I'm not even sure it's all that great for gays, since Lenny is portrayed as a rather swishy fish. It's also manipulative to present children with a character who not utterly clueless adults can see is intended to be gay, but which children will not see as such. (My kids were outraged at my suggestion that Lenny was gay.) As if to say, he's not gay, children, he's just a cuddly, cute shark with unusual tastes! So what if he wants to dress like a dolphin; he's still lovable, isn't he? Children are autonomous beings. They deserve not to be manipulated, even if it is relatively easy to do.