God references quashed; 'VeggieTales' creator steamed

Two weeks ago, NBC began airing 30-minute episodes of “VeggieTales” on Saturday mornings. The show was edited to comply with the network’s broadcast standards, said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.

“Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view,” she said.

“VeggieTales” creator Phil Vischer, who was responsible for readying episodes for network broadcast, said he didn’t know until just weeks before the shows were to begin airing that non-historical references to God and the Bible would have to be removed. —God references quashed; ‘VeggieTales’ creator steamed (CNN)

Phil Vischer is the creator of VeggieTales, but not the owner. He filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, so he doesn’t call the shots anymore. Back when he owned the company, and was aiming to compete with Disney, I remember him saying that he turned down an offer to distribute VeggieTales through WalMart when the retailer asked him to cut the religous content, so I find it surprising that he says he didn’t know this deal would require him to edit out the explicitly Christian references. (Vischer talks about this in detail on his website, where he also quotes from angry fans who accuse him of selling out.)

My kids love LarryBoy — a cucumber with plungers on his head, spoofing Batman and Spiderman. The Christian messages are simple and affirming, but the production values are slick (no kindly bearded guys with guitars — the latest LarryBoy featured an evil apple with cybernetic spider legs a la Dr. Octopus, and a head-banging music video spoof of Korn), and there are always jokes and cultural references for the parents.

Vischer is philosophical about the whole affair:

Paul was willing to compromise his cultural values to build relationships with Greeks, Romans, slaves, and anyone else he met along his travels. If they ate meat, he’d eat meat. If they didn’t, he wouldn’t. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to compromise their beliefs about God. God said “bow to no other god but me” and they intended to follow that directive, no matter the personal cost. So was taking “God made you special and he loves you very much” off the end of these new shows more like Paul’s situation? Or Shadrach’s? Do the edited shows say anything that I believe is untrue? No. They do, however, stop short of saying things I wanted to say that are very true.

I gather that NBC is not asking them to create new stories with non-Christian messages, but is rather re-editing existing stories in order to remove religious references. We already own every single VeggieTales video produced (except for a few compilation shows). So we’ll have no need to watch them in between commercials on TV. The network has the right to air the shows that way if the’ve paid for the license, and the owners are free to refuse the money if they don’t want their work to be altered in that manner.

Several years ago, a student pointed out an academic article that was rather critical of VeggieTales, and I’ve always had in the back of my mind the idea that I’d like to write my own article about singing anthropomorphic grocery produce. The idea that singing anthropomorphic Christian grocery produce has prompted NBC to order reverse-bowdlerization in order to be culturally sensitive — well, that sounds like material for an Onion article.

Freelance graphic artist Chrissie Bellisle carefully delineated the ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations of the RecyclaBuddies, a group of talking recyclables created for a public-service leaflet she submitted to the Department of Sanitation Monday. — Graphic Artist Carefully Assigns Ethnicities To Anthropomorphic Recyclables