Friday, 12 August, 2005

Planned Parenthood's "Superhero for Choice"

When I first heard about it I thought it was a joke.  Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (San Francisco) has created an eight minute animated cartoon featuring a Superhero for Choice.  You'll need QuickTime to play it.

This brilliantly executed bit of propaganda opens at a news stand on a street in San Francisco.  The headlines on the papers announce "Safe is Sexy."  A woman speaks, addressing the camera and giving us the basic Planned Parenthood speil about safe sex and "a woman's right to choose."  It's a little lopsided, but that's to be expected.  And then the fun begins.

The woman turns into a superhero, complete with skin-tight body suit, mask, and flying equipment.  First stop, a neighborhood street where a Snidely Whiplash-looking and sounding character is telling a group of youngsters (they look to be maybe 13 years old) that the only way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence.  The kids, who have obviously been "educated," let the character know that there are other ways to prevent pregnancy.  But when he mentions sexually transmitted diseases their response is "We don't plan on getting an STD."  Then the superhero shows up and drowns Snidely in a trash can filled with ... well, you need to watch it.  I'm still wondering how the kids plan to prevent STDs.

I think you get the picture, so I won't go through the entire cartoon.  Anti-abortion demonstrators (they're not called "pro life") are zombies straight out of Night of the Living Dead, and the Senator is a Bible-thumping Moral Majority stereotype who doesn't believe in the Bill of Rights.  Everybody who disagrees with the message presented is White and warped, and everybody who agrees is Black, bright, and happy.  The cartoon paints every abortion opponent as an unthinking abstinence absolutist (the Justice scales, for example, are titled "Choice" and "Ignorance") and implies that "a woman's right to choose" is explicitly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

This is propaganda at its best and comes at almost no political cost to Planned Parenthood.  It's just one more thing for the organization's opponents to raise a stink about, and it gives the supporters one more thing to gloat over.  For most people, it's just another act in the circus.

What bothers me most about the cartoon is the idea of it being presented to children (early teens and younger) as educational.  There is nothing educational about it.  The message presented is "do whatever you like as long as you have your safe sex kit from Planned Parenthood."  That's not the message I would have expected from Planned Parenthood, an organization that actually does a credible job of counseling people on reproductive issues.