I’m not the only person who hates it when celebrities have kids. Millions of people the world over are forced to endure artless, excruciating vanity projects aimed at children from the fertile minds of such luminaries as Julianne Moore, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Madonna, Peyton Manning, Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld, Brooke Shields, and Tim McGraw.
Even dear old Woody Allen made his first (and so far only) foray into animation: Antz, a movie I honestly can’t remember a single thing about even though I know for a fact that I once watched it.
When celebrities attempt to warp the minds of future fans, they usually choose the format of the picture book. A great picture book can have more cultural significance than a novel: think Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon. These books enter our psyches when when we are very young and they never leave. The next time you look away from your computer screen, notice every adult around you. They all know these books, and probably more.
So when a celebrity wants to cash in and maybe extend their fame to the next generation, they look to the angelic faces of babies. Look at ’em. They don’t know the crass commercialism that exists in our world. They are empty receptacles into which we can pour whatever intellectual garbage we want.
I read this great article on the explosion of celebrity children’s books and couldn’t agree more. Here’s a choice quote (WARNING: he is British):
If my theory holds true, it is scary, because it suggests that celebrities believe the hype about their own abilities. Worse, it implies a depth of public obsession about the famous that is even more extreme than we realise. It is one thing to want to know which celebrity is sleeping with which, who has fallen out with whom, the stuff and nonsense of tabloid prurience. But to want to listen in to the most intimate bedtime stories told by a celebrity to her or his child, irrespective of their worth, is bordering on the weird.
This is a long wind-up to talk about a celebrity whose children’s project is nothing short of brilliant. It isn’t a book or an album of lullabies; it’s a guest appearance on one of the most delightful cartoons on TV: David Bowie on SpongeBob SquarePants.
Somehow this was always meant to be. The surreal adventures of a dish sponge meld perfectly with David Bowie’s odd sensibility. Together they created “Atlantis SquarePants,” one of my favorite SpongeBob episodes.
SpongeBob and his friends ride a magical bus (YES) to the lost city of Atlantis. Bowie plays Lord Royal Highness, Atlantian ruler and self-appointed tour guide. One of the funniest jokes in the episode is that, while each character gets a song, Bowie sings not one word.
Another nice touch is that Bowie’s character looks strikingly similar to the Blue Meanies of Yellow Submarine.In all, the episode is 42 minutes and 31 seconds of non-pandering fun. There is no Special Message, there is no Big Idea. Just a good episode of a show that already proved its worth long ago. The next time any of you megastar celebrities decide to create something “for the children,” take heed: this is how it’s done. Let Bowie be your compass.