Statistically speaking, if you were or had a child over the last two decades, you’ve more likely than not been entertained and delighted — or irritated and confused — by Nickelodeon’s most popular program: “SpongeBob Squarepants.”
Running for an astonishing 20 years as of Friday, according to Fox News, the cartoon misadventures of the titular yellow sea sponge have connected with audiences around the world.
The show has truly dominated television screens and invaded every corner of internet and popular culture.
But what audiences likely did not know about the bumbling sea sponge and his diverse band of undersea pals is that they are “violent,” “racist” colonizers bent on “whitewashing” the culture of Pacific Oceania.
At least, that’s what radical progressive University of Washington professor Holly Barker would have you believe.
Finally addressing the grotesque racism of… a cartoon sponge. https://t.co/ZW5HPaMvyI
— Jessica Fletcher (@heckyessica) October 12, 2019
In a meandering article titled, “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom” — published in respected academic journal The Contemporary Pacific — Barker somehow manages to make the case that “SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands.”
Barker appears to buy into a popular fan theory that the humanized sea sponges, fish, crabs and starfish of fictional Bikini Bottom reside in the irradiated waters surrounding the actual Bikini Atoll.
Located within the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean, Bikini Atoll was employed by the United States military as a testing ground for nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
The island was not, however, uninhabited in the years leading up to the Cold War.
In order to secure the nuclear testing site, the U.S. government forcibly removed its indigenous population.
Thus, Barker argues, the use of the island’s lagoon waters as a setting for the foolish adventures of a talking sponge problematically erases “the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland” by failing to mention them.
“SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon,” the article’s abstract says, highlights the “absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities.”
“SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland.”
Yes, we are truly that far gone.
The seeds of the Frankfurt School were buried so deep in the fertile soil of American academic thought that they are bearing fruit at every rung on the cultural ladder.
We now live in a world where a goofy Hollywood cartoon — apparently rife with the latent bigotry of Western characters appropriating Oceanic culture by wearing Hawaiian shirts and living in pineapples and Easter Island heads — warranted the in-depth post-modern content analysis of a supposedly enlightened American professor.
Is it any wonder the 2019 World Happiness Report revealed the United States to be just the 19th-happiest country in the world?
We cannot even manage to agree upon keeping political disputes out of the dialogue surrounding a ridiculous cartoon designed to appeal to children — and admittedly childish adults like myself, of course.
Tomorrow’s new episode of SpongeBob will
— SpongeBob (@SpongeBob) October 11, 2019
Nickelodeon has not released a statement responding to the positively obscene charges of racism and cultural appropriation now being leveled against its iconic program.
The official SpongeBob Twitter account, meanwhile, has ignored the controversy completely.
Instead, it warned excited fans they might just be left “screaming” by Saturday’s twentieth anniversary episode.
And if Barker’s aggravated academic ramblings on the show tell us anything about her, we certainly know of one individual who might be tuning in for a good, cathartic scream.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.