Admittedly, somehow I completely missed what is bubbling into one of the most pressing social issues of our time.
No, I’m not speaking of the current Chinese/National Basketball Association brouhaha, or the Democrats’ never-ending quest to impeach President Trump or what Hollywood studio mogul has slept with more than 27,000 actresses, actors, extras, makeup artists, camera technicians, custodial employees, IT specialists and anyone or anything randomly wandering around the set — including pet Pomeranians. Amazing, but that’s just the movie business.
These are important stories and certainly deserve appropriate news coverage. However, there is developing a little-noticed submerged sea spectacle if proved to be true could not only have repercussions reaching into the halls of Congress, but also stir a global tsunami of imagined aquatic creature rights and privileges in a nuclear world.
As unbelievable as it sounds, SpongeBob SquarePants has been accused of being a “violent, racist colonizer.” Not sure it gets any worse than this, unless your name is Donald Trump or Adolph Hitler.
At least, that’s what Holly Barker, a University of Washington anthropology professor has suggested.
Why do I find this foolishness not surprising coming from modern-day academia?
The basis of Professor Barker’s complaint stems from United States atomic weapons testing in the area of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the west-central Pacific Ocean in the 1950s. The site was selected for its remoteness and diminutive population. Prior to testing, the 167 inhabitants were relocated to nearby islands.
Authoring “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom,” an article in The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs, University of Hawaii Press, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2019, Barker explained that “Billions of people around the globe are well acquainted with SpongeBob SquarePants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom.”
Billions of people? That’s a lot of TV viewers. Probably considerably more than watch “The View,” another farcical cartoon show.
Continuing with her thoughts, Prof. Barker gets to the socially unsettling part of her topic: “By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of indigenous islands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland.”
Guess SpongeBob had his finger on the nuclear button while at the same time hijacking Bikini Bottom.
As if that blast wasn’t enough, she slams the show’s creators, insisting, “Despite being presented as a nonsensical and harmless cartoon, SpongeBob shapes global perceptions of the actual place called Bikini,” and they failed to comprehend “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking.”
Who knew a goofy-looking cartoon sea sponge would eventually “shape global perceptions” on anything? And I thought an overgrown fictional great white shark munching coastal New Englanders was menacing. Jaws ain’t got nothing on SpongeBob.
Also, SpongeBob is apparently a sponge of privilege because of his “not caring about the detonation of nuclear bombs.” Actually, it’s rumored SpongeBob’s unusual yellow blockish shape — resembling an ordinary kitchen counter sponge — was caused from becoming mutated by residing in an environment previously exposed to repeated atomic testing. So, he’s got a little skin in the nuclear game, in case Prof. Barker cares to check.
Even SpongeBob’s name “Bob” is socially unacceptable because it’s too common and not representative of a culturally appropriate Bikini Islander male’s name. While “Bob” in English is spelled Bob, in Marshallese it is reversed and has an entirely different meaning.
As near as I can determine, Bob is a Trebor, an extinct three-toed Marshall Islands mollusk, common in the Paleozoic Period, when Bikini Bottom was connected by a land-bridge from what is today modern Abilene, Kan. Apparently, the three-toed Trebor managed to walk the lengthy distance until finally reaching the mating lagoons of Bikini. After a brief romance with an attractive female Trebor, the thoroughly exhausted clam would return to the Abilene area for much-needed rest until repeating the journey the following spring.
In Trebor culture, it was expected all healthy male Trebors would make at least one Bikini pilgrimage in their lifetime. If they managed to make two trips, they would be revered as a deity of sorts, possessing infinite stamina and hiking skills. No Trebor ever successfully made three journeys and lived to tell about it.
Prof. Barker again accuses SpongeBob of racism by claiming “SpongeBob’s presence on Bikini Bottom continues the violent and racist expulsion of indigenous peoples from their lands that enables U.S. hegemonic powers to extend their military and colonial interests in the postwar era.”
Wait, is the professor insisting Bikini residents also dwelled underwater on the bottom of the lagoon and SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Squidward and the rest of their pals moved in and booted them out?
Finally, Prof. Barker suggests, “We should be uncomfortable with a hamburger-loving American community’s occupation of Bikini’s lagoon and the ways that it erodes every aspect of sovereignty.”
Not being a SpongeBob expert, nor overly familiar with his friends and associates, I can only surmise Prof. Barker is attempting to inform the world of a problem she views in urgent need of attention. But how a children’s television program “erodes every aspect of sovereignty” with “hamburger-loving American community’s occupation of Bikini’s lagoon” is beyond me. Maybe if I had earned a Ph.D. in school, the professor’s logic would make more sense. Instead, I stuck to the basics with Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers.
Unless McDonald’s has a local franchise serving hamburgers and fries on the sea floor of Bikini Bottom, then what is the professor suggesting? Maybe SpongeBob is really a CIA operative, cleverly disguised as a rambunctious phylum porifera, usurping Bikini residents’ inherent right of independence.
The fact that SpongeBob SquarePants is merely an animated cartoon character — recently celebrating its 20th year on television, about 65 years after cessation of atomic testing on Bikini Atoll — doesn’t seem to matter. Bob has, unwittingly, become the principal villain and ringleader of this complex tale of U.S. military villainy and social unfairness, perpetrated by a silly collection of underwater, tropical-style shirted racist antagonists.
Again, I’m not certain Prof. Barker’s story was intended as a spoof on United States Pacific Islander affairs or an indictment against perceived military, social and political injustices. Bikini Atoll, about 5,000 miles southwest of California, is part of the Marshall Islands, a U.S. territory seized from Japan during World War Two. United States’ jurisdiction ended in 1986.
Because of its nuclear testing history, Bikini Atoll was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site on Aug. 3, 2010. SpongeBob may have had something to do with that, also.
The little crusty sponge would really cause a global clamor if he was unexpectedly spotted walking around Bikini Bottom wearing a red MAGA cap or cavorting with Russian spies. University of Washington Prof. Holly Barker would probably instantly lapse into convulsions.
Parents, keep sending your kids and money to these taxpayer-funded liberal cathedrals of higher nonsense. They need both to keep churning out thinking-impaired graduates. A select few may actually be ordained resident professors, maintaining the tradition of instilling misinformation into unsuspecting young minds.