Bachelor of Arts
Spongebob Squarepants, Film, Cartoon
In the wake of the recent election, there's been some talk of healing, but until today no single figure has emerged with the capacity to repair the deep fissures in the body politic. We are so hung up on blue states and red states that our only hope may lie in the primary color that has been left off the map. We need something-or someone-yellow, and also absorbent and porous enough to soak up the ill will and scrub away the lingering bad feelings...Now more than ever, the country needs Spongebob Squarepants."
In his New York Times film review of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, A.O. Scott delivers this message with a touch of humor, ascribing a messiah-like authority to the unwitting cartoon hero Spongebob Squarepants who, at face value, bears no relation to the political atmosphere of the fall of 2004. Yet Mr. Scott's words now (a short few months later) resonate with a new irony in the wake of Rev. James Dobson's so-called "gay warning," which targeted Spongebob as promoting homosexuality for his appearance in a video about diversity and respect that included sexual identity as a characteristic deserving of tolerance. In the tradition of Tinky Winky, the Teletubby accused of being gay for his preference for purses, Spongebob's alleged sexual identity has become fodder for humorists as well as participants in debates on gender politics. While Rev. Dobson's words do not seem to have generated the alarm he presumably would have liked-conversely, they have been met with more disbelief and even ridicule in mainstream media than defense-underlying his "warning" is the seemingly improbable cultural authority of Spongebob Squarepants, the star of the #1 children's show on television. Even for those disconnected from the world of children's entertainment, it would be difficult not to notice the ubiquity of the wide-eyed, gaptoothed, ever-cheerful yellow sponge in America today. Spongebob, a Nickelodeon franchise, has been an unprecedented creative and capitalist success, attracting over 50 million viewers monthly, an estimated 20 million of whom are adults? Considering the widespread appeal of this franchise, it is not surprising that Dobson would detect a threat in Spongebob's alliance with what he calls "pro-homosexual" values, or the radical notion that respect should be extended even to persons whose personal lives are distasteful to Christian right-wingers.
Gaus, Annie, "A More Porous Postmodernity: Absurdity, Politics, Consumerism and the Cultural Authority of Spongebob Squarepants" (2005). Honors Papers. 464.