Professor Says SpongeBob SquarePants Is Racist, Violent And 'Whitewashes US Military Rampages'
That's the opinion of anthropology professor Holly M. Barker, anyway.
To even the most 'right on' among us, that might seem like a strange hill to die on, but let's hear her out shall we?
So, as anyone who grew up (or was unemployed) during the past 20 years knows, SpongeBob and his colourful gang of cronies live in Bikini Bottom, a tiny sea-floor town made up of strange dwellings.
Barker thinks that the setting of the popular Nickelodeon show draws an unfavourable comparison with events that actually took place in Bikini Atoll, a tiny part of the Marshall Islands archipelago.
After the end of the Second World War, the indigenous people of the atoll were moved out so that the USA could perform nuclear testing there. Because of radiation contamination, they have never been able to safely return.
Many of those who actually did go back have been beset by radiation-related problems including birth defects, genetic abnormalities, stillbirths and miscarriages.
Now, there is a long-standing theory that SpongeBob and his chums are, in actual fact, radioactive mutations caused by the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll above them.
See where we're headed yet?
Well, in a journal article, Barker argues: "SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends play a role in normalising the settler colonial takings of indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland.
"The detonations do not cause concern for the characters, as they did for the Bikinians, nor do they compromise SpongeBob's frequent activities, like visiting hamburger joints or the beach with friends."
She also said that the show being set where it is - assuming it's where she imagines it to be - represents 'symbolic violence' and SpongeBob's 'presence on Bikini Bottom continues the violent and racist expulsion of Indigenous peoples from their lands (and in this case their cosmos) that enables U.S. hegemonic powers to extend their military and colonial interests in the post-war era'.
This is, of course, a spicy hot take.
She continued: "The settling of SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends into Bikini Bottom is connected to broader entanglements of military colonialism in the Marshall Islands that include dispossession from and destruction of the land, exploitation of the people and their resources, and an othering of the Bikinian and Marshallese people."
On top of these fairly stiff accusations, she said that watching the show 'desensitises viewers to the violence of settler colonialism, normalises and erases the displacement of the Bikinian people from their ancestral land, and whitewashes US military rampages on the islands in the history and narratives of Bikini'.
Oh, and the article ended up on the cheery note that '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'.
Featured Image Credit: Nickelodeon