University of Washington professor Holly M. Barker recently penned an article in The Contemporary Pacific declaring SpongeBob SquarePants a racist violent colonizer.
In “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom’s” abstract, Barker writes:
“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.”
“This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui 2016) of the Marshallese people, who maintain deeply spiritual and historical connections to land—even land they cannot occupy due to residual radiation contamination from US nuclear weapons testing—through a range of cultural practices, including language, song, and weaving. This article also considers the gendered violence of nuclear colonialism and the resilience of Marshallese women.”
Campus Reform’s Celine Ryan reports Barker writes in the article:
“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 postwar era.”
Barker also takes issue with the show’s “cultural appropriation of iconic Pacific Island representations.” According to Ryan, she specifically points out “buildings shaped like pineapples, Easter Island statues, and tikis” as well as “Hawaiian-shirt motifs.”
Not only does she take issue with the buildings and statues, but grinds her gears on the show’s opening theme song.
Barker bemoans the song writing:
“The first act of the song is to have children identify who resides in the pineapple house.” She adds, “The children’s response repeated extensively throughout the song, affirms that the house and Bikini Bottom are the domain of SpongeBob.”
“The song’s directives, ensconced in humor, provide the viewer with an active role in defining Bikini Bottom as a place of nonsense, as the audience is instructed ‘If nautical nonsense be something you wish…drop on the deck and flop like a fish.’”
Barker then claims that those who watch the show become “an unwitting participant in the co-opting of Bikini’s story and the exclusion of the Bikinian people.”
But here’s the kicker. Ryan details:
“While Barker admits that the show’s creators likely did not have ‘U.S. colonialism’ in mind while developing the cartoon, she calls it “disturbing” that they did not realize that ‘Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking.'”
But Barker wasn’t done there. She accused the show of gender bias as well stating, “all of the main characters on the show are male.” She claims Sandy Cheeks is only a token female character only on the show to be female.
Barker concludes describing the show as promoting “racist, violent, colonial practices.” She adds, “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.”
As of this publication, there has been no response by the fictional town of Bikini Bottom or its fictional people for comment.
SpongeBob SquarePants is just the latest cultural icon to be declared racist. The New York Times ran an op-ed accusing Mary Poppins of racism.
Super Smash Bros. was accused of racism for the design of its classic character Mr. Game & Watch.
Marvel Comics writer Saladin Ahmed attacked Kelloggs and described the depiction of two Corn Pops as racist.
Even Marvel Comics’ variant covers that homaged classic hip-hop album covers was deemed racist.
And let’s not forget about The Simpson’s Apu. He was the “outrage of the week” back in 2018.
It’s almost like these people accusing everything of being racist might just be sad, angry, and bitter individuals who have nothing better to do with their lives than suck the joy from other people.
What do you make of this Holly Barker’s attack against SpongeBob SquarePants?