A professor at the University of Washington says the animated series for children SpongeBob is “violent,” “racist” and “whitewash the US military rampages” against the natives of the Pacific Islands.
In a recent college newspaper article, Holly M. Barker, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, drew a comparison between the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants and actual events in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands.
“SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends are playing a role in normalizing the colonial holdings of settlers on native lands while wiping out the ancestral Bikinian people from their non-fictional homeland,” Barker wrote, according to Fox 35.
A professor at the University of Washington wrote an article claiming that the SpongeBob SquarePants series (pictured) “whitewash the US military rampages” against the natives of the Pacific Islands
The statements are based on the popular fan theory that the series takes place in the ocean below Bikini Atoll (left), which the U.S. military used as a nuclear testing ground (right) during the cold war, resulting in high levels of radiation in the surface
The popular animated series revolves around the adventures of a yellow sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. SpongeBob and his friends – including a starfish, squid and squirrel – all live in a town called Bikini Bottom.
During the Cold War, the US military moved the natives from Bikini Atoll so that they could conduct nuclear tests in the area. As a result, the area would be contaminated with so much radiation that the natives could not return to live there. Those who did have experienced radiation-related issues, including genetic abnormalities, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
Therefore, one of the top 10 fan theories, according to Mental Floss, is that SpongeBob and the other talking and walking inhabitants of the Bikini Bottom sea creature are the result of mutations caused by radiation on Bikini Atoll. above them.
In the article, Barker wrote that SpongeBob SquarePants, an “American figure”, living in an area the natives were forced to leave, shows his privilege of “not caring about the detonation of nuclear bombs”.
“The bangs don’t worry the characters, like they did the Bikinians, or compromise SpongeBob’s frequent activities, like visiting burger restaurants or the beach with friends,” Barker wrote, according to Reform Campus.
Anthropology professor Holly M. Barker (pictured) slammed SpongeBob SquarePants for ‘normalizing’ settlers taking native land
Barker noted that the series also includes cultural appropriation of the Pacific Islands by having the characters wear Hawaiian-style shirts and having them live in pineapple-shaped houses (pictured)
The series also has a character living in a head-shaped house on Easter Island. An actual Easter Island head is shown on the left, while the recreation of the series is on the right
Watching the show, Barker argued that the children “are cultivating themselves to an ideology that includes the American character SpongeBob (pictured) residing in the homeland of another people”
Barker also wrote that the staging of the show in the Bikini Atoll region is “symbolic violence” and noted that the “character’s presence on Bikini Bottom continues the violent and racist expulsion of indigenous peoples from their communities. lands (and in this case their cosmos) which allows the United States hegemonic powers to expand their military and colonial interests in the postwar era.
By watching the show, says Barker, the children “become acculturated to an ideology that includes the American character SpongeBob SquarePants residing in the homeland of another people.”
“The installation of SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends in Bikini Bottom is linked to wider entanglements of military colonialism in the Marshall Islands which include the dispossession and destruction of land, the exploitation of the people and their resources, and an otherness of the Bikinian and Marshallese people, ”Barker wrote.
At the same time, Barker pointed out that the series includes a cultural appropriation of Pacific Island culture, including that many of the characters wear Hawaiian-style shirts, the houses are built in the shape of pineapples and Easter Island heads and the prevalence of steel guitar music on the show’s soundtrack.
“Despite being billed as an absurd and harmless cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants shapes overall perceptions of the real place called Bikini,” she added.
In the article, which appeared in the recent issue of The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs, Barker wrote that while it was likely that the show’s creators had no intention of “permeating a show for children of racist and violent colonial practices ”, the series plays a role in the larger problem of an“ insidious practice of disappearance of indigenous communities ”.
Barker wrote that the series “desensitizes viewers to the violence of settler colonialism, normalizes and erases the displacement of the Bikinian people from their ancestral land, and whitewashes the US military rampages on the islands in Bikini history and narratives.”
Barker also called it “disturbing” that the show’s creators didn’t realize that “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll weren’t theirs.”
She then ended the article by noting that, “We should be uncomfortable with the occupation of Bikini Lagoon by a burger-loving American community and how it is eroding all aspects of sovereignty.”
SpongeBob SquarePants celebrated its 20th anniversary on Friday. Series creator Stephen Hillenburg died of ALS-related heart failure in November 2018.