Thursday, October 27, 2011

In defense of Spongebob


Spongebob Squarepants has been taking some serious crap in the media lately, and I believe it's undeserved. I am a huge Spongebob fan. Yes, I'm a 35-year-old woman, but I watch Spongebob and enjoy it immensely. I have for years. Why? It's hilarious, sweet, and I find the writing and humor remarkably intelligent. I couldn't imagine anyone having a problem with Spongebob, but then I heard about this article, which reports a study that determined that 4-year-olds "showed a reduced ability to delay gratification and poorer working memory" after watching Spongebob.

Why did they decide to use Spongebob, of all shows, for this study? The article doesn't mention whether they tried other shows in the study, so it sounds to me like any TV show might have these effects. The article also says that "fatigue, stress, hunger, and illness and temperament can impact" these functions. So, it's entirely possible that the kids were hungry, coming down with a cold, or stressed out by having been subjected to this creepy study, and that affected their cognition. The study just does not sound scientifically air-tight.

In short, and to borrow a word from Spongebob himself, the study sounds like a giant load of barnacles.

Of all the shows that there are to hate on, I really don't think Spongebob is our enemy. Has anyone studied how Disney movies affect children? How might children be affected by the frightening, stressful sections in every Disney movie where the protagonist gets separated from his or her friends or parents and then has to go through all sorts of scary scenarios to get back to them, or where the protagonist's parents die? Has anyone done a study on how painfully moronic live-action childrens' shows, like Victorious or Big Time Rush affect kids' thinking or girls' self images? Even iCarly, which I used to like, now has young teens dating and kissing. How does that affect kids' behavior?

Has anyone studied how the obnoxious repetition of shows like "Dora The Explorer" ("we did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!") affects kids' brains? I know it makes me feel violently toward my television and reach for the remote.

I just don't think Spongebob is the problem. We watch Spongebob a few times a week, as a family, either on the weekend or after dinner. We don't just plop our kids in front of the TV alone to watch any show. We watch together, we laugh together, we answer any questions our kids have, and that's how it should be.

Spongebob is sweet and kind. He's a very hard worker. He's a loyal friend and even tries to help people when they're down, like in the episode "Enchanted Tiki Dreams," where Spongebob and Patrick stay up all night building a special Tiki-land just for Squidward, so he can listen to his smooth jazz records and relax in peace.

Squidward is ill-tempered and selfish, and nothing ever goes right for him. Plankton's evil plans of stealing the Krabby Patty recipe are always thwarted. The world of Spongebob is a just one, a happy one, a very, very funny one, and you know what? On Spongebob there is no sex. There's no violence. There's only fun.

On the episode "Banned in Bikini Bottom," Krabby Patties are banned by a mean, humorless old fish-lady "for being fun and delicious." That's what I think is happening here. Some mean, humorless person or group of people are seizing on Spongebob because he's fun. Not everything has to be "educational," and not every "educational" show is actually educational. Sometimes something is just fun, with no other merit, and that, especially when it lacks sex and violence, is merit enough for me.
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