SpongeBob SquarePants, a children’s cartoon, has been accused of normalizing “violent” and “racist” colonization of indigenous lands.
The popular show, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, was slammed in a report by University of Washington Professor Holly M Barker.
“SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends contribute to the normalization of settler colonial takings of indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland,” she wrote.
The popular Nickelodeon show follows the life of the lovable sea sponge, who lives in a pineapple under the sea, as he goes about his business in Bikini Bottom.
Professor Barker believes the underwater city is a reference to the real-life Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands.
During the Cold War, natives were relocated from the atoll so that the US military could conduct nuclear tests there.
This has given rise to fan theories that the cartoon inhabitants of Bikini Bottom are genetically modified as a result of the testing.
Professor Barker claims that the cartoon is guilty of “whitewashing of violent American military activities” in her report, Unsettling SpongeBob And The Legacies Of Violence On Bikini Bottom.
“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 US hegemonic powers to extend their military and colonial interests in the postwar era,” the professor continues in the article, which Fox News has seen in full.
Professor Barker also accuses the show of cultural appropriation of indigenous Pacific people, citing the fact that some characters wear Hawaiian shirts and live in homes shaped like pineapples and Easter Island heads.
The academic acknowledges that the writers likely didn’t have colonisation in mind when creating the series, but added she was upset by the lack of acknowledgement that “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not [the writers’] for the taking”.
SpongeBob SquarePants may cause children to “become culturally acculturated to an ideology that includes the US character SpongeBob residing on another people’s homeland,” according to Professor Barker.
“We should be uncomfortable with a hamburger-loving American community’s occupation of Bikini’s lagoon and the ways in which it erodes every aspect of sovereignty,” the article concludes.
The report was published in a journal called The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal Of Island Affairs, and is designed to publish pieces on “social, economic, political, ecological and cultural topics”.