A professor at the University of Washington argues in a recently published academic journal article that the children’s show SpongeBob SquarePants is secretly pro-America propaganda that aims to, among other things, whitewash American military violence and spread the “violent and racist expulsion of Indigenous peoples.”
Professor Holly M. Barker of the University of Washington published a bizarre article entitled “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom” this month which makes the case that SpongeBob and his friends were designed to normalize the taking of land from Native Americans.
The in article, which was highlighted this week by Campus Reform, Barker argues that SpongeBob and his friends erase the “ancestral Bikinian people” from the bottom of Bikini Atoll lagoon.
Billions of people around the globe are well-acquainted with SpongeBob Squarepants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom. By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. 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.
Barker also accuses SpongeBob of racism, writing: “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,”
According to Barker, SpongeBob is not the only piece of mass media that aims to whitewash colonialism and “gendered violence.” The paper claims that American popular culture often slips in subliminal messaging that is designed to normalize America’s sins.
This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity 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.
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