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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soak up sponge lessons

Mike Morin

Another pop culture favorite has come under fire. Google the phrase “SpongeBob criticized,” and the search engine returns more than a quarter million results for those words. Just last week, researchers concluded that the fast-paced “SpongeBob SquarePants” cartoon show, “could at least temporarily impair the executive functions of 4-year-olds.” Huh? What?

In the past decade, detractors have complained about SpongeBob’s sexual orientation. Again, I say, “Huh?” Let’s do a little drive by assessment and comparison. I’m no Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew. I’m just a television consumer who happens to have a radio show and newspaper column, and this is what I’m thinking: “Lighten up, people!”

I’d like to start with SpongeBob SquarePants. Here’s a show that trumpets diversity. Episode after episode reveals a sponge with feelings. Despite a lot of anti-sponge bias these days, our boy Spongy shows that not all sponges are created equal. I, for one, am offended that, until now, sponges were typecast into roles of mindless kitchen counter cleaners.

Many people suggest we talk to our houseplants because they respond to kind voices. Well, my friend, a sponge is a living underwater creature. Whether or not it wears tube-style athletic socks and a tie matters not. Let’s show a little sensitivity toward one of God’s creations. In fact, SpongeBob is kind, even when those around are mean to him.

SpongeBob is a green character. He lives in a pineapple under the sea. No carbon footprint. He does not drive a gas-guzzling SUV. He lives in harmony with starfish and crabs alike. Spongy is a model world citizen. Now, can we examine the cartoons many of us grew up watching?

POPEYE: Constantly pounding his opponent into submission, fueled by spinach, his generation’s version of steroids. Popeye smokes a pipe. Also, character Wimpy’s mantra was, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” That taught my generation to borrow money beyond our ability to repay. The boomer generation is still buying burgers on credit. Thanks, Wimpy. You taught us well.

ROADRUNNER: Here’s where we learned that dropping anvils on those who annoy us is all right. I find myself rooting against protagonist Roadrunner, hoping that in some episode, he will take a wrong turn and beep beep himself into the back end of an 18-wheeler on Route 66.

FLINTSTONES: The prehistoric cartoon series from the town of Bedrock. Fred and Barney worked at the quarry. Wilma and Betty were homemakers. These were the first recorded moments of domestic stereotyping. Thank goodness Mary Tyler Moore came along and set an example for women in the work force.

YOGI BEAR: A show about unending attempts to steal pic-a-nic baskets from tourists. No wonder my generation feels so entitled. We learned that behavior from Yogi and Boo Boo bear. Yogi had fewer scruples that the average bear.

So learn a lesson, SpongeBob bashers. Direct your criticism toward SpongeBob’s neighbors on the Jersey Shore, which makes me sing out loud, “What lives in the beehive under Snooki’s head?”

Hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5-10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID. Contact him at His column runs the first, third and fifth Tuesdays of the month.