In Defense of SpongeBob

Spongie, you just hit a publicity gold mine.

People are talking about you left and right, blaming you for their kid’s stupidity (though, let’s be serious, that’s not really what the study said), taking advantage of the opportunity to bash you and your character, as if you don’t get enough of that from Squidward.  So, in light of these developments, I feel compelled to come to your defense, my wrongly maligned, yellow friend.

Once upon a time, I was very anti-SpongeBob.  I can be narrow minded like that.  I hated the sight of the little yellow square and cringed when I heard the theme song.  When my sister would turn it on for her daughter, I would say, “We don’t watch that show,” with much disdain, and she would kindly turn it off.  Not being a cartoon person, myself, I also never understood how one of my friends, who is very intelligent, not only watched SpongeBob (pre-kids), but used to quote the show.

Like many things in life, I’ve had a change of heart, which is nice way of saying I’ve been made to eat crow.  After I had succumbed to SpongeBob mania, I was forced to listen, as he played endlessly in the background, on long car rides.  You know what I learned? SpongeBob is funny.  The show’s themes, relatable, the lines, as it turns out, quotable, “Don’t touch me thermostat!”  (Come on, who hasn’t worked in an office or other setting where people aren’t fighting over the thermostat?)

In fact, I would argue that the target audience, ages 6-11, is still a little off.  I don’t think that age group gets half the jokes, but I would argue the same about the jokes on Phineas and Ferb, and even some of the satire on Sesame Street.  My only criticism of SpongeBob, the repeated use of the words moron and idiot, which my children have tried (not without consequences) to work into their own vocabulary.

Nevertheless, an appreciation for SpongeBob was born.  Not only an appreciation, but an admiration for the loveable guy, who possesses qualities that I think more people should have.  He’s loyal, hard working, punctual, turns the other cheek, and keeps on trying.

I might even go as far as to say that he’s a role model.  Maybe we should all be watching SpongeBob.

Furthermore, I have done a little study of my own and found that SpongeBob makes your kid no more stupid than doing their homework for them, letting them play violent video games, or endless hours of Wii, playing with iPods, watching Baby Einstein videos, letting them make their own decisions and feeding them food coloring, pesticides and preservatives, all of which I have done.  (And lest someone give me hell about the homework part, let me ask, when was the last time your child completed a school project completely on his or her own?)

What does all this mean?  That my children, as well as my nieces, as well as my friend’s children, have watched SpongeBob, and they are still, very smart little individuals, who can focus when needed.  And as far as the marshmallow test (read the study) I would have to venture that second son would fail that test regardless of what show he watched prior. Of course, while my study didn’t include a whopping sixty kids (is that a study or college experiment) I think it’s just as valid.  After all, I’ve spent more than a few hours with my test subjects.

In fact, I don’t think Spongebob makes children stupid, as much as it does parents, because we’re the ones who let our four year olds choose their shows, or let them watch television in the first place.  And while I can act all holier than thou, and tell you that my first four year old never watched SpongeBob until he was the ripe old age of five, I can’t say that for the second one or little lady, who is two years shy of four, and already a SpongeBob fan.  What can I say?  Shame on me.

Which leaves me to wonder, is SpongeBob just a scapegoat for bad parenting?  I mean, did we really need a study to tell us that a four year old watching SpongeBob is probably not the greatest thing?  Or, that endless hours of any tv is not the best thing for a child? I don’t think so, and I’ll be the first to admit it.  But, sometimes, I just need to get dinner on the table, or a moment’s peace, and, “Hey kids, why don’t you turn on Sponge Bob,” makes life easier (“Hey kids, go put on Caillou” just doesn’t have the same effect).  So, let’s put the blame where the blame is due, and leave Mr. SpongeBob Fancy Pants, alone.

Now go and have “The best day ever!” (Yes, it’s from Spongebob, but you’ve got to sing it to get the full effect.)

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