“SpongeBob SquarePants” may look innocent enough, but the animated Nickelodeon character is causing controversy after losing his job in an upcoming Nov.11 episode.
Many are saying the storyline is symbolic of a harsh economic climate, sparking a heated debate over unemployment.
Here’s the plot line: SpongeBob is fired from his job of 15 years at the Krusty Krab after his boss figures out he can save “a whole nickel” from his payroll. One day later, SpongeBob is already a disheveled beggar
— but his friend Patrick assures him that “glorious unemployment” can be fun and filled with free stuff and more time to relax.
While eating a free meal, a downtrodden SpongeBob realises “Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job,” he tells Patrick, at which point the sad sea sponge turns into a sparkly clean, energetic sponge again.
Here’s why people are mad: “The episode subtly introduces a couple of hot-button issues, including the worth of social services, labour laws that caused SpongeBob’s boss, Mr. Krabs, to fire his best employee, and more,” notes The Hollywood Reporter.
In response to the Fox News segment (see below for video), Media Matters quickly posted an item titled “Right-Wing Media Use SpongeBob SquarePants’ Firing To Attack Social Safety Net,” arguing that the talking heads “are using the firing of fictional cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to attack the social safety net and those who rely on it.”
According to the Media Matters article, “Right-wing media have a long history of attacking the social safety net. Recently, Fox attacked low-wage workers in the fast food industry who have to rely on necessary federal benefit programs because they earn below subsistence wages.”
Media Matters was also particularly bothered by this line from The Post story: “Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it,” reporter Andrea Morabito wrote. “No spoilers — but it’s safe to say that our hero doesn’t end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.”
Here’s what Nickelodeon is saying:
“Like all really great cartoons, part of SpongeBob’s long-running success has been its ability to tap into the zeitgeist while still being really funny for our audience,” Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president of content, development and production, told Page Six.
“As always, despite this momentary setback, SpongeBob’s eternal optimism prevails, which is always a great message for everyone.”
The episode “SpongeBob, You’re Fired!” airs Monday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. on Nickelodeon.
Watch a sneak peek of the episode below (via THR):
Now watch the Fox News segment being attacked by Media Matters:
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