The Woke get hold of SpongeBob with predictable results: he’s deemed racist, colonialist, pro-nukes, an eraser of women, and a normalizer of colonial and military violence

This article is not a joke: it was published in the journal The Contemporary Pacific (a University of Hawaii journal) and was written by Holly Barker, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington. By now the article, which is all over the media, will surely drive Dr. Barker into hiding, and she deserves all the opprobrium she gets for making the beloved SpongeBob SquarePants into a figure of horrible malfeasance. You will see what happens when careerist academics, brought up in the humanities (Barker is a sociocultural anthropologist, not a scientist), decide that yet another bit of popular culture should be put into the Sausage Grinder of Wokeness.

SpongeBob: Worse than Hitler?

Click on the screenshot to see (or download) a pdf of the article. (I’m betting it won’t be up long, but I have a copy.)

I cannot emphasize how bad this article is, and if you don’t believe me, read it, or at least skim it. All the tropes of Woke postmodernism march in line, like military horses, through the pages. Here, for example, is the paper’s abstract:

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. This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui  2016) 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.

This is all because SpongeBob, by living on Bikini Bottom, maintains a “singularly submerged viewpoint that disconnects the lagoon bottom from holistic Marshallese constructions of place, which, rather than seeing the air, land, and sea as separate domains, as represented in the cartoon, maintain the interconnetivity between these realms.”

Oy, SpongeBob: how could you do that?

Yes, you can argue about the colonialism and nuclear testing by the West on the Pacific Islands, but you don’t need SpongeBob to do that. Nevertheless, Barker buys into the theory that “the characters in the show are malformed and bizarre because they are mutants exposed to radiation from the atomic detonations at Bikini.” This, of course is a “fan theory”, which Barker considers “not farfetched.” But more important is that SpongeBob and his pals have become “squatters” at Bikini, making its story comical and erasing the reality of what happened to the island (and I’m not denying it’s bad).

Bollocks. Read the whole article and tell me if you think the SpongeBob cartoon is doing any real harm to anyone. Nope, all it’s doing is advancing Barker’s career, which, judging by the media reaction, isn’t all that efficacious. She even admits that the show didn’t intend to be so racist and colonialist, but that this is its outcome:

It is implausible that Hillenburg and Nickelodeon, the cartoon’s network, envisioned an act of US colonialism as they developed the show, but it is disturbing that it did not occur to them that Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking. Since millions of viewers worldwide hear about Bikini Bottom through SpongeBob without being offered a deeper understanding about Bikini Atoll or its people, it is essential to consider how the show shapes viewers’ worldviews, ideologies, and understandings.

What we have here, then, is “cultural appropriation” of an island by a cartoon. Read it and weep. But you’ll also thrill, for example, to the section in which Barker, focusing her laserlike analysis on other aspects of American cartoon culture, asks and answers the question, “What do Smokey Bear and SpongeBob SquarePants have in common”? (p. 363). If you’re really up on woke culture, you’ll be able to guess. (Think indigenous cultures.)

Yes, I’ve read the paper, and it made me ill. Not only is it completely stupid, an exaggerated but real example of the degeneration of the humanities since their infection with Wokeness, but somebody got paid to do the work that led to this. And somebody thought it was worth publishing. Is it any wonder that the humanities, infested with stuff like this, is losing enrollment in colleges? (Of course, not all humanities scholars turn out such worthless drivel.)

But it will also make you laugh—especially if you can envision it as a hoax. And it could be, though I doubt it, since Barker is a genuine anthropology professor. The problem with humanities “scholarship” like this is that it’s indistinguishable from satire, and when that happens you can kiss these areas goodbye.

104 Comments

  1. Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Hahaha. Somebody needs to do a sitcom with characters like Barker working out their academic plots as they try to interact socially without violating any woke norms — sort of like “Big Bang Theory” with humanities profs instead of physicists.

  2. Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Andy Kaufmann lives !!!

  3. Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    If nothing else she has made a name for herself, at least for a while. I had read about this from another source. She is clearly reaching with her writing and seeing things that are just not there. Bikini Bottom, the erstwhile home of the beloved sponge and friends has to my knowledge never been linked to the island nation of Bikini. Furthermore, a large swath of US citizens are completely unaware of the what and why surrounding the events, namely the forced removal of the indigenous people for nefarious purposes, atomic testing. What I don’t recall her musing about is that the USA made promises of remuneration that have never come even close to what the promises, of the treaty laid out. The US has deliberately failed to take care of the people as they promised to. That is far more serious problem than anything alluded to my the author in her “Woke” work.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      For those who don’t know much about the Marshallese and the promises not kept by the U.S. to them, please start by going to Wikipedia to look up COFA (Compact of Free Association)for information on the Marshallese and associated islanders.

      My son-in-law, Loyd Henion, is working with the Marshallese in Oregon as an unpaid lobbyist to obtain equitable benefits for them. So far, drivers’ licenses no longer are temporary, as they used to be, and medical care has been obtained, which they previously weren’t eligible for. They are still working on dental care. Other states in which Marshallese live, such as Washington, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are considering doing as Oregon has done.

      Instead of focussing on a stupid cartoon character such as SpongeBob Squarepants, Holly Barker should be addressing Marshallese history and past and current inequities by the U.S. government, working towards correcting them.

      In addition, the ocean levels are rising so that parts of the Marshall Islands are currently uninhabitable. The islands may eventually be completely unlivable.

    • Posted October 18, 2019 at 2:33 am | Permalink

      I thought the explanation they gave was that the atomic bomb tests mutated the sea creatures into Spongebob and co.?

      -Ryan

      • Posted October 18, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        Sounds like a plausible explanation. I never bothered to look into it further. Never sought out a fuller explanation of the sea creatures environment. I like so many others relied on the suspension of disbelief to get through the episodes. As a side note, Plankton and Squidward, were my favorites.

        • Posted October 20, 2019 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          I wasn’t really a fan of Spongebob. I always rushed home for The Last Airbender instead.

          -Ryan

  4. Damien
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    As Colbert noticed a while ago, SpongeBob sets impossible thigh gap standards for the young generations.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Hahahahaha

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    When I first heard about this article, it didn’t even occur to me that this might be a gag. There must be a word, perhaps in German, that expresses the feeling of frustration when trivial cultural phenomena are overloaded with meaning by being subjected to Theory. A reviewer supposedly once wrote that a work was a book in search of an article. This is an article in search of a cocktail party joke.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      I think that word must have “schmerzt” in it.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow, man, somebody got too much time on her hands and not much of anything on her mind.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Maybe someone dared her to work in spongebob to her work.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Maybe someone dared her to work in spongebob to her work.

  7. Bob Murray
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Is Mr. Krabs a direct reference to the infections passed to resilient Marshallese women by colonialist oppressor rapist military personnel? #seatoo

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      They are all tragically flawed. Mr. Krabs is the epitome of the capitalist troll. Plankton even more so, and he famously has an ongoing toxic relationship with a female computer. The squirrel Sandee Cheeks is clearly in hiding, possibly from an abusive partner. I could go on, but I am getting emotional now. I can’t. ‘Just can’t…

      • Bob MURRAY
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I feel your pain!
        Obviously, with ongoing active consent.

  8. Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Promoting colonialism? I thought SpongeBob was supposed to be promoting homosexuality.

    • JP415
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      SpongeBob just can’t win. He’s become a pawn in the culture wars, hated equally by both sides.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Surely, a prawn?

        • JP415
          Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          D’oh!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          Haha

      • Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        He can take it. Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        It’s ok he can absorb anything.

  9. JP415
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Lamentably, other cartoon characters are engaged in the perpetuation of patriarchy and western hegemony. Pepé Le Pew normalizes sexual assault and Francophone nationalism, while enacting violence against other mammalian lifeforms. Yosemite Sam acts as an apologist for gun rights activists and their patriarchal ecological destruction in his attempt to eradicate that “dang varmit,” the hapless Bugs Bunny. Moreover, Porky Pig mocks the differently abled with his grotesque stammer. Worst of all, Donald Duck instantiates the archetype of toxic masculinity by engaging in uncontrolled temper tantrums and threats of violence against Pluto and Mickey. Clearly, we must work to raise further awareness of oppressive ideology in children’s programming.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      This is the comment of the week! 🙂

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      And Goofy normalizes intra-species slavery and bondage because he is a dog who owns and leashes another dog, Pluto.

      • Bob Murray
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Poor Goofy was wrongly cited in Minnie and Mickey’s divorce.
        Mickey had to explain to the court that when he said, “She was Fucking Goofy!”
        He actually meant that she had big unattractive teeth!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Hahah that’s hilarious. It is weird too. I always did find it strange that Goody was such a human like dog but Pluto was pure dog. There is no consistency with these cartoons which makes suspending disbelief more challenging than usual.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      All excellent points. You could seriously publish this in a not-so-serious journal.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Yes and Donald Duck’s lack of pants is surely a way for him to assault females he encounters as well as flaunt his toxic masculinity physically and literally.

  10. Bruce Lilly
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Sad, but it’s not the first time somebody took this fictional story of a fictional character far too seriously (e.g. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/psychological-analysis-of-spongebob).

    “somebody got paid to do the work that led to this”
    It is customary for reputable journals and authors to disclose the sources of funding and to declare any conflicts of interest, although journals in the “soft sciences” are frequently lacking in those areas. I couldn’t find any such declarations in the abstract or first page visible of the article (and I’m not about to waste good money to “rent” the article); but I do wonder who funded this (“follow the money”).

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      No, what I meant was she gets a salary from the University of Washington, partly to do this kind of “scholarship”. I looked for external funding sources and didn’t find any.

      • Bruce Lilly
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Fair enough; thanks for the update on lack of published specific funding information.

        As the University of Washington is a public university, it appears (from the 2018 financial report) that overall funding comes from a combination of affiliated medical facilities (revenues exceeding expenses), gifts, grants, and contracts (including from the Gates clan), tuition and fees (although the revenue is less than related expenses), “auxiliary enterprises” (revenues exceeding expenses), investment income, and a chunk of Washington state taxpayers’ money.

        Nothing at the moment on this particular embarrassment, but there’s an article on the UW News site from last year mentioning Holly Barker: https://www.washington.edu/news/2018/03/15/new-minor-recognizes-celebrates-pacific-islander-community/ (so, the paper is almost certainly not a hoax; Barker has a thing about the Marshall Islands (https://anthropology.washington.edu/people/holly-m-barker)).

  11. eric
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m somewhat sure the author of Spongebob selected “Bikini bottom” for its titillation value, not in reference to the real Bikini atoll.

    OTOH I’m certain that Spongebob is intentionally dense to cultural nuances, because the author has actually stated that: that his series is a story about a naive person surrounded by cynics…just with a crazy kiddie reskinning on it.

    Grammatical aside: PCC, you may want to change “All the tropes of Woke postmodernism, like military horses, march through the pages in line” to “All the tropes of Woke postmodernism march, like military horses, through the pages in line.” Both are correct, but the current parsing makes the reader think “military horses” is a Woke postmodernist trope.

    • Damien
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      About the horses : agreed.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      okay okay, you’re right. I’ll change it.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      I disagree with your first point, that the author chose “Bikini bottom” for its titillation value. At first I’d glossed over your comment and I expressed my opinion in post 16. below.

      I disagree because she’s obviously ethnically/culturally woke and her paper addresses what she perceives to be wrongs relating to those matters.

      If she were trading on the sexual innuendo (except in passing), she would have criticized that explicitly and could have had a field day. After all, in woke terms, sexual and racial/cultural transgressions are both Cardinal Sins, and she could have gone off the deep end deconstructing “bikini bottoms” as well; then, to be truly masterful with this balderdash, she would have capped it off by discussing the intersectionality of the sexual and the racial.

      Her paper, whatever its thrust, is idiotic.

      Why, I’m beginning to see scatological/sexual exploitation: Squarepants and bikini bottoms. Think I’ll write a paper!

      • eric
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Ah, sorry, my point was unclear (and after I complained that PCC was unclear! Hoist by my own petard :).

        I meant that Stephen Hillenberg, the author and inventor of Spongebob, probably chose “Bikini Bottom” as the setting primarily for it’s titillation value, and only secondarily (if at all) for the tie-in with the atomic tests.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        I cannot get access to the paper so cannot determine how she treats the various threads of her paper, so what I wrote re the scope and content of her paper is uninformed speculation and can’t be verified until I’ve read the entire paper, if I can; however, I stand by statement that she didn’t chose Bikini Bottom for its titillation value but because that’s where Sponge Bob resides and precisely because it is based on the Bikini atoll
        https://theconversation.com/spongebobs-bikini-bottom-is-based-on-a-real-life-test-site-for-nuclear-weapons-96687

      • BJ
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t it amazing that we could probably write “better” (which, to us, means worse) papers in these fields than the supposed experts? I’m 100% sure that if you took just a day, you could vomit out a paper that would surpass this one in every way. I bet you could even find a way to work in some of our other favorites, like feminist glaciology, the whiteness of pumpkins, and Isaac Newton’s “rape manual.”

        The sad thing is that this drek was probably several months work.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          I could so write a paper like this and it would be way funnier.

          • BJ
            Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            I would genuinely look forward to reading that! Maybe we should all get together and start our own parody scientific journal.

      • Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        The paper can be found here in its entirety: sci-hub.tw/10.1353/cp.2019.0026

        It may be blocked in the US however, using the TOR Browser is a fine work around.

        • Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          I’m in the US and it was not blocked for me.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          Got it. I’m in the States and had no problem accessing your link. Thank you.

          • Posted October 15, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

            I have attempted in the past to access the sci-hub website via Firefox web browser but had been unable. Using TOR proved to be a fail safe method of gaining access. Glad to know that both you, and Paul, were able to view the paper.

  12. JohnH
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    “It is implausible that Hillenburg and Nickelodeon, the cartoon’s network, envisioned an act of US colonialism as they developed the show…). Yes, it took Holly Barker to discover and expose the insidious dark side of Sponge Bob and his evil band of cohorts.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      It’s systemic colonialism so their colonialist biases act in the subconscious level.

  13. John Crisp
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Back in the 1950s, a French writer called Roland Barthes wrote a book called “Mythologies”, which analysed a number of contemporary French phenomena (like professional wrestling, the Tour de France or red wine) as cultural myths. He was funny, witty and smart. 60 years later, unfortunately, that subtle cultural deconstruction has turned into heavy, humourless blather. I have a certain sympathy for anthropologists: I know some of the old-timers who spent years embedded with “unspoiled” cultures. There are not many of those left, so the modern anthropologist has to pretend to be a stranger in his/her own land, ferreting out the “otherness” of the everyday. There are some good examples of that, but SpongeBob (with which/whom I am embarrassed to say I am completely unfamiliar) is probably not one of them.

  14. Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure the article is a hoot, but this retired erstwhile postmodernist doesn’t care to spend $18 for the laughs. OTOH, certainly there is reason to criticize children’s literature for unconsciously fortifying patriarchal white male hegemony.

  15. Mary Drake
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been away from this website for months – today I’ve been going through all my old favorites to see what I’ve been missing. Sure enough, the very first article reminds me of how much I love this site. I’ve watched SpongeBob cartoons with my daughters and then my granddaughters and have never seen any harm to him. Are sponges not native to atolls? Are you absolutely sure that this article is not just a big joke? Maybe if the author had not tried to sound all scholarly, she could have made her point (?) without embarrassment: “Hey, you know, sometimes I think that Sponge Bob and his friends took over Bikini Bottom and kicked the natives out. Am I crazy or are we sending the wrong message, people?”.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      As far as I know, the article is not a joke. It’s written by a real anthropologist who works on this area, and is in a reputable journal.

      • Deodand
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        And she teaches students, which is how we end up with papers that ‘prove’ that horses have ‘always’ existed in the Americas because Native Oral Traditions are ‘always true’ and the ‘knowing’ (Science, reason, logic et.al.) of the ‘Mud People’ (Whites & Jews) is ‘inherently oppressive’ and must be ‘disrupted’.

        Carl Feagans dissected one of these back in July.

        https://ahotcupofjoe.net/2019/07/pseudoarchaeological-claims-of-horses-in-the-americas/

  16. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s obvious that she’s desperate to make her woke bones and diving deep into the bathypelagic depths in her bathosphere (as in bathos, not a typo) to dredge up something, anything to prove herself.

    She doesn’t get or care about what some would surely see as the crude sexist aspects of the cartoon that happens to be set in “Bikini Bottom.”

    Her research wreck belongs in Davy Jones’ Locker.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I take it from the title of her piece that “unsettling” is a gerund of abstruse meaning among the cognoscenti of Ms. Holly Barker’s circle?

  18. Charles Sawicki
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I read with horror the Holly Barker (Ph.D., Anthropology) exposé of SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. I’ll hope that this fine piece of scholarship can be expanded into a full PhD thesis by some aspiring “student”. This would allow the crimes of SpongeBob’s friends to be fully examined and revealed. For example, his side kick, Patrick Star a PINK starfish, is an obvious appropriation of gayness without the use of a truly gay character.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Exactly! Why is a straight starfish playing the part of a gay starfish when there are plenty of gay starfish that could take that part?!

  19. Posted October 15, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Look, its even in the theme song.

    Who appropriated a pineapple under the sea?
    SpongeBob SquarePants!
    Colonialist and racist and sexist is he!
    SpongeBob SquarePants!
    If this post-modernist nonsense is something you wish
    SpongeBob SquarePants!
    Then watch the pseudo-intellectual flop like a fish!
    SpongeBob SquarePants!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Nice.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I e made some adjustments. Stole your Colonialist line

      Who lives in white privilege under the sea?
      SpongeBob SquarePants
      Colonialist and racist and sexist is he!
      SpongeBob SquarePants
      If oppressing and othering be something you wish
      SpongeBob SquarePants
      Then drop all rationality and gallop like gish.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        You two are on a roll. Love it.

  20. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I always preferred Ren And Stimpy. Very influential on Spongebob apparently, and violently, brilliantly disturbing. For terrifying example:

    This was a kid’s show remember. I watched it as a kid.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Ren & Stimpy was . . ., groundbreaking? Whatever it was it was damn funny.

    • BJ
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Man, I loved that show, but every time I watch a clip to look back on it, it’s messed up. I can’t believe it didn’t scare me.

      This clip, with its animation and music and sound effects, is like a terrifying horror movie. Ren kind of reminds me of Jack Torrance in The Shining movie here. He’s gone so crazy and become so filled with rage that he can’t stop going from smiling, to laughing, to grimacing with menace.

  21. JezGrove
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s possible to write a brilliantly satirical journal article about a cartoon character. Famously, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published one about Peppa Pig and her implications for the National Health Service here in the UK in its (traditionally jokey) Christmas edition a couple of years ago: https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5397

    Sadly, that’s not what is happening with poor SpongeBob here, though.

  22. darrelle
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    My kids are gonna love this.

  23. Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Surely there would be more virtue in writing an article that directly dealt with the Bikini Atoll history than an indirect one via Spongebob. I guess it is just more “fallout” from nuclear testing.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Nice wordplay.

  24. BJ
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    “Not only is it completely stupid, an exaggerated but real example of the degeneration of the humanities since their infection with Wokeness, but somebody got paid to do the work that led to this. And somebody thought it was worth publishing.”

    You forgot the worst part: this person teaches.

  25. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Well I hope she doesn’t ruin Rocky and Bullwinkle by suggesting that Bullwinkle is a victim of the American plot to take Canada’s natural resources and subvert it’s culture, eh.

    • JP415
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      I would like to see the esteemed Professor Barker write a post-colonial analysis of the t.v. show Gilligan’s Island, a toxic amalgam of white supremacist tropes and 19th century racist stereotypes. In this pernicious “comedy”, a group of elite bourgeois tourists occupy a South Sea tropical island, an unprovoked act of aggression that serves to legitimize White European hegemony and cultural genocide. — And so on. The paper practically writes itself.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        You’d have to use hip language like bougie and emphasize their white privilege. Also he toxic masculinity of the Captain and the elitism of the professor not to mention the gender stereotypes of ginger and Mary Ann.

  26. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Well I hope she doesn’t ruin Rocky and Bullwinkle by suggesting that Bullwinkle is a victim of the American plot to take Canada’s natural resources and subvert its culture, eh.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Oops. I corrected my apostrophe and now there is a correct and incorrect version.

      • Bruce Lilly
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        But Rocky and Bullwinkle hail from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, in the US.
        You might be thinking of Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash, Inspector Fenwick, and his daughter Nell (and, of course, Horse).

    • eric
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      And don’t get her started on Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. Must get moose and squirrel!

  27. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, you should have a contest where we can write our own short paper on a topic like this.

  28. tjeales
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    To me the media having a field day over this is about the same as the news articles along the lines of “Scientists create glowing kittens! what a waste of time and money”

    Anthropology is meant to study culture and from within a disciplinary and theoretical framework which includes looking at representation and looking at colonialism.

    Sure it may not be the best journal article out there but being thrown to the wolves by Russia Today as part of their ongoing project of trolling the culture wars doesn’t really count as proper peer review in my books.

    • tjeales
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Further to this point, what’s the end game here? Are we trying to collectively shame anthropologists into not writing articles we don’t like?

      I mean I agree with excoriating the woke authoritarian left when it uses twitter and protests to shut down speakers they don’t like. Are we not in danger of engaging in the same thing ourselves by taking a single academic paper out of context and passing judgement on the author and their teaching and the validity of them getting paid?

      • Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        By “out of context”, you mean the academic context in which this person writes papers, correct?

        What I object to is the proscriptive attitude this kind of work portrays: if only the world was to pay attention to all these bad connections and eliminate them, the world would be so much better. I doubt this. We would lose much enjoyable art, music, writing, film, food, etc. Carried to its ultimate conclusion, everything would be bland and gray.

        • tjeales
          Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          Only if you read the article as prescriptive rather than, as I see it, descriptive.

          • Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            If you think the article isn’t prescriptive, you didn’t read it. It talks about using it to develop materials to educate school-age children:

            “A critical examination of SpongeBob thus creates new opportunities to unsettle and surface the legacies of colonial violence on Bikini and to involve young people in efforts to reorient our gaze toward the resilience and tenacity of a community that consistently finds ways to endure.”

            It sounds similar to what the Chinese government are doing to the Uyghurs in their “re-education camps”.

            • tjeales
              Posted October 15, 2019 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

              I wonder who should be appointed to arbitrate what texts are allowed to be analysed and in what way they can be analysed. Perhaps we just don’t allow anyone to critique our texts in case they do it in a too “woke” way.

              • Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

                No one is talking about not allowing someone to analyze texts in any way they want. It is all about using that analysis to restrict speech and thought. That’s a very bad idea. If I had kids, I certainly wouldn’t want them being told that they should feel bad about enjoying SpongeBob SquarePants because of colonialism, white privilege, etc. I’d prefer the time be spent teaching them about climate change and its threat to low-lying islands like Bikini.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                I actually think it’s much worse. I take a harder line. I think it’s poor reasoning. It’s a lot of reaching and I think badly argued to make such a suggestion and I really can’t see the majority of academics accepting this argument. It seems like an incident where once you know how to use a hammer, you use that hammer on everything. Often fellow academics correct for this through criticism. And nothing stops us, the unwashed hoi polloi from doing the same.

              • JP415
                Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

                “Perhaps we just don’t allow anyone to critique our texts in case they do it in a too ‘woke’ way.”

                Or, people could attempt to understand a text on its own terms instead of trying to read meanings into it that the creator didn’t intend. Does anyone seriously think that a children’s cartoon contains hidden political messages about Western hegemony? That idea is veering into lunatic fringe territory. It’s not even worth arguing about; ridicule is the only sane response.

    • Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      It may be overkill to react to this anthropology professor focusing on SpongeBob instead of the peoples of the islands she’s concerned about. Especially since she claims to want to provide a space at U.W. for them to share their cultures and histories.

      Instead of focussing exclusively on colonization by the U.S., atom bomb testing, and not keeping commitments, why is there no reference to colonizations and commitments by the Spanish, English, Germans, Japanese, who preceded us, as well as the Catholic Church and Evangelical Christians?

      Since the islands have experienced both flooding and drouth (affecting availability of potable water and water for growing food crops) in the last 15 – 20 years, aren’t these topics more important? Better to help the islanders who’ve come to the U.S. receive the governmental support needed to go to school, find good jobs, receive medical and dental attention, etc.

      This reminds me of how odd I found it in the 70s for literature courses on Bob Dylan, and Baseball being taught beside Shakespeare, et al. (Although, now that Dylan has received a Nobel prize, maybe I should rethink the course on his poetry and music.)

  29. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The oppressive rectilinear geometry of the “SpongeBob” iconography reiterates and activates the dominant bourgeois bias of control. /s

  30. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    For those looking forward to more scholarly papers like the specimen under discussion, don’t forget the Postmodern Generator. It can be accessed at: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ .
    It will generate as many such specimens as you like. Enjoy.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Gosh, I forgot all about that. Thanks for the link. I must bookmark it.

    • Deodand
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Here is one for Deepak Chopra, only short phrases though.

      http://wisdomofchopra.com/

      • BJ
        Posted October 15, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        That was great. I got seven utterly perfect Deepak (fake) quotes in a row, and then the eighth was “cats are llamas.”

  31. Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Normally, I would bet on this being a hoax. Normally.

  32. Diki
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “Bollocks”

    May I congratulate you on appropriating this beautiful English word which sadly is hardly used by our friends in North America, indeed probably not even understood.

    Please use it more frequently.

    Thank you

  33. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Are we sure this is not satire? It reads a lot like a Titania McGrath piece.


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