Disney+ added warnings to several shows and movies in its vault, citing “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” Dr. Seuss Enterprises pulled six books from further publication due to purported racist descriptions and images. Just the other day, Scholastic announced that it will no longer publish Dav Pilkey’s The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future as a result of “passive racism.”
Now to that list add SpongeBob SquarePants. Nickelodeon has pulled two episodes – one not-yet aired and the other from 2003 — of the comedic kids’ show over issues they feel are no laughing matter. The newer episode, “Kwarantined Crab” apparently “centers on a virus storyline, so we have decided to not air it due to sensitivities surrounding the global, real-world pandemic,” Nickelodeon told Deadline in a statement, following speculation on IGN. And, according to The New York Times, the episode centers on a health inspector who visits the Krusty Krab, where SpongeBob works, “and finds a case of the ‘clam flu.’” The Times cited Nickelodeon spokesperson David Bittler, who explained that “Kwarantined Crab” was “never put on the schedule to be sensitive to the pandemic outbreak last year.”
The second episode, “Mid-Life Crustacean,” was dropped from Nickelodeon’s rotation in 2018. According to Bittler, speaking to the Times, the network took that action “following a standards review in which we determined some story elements were not kid-appropriate.” The likely issue? To deal with his mid-life crisis, Mr. Krabs joins SpongeBob and Patrick for a night of fun that includes several innocent-enough activities and… a “panty raid.” The panty drawer being raided? Mr. Krabs’ mom. Ew. Mr. Krabs properly punishes the trio, but even that lesson seemingly wasn’t enough to prevent Nickelodeon from jettisoning the episode.
Honestly, we get it. It was inappropriate, not to mention out of character for SpongeBob. Could Nickelodeon have taken the Disney route instead and simply added a warning? Maybe. These are tricky situations — and change is coming fast. There are no easy answers.
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