This post is long-overdue and long-threatened to my friends and family.
We don't have cable, we have Netflicks. It's 8 bucks a month and gives me that kind of content-control I yearn for as a controlling parent.
Thus, the last few months has seen my immersion into the world of Bikini Bottom, where Sponge Bob, Patrick Star, Mr. Crabs, Squidward, Sandy Cheeks, Plankton, et alia, dwell.
I rarely say this about kids' programming, but I can honestly say it about Sponge Bob Square Pants: it's very good.
It's not only relatively good. What parent of young children does not quickly come to positively loath children's programming? Sure, there are shows less hateful than others, but they are all more or less unendurable. Not so Spongey. It's smart, funny, and, best of all, not preachy. It's been a long time since I could name a good kids' show. Scooby-Doo comes to mind - the original ones, not the modern suped-up radical one.
The single biggest flaw about kids' shows today is that they seek to educate, especially educate morally. And I don't mean the most overt offenders, like Captain Planet, that I think came on the scene when I was just coming out of the cartoon stage, at 20 or so. Some other big offenders: Barney, Bob the Builder (it just got preachier and preachier as time went by!), Arthur (notoriously bad), as well as most of the stuff that CBC carries in the a.m. (or used to anyway - remember, I don't have cable).
Number one, who are these people to presume to teach my children? Kind of like public school teachers who are supposed to be 'neutral' but arrogate to themselves whopping teaspoons full of apriori moral certitude. Do they think that I, as a parent, would be helpless without them?
Number two, do they think their subliminal manipulation of their young viewing audience is a means justified by the end they intend?
Turn on one of these shows, and attend very carefully to the ending credits. A show like Barney or Arthur. There you will find a list of all the know-it-all psychologists they have on hand to craft their shows. In other words, their shows are not created to be entertaining; their shows are created to mold children. Is this list of experts meant to be reassuring? To me it is frightening.
Now, back to Sponge Bob. Despite the fact that the show uses words like 'idiot' - or perhaps because of this fact - it is just plain good entertainment. A show that allows you to enjoy some silliness and to draw your own life lesson from it, or not! What's wrong with not?!
Nor can we say that Sponge Bob is amoral. In fact, I would argue, that the lead character satisfactorily fulfills the basic requirements that Aristotle provides on this kind of thing. Sponge Bob is of a certain character - naive, good-willed - and everything that happens to him is a direct result of that character, as it naturally should, both things good and bad.
So, for entertaining us, and allowing us to not worry about the secularizing ethic forced upon my children for 30 minutes at a time, hats off to Sponge Bob and its creators and writers, from theologyofdad!