Amnon Free Press
An older episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon, “Spongebob Squarepants” has been pulled from circulation over concerns the epidemic-themed episode — that predates the COVID-19 pandemic — could stoke “anti-Asian” hate.
A second episode, which depicts a cartoon “panty raid” was also pulled from streaming services over concerns that a single scene, where several main characters steal a pair of underwear from a woman’s home, could be too racy for children.
Nickelodeon is just the latest company to pull its own content seemingly over changing norms and in light of a growing number of high-profile hate crimes against Asian-Americans, even though it is not clear that those crimes are in any way related to cartoons, young adult graphic novels, or the novel coronavirus. Scholastic, on Monday, announced that it was pulling a popular spinoff of the “Captain Underpants” novel series amid concerns the graphic novel’s depiction of a “Kung-fu master” was an example of “passive racism” that was “harmful” to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The Spongebob Squarepants episode, “‘Kwarantined Crab,’ from the show’s 12th season, centers on a virus storyline,” CNN Business reported Wednesday.
“We have decided to not air it due to sensitivities surrounding the global, real-world pandemic,” a spokesperson for Nickelodeon told the network.
The episode has several of the main characters quarantined in a local fast-food restaurant, the Krusty Krab, over concerns that one of them harbors the “Clam Flu.” A health inspector forces the quarantined group into a walk-in freezer, where they fight amongst themselves over who was responsible for beginning the “Clam Flu” pandemic.
“While Nickelodeon did not elaborate further on what they meant by ‘sensitivities,’ the Asian communities in the United States and around the world have faced escalated discrimination during the past year, and entertainment industries have been responding accordingly,” Entertainment Weekly noted.
“The removal of the ‘Kwarantined Crab’ comes during a time of increased anti-Asian violence in the United States,” CNN notes. “The episode’s storyline reflects feelings of increased isolation and hatred that many Asian communities have experienced since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The World Health Organization has urged people to avoid terms like ‘Chinese virus’ or because they can create a backlash against people of Asian descent, though former President Donald Trump repeatedly ignored such pleas.”
The latest examples of high-profile hate crimes against Asians do not seem to have a direct connection to President Donald Trump, though it is not clear whether either of the most recent crimes — two beatings in New York City — has a connection to feelings over the COVID-19 pandemic. A mass shooting that took place earlier in March, where the shooter targeted Asian-run massage parlors in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, appeared to be target sex workers.
The “Kwarantined Crab” episode will no longer appear on streaming services that carry the Spongebob Squarepants series. The other episode, “Mid-Life Crustacean,” has been off the air since 2018. Some streaming services carried the episode, regardless.
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