Thursday, December 8, 2011

Damn You, Square Pants (Hǎimián bào bó 海绵鲍勃)

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea…?”
There is this moment of absolute dread and degradation that has permeated the cracks and crevices of my classroom over the past few years. Intertwined in the book spines and nestled in the notebooks of almost every Asian kid, is this deep seated love and devotion for a television character based on the life of an underwater sponge.
“Absorbent and yellow and porous is he…”
My dad has forever called TV the “Idiot Box,” and no show has ever so judiciously encapsulated this moniker or so lobotomized a generation like the Nickelodeon cartoon, “Sponge Bob Square Pants.” He yells, he hollers, he screams, he plays the nose flute… it’s glorious in its insipid banality. Oh yes… and it’s the most popular show in Asia.
The all watch it… young, old, professional, blue collar… it speaks to the masses in a way that Marshall Mccluhan would envy. Sponge Bob is on everything: Handbags, Pencil Cases, Bed Sets, Milk Cartons, Cellular Phone Ads, and TV Infomercials. He might as well be the mascot of Asia, for, in countries where copyright infringement burgeons toward non-existent, Bob’s likeness is used to push everything from Starbucks Coffee to political campaigns.
“If nautical nonsense is something you wish…”
Now… my father didn’t raise a fool, and I am wary of most things considered by the populace to be necessary and egregiously contingent on my own personal happiness, but there is a reason I despise this harmless minute oceanic icon, it’s because I constantly have to allude to him in class or my students haven’t a clue what I’m trying to say.
It’s a daily annoyance.
I start with an introduction….oh, say were discussing Pearl Harbor or Abraham Lincoln or the Chinese Boxer Rebellion… and I can see the faces of my students are blank like blinking traffic signs… so I give a classical allusion to help them understand…something from ancient Greece or the Bible… nothing…just wider eyes and white knuckles… so I move to Shakespeare… yes, I still run everything through the Bard… which only produces mild yawns of meager drool… some smart kid in the front row will raise a hand and ask… “Is this going to be on the mid-term?”
“Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish…”
To which I sigh profoundly in consternation… and pull out my Harry Potter reference sheet… “Abraham Lincoln is like Dumbeldore and the houses of Hogwarts are like the Union and Confederate States…”
“Ohhhhhh…. !
A collected gasp of understanding washes over the student’s faces.
But there is always a handful of kids, you know, the “mouth breathers” with dial-tone personalities fascinated with the peculiar body odor on their fingers that have just been pulled out of their arm pits… who have no idea what I am talking about… so I say, “Do you remember the episode when Patrick the Starfish had to fight the Lion Fish in the big circle? Well, that’s called a ‘Coliseum’ and it’s similar to the cauldron Lincoln faced when trying to fight against the popular opinion of slavery.”
The mouth breather response… “Ha Ha… Sponge Bob… that show is funny.”

1 comment:

  1. Actually President Lincoln is more like Mr. Krab, don't you think professor?