On Monday night, SpongeBob Squarepants got fired. His boss, the miserly Mr. Krabs, thought he could save a nickel by taking SpongeBob off the burger-cooking line. Left to his own devices, SpongeBob did what any "welfare queen" would do: He became "funemployed" and exploited the free services of the sea.
Or, at least that's one way to tell it. The latest episode of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants became the center of a minor controversy recently when some commentators took away a partisan message from SpongeBob's career misfortune.
And, that's because the sponge didn't stay funemployed. After he gets canned, he consults his friend Patrick, who shows him how to live off the bounty of the ocean. Eventually, though, SpongeBob grows tired of being out of a job and resolves to get a new one instead.
"Instead of mooching off social services...SpongeBob sets out to return to the workforce," Fox & Friends host Heather Nauert said about the episode before it even aired. "It kind of mirrors real life, right?"
The New York Post's Andrea Morabito echoed the "mooching" language and added, "No spoilers — but it's safe to say that our hero doesn't end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand." This was just days before the federal government reduced the benefits provided to 47 million food-stamp recipients by 13%.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, never one to let a situation like this simply pass by without acknowledgement, blasted Fox for its coverage of the cartoon. "The right wing has found a new hero in its war against the poor, SpongeBob SquarePants," Sharpton said. "So a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea doesn't need government help — that means no one does?"
The controversy at least paid off for Nickelodeon. When the episode aired Monday, it drew 5.2 million viewers — the show's biggest audience in two years. (Variety)