The Cult of the Cartoon

7308-bigthumbnailThe guardian.co.uk has published a great article entitled The celebrity cult of SpongeBob, which describes SpongeBob as a “ridiculously popular children’s cartoon that one imagines was dreamt up while under the influence”. The article delves into the topical issue of SpongeBob’s sexuality, as brought to the fore by Christian fundamentalists. Is Patrick his boy crush or not? Writer Hadley Freeman argues, “The fact that sexual congress would, presumably, be difficult between a sponge and a piece of ocean life (particularly as the sponge is incapable of removing his squarepants) has not dented their horror a jot”, to which an observant reader retorts, “You’ve never watched it have you[?] Spongebob is a sponge, also a sea creature. And he often takes off (or loses) his pants to comic effect”. In this light, take not of the sociological definition of cult: “a group with a high degree of tension with the surrounding society combined with novel religious beliefs”.

The cult status of the square-pants-wearing sponge reminds me of the shows I used to watch as a child – many of which most definitely achieved cult status in my house, including the likes of gummi_bearsGummi Bears, Marshall BraveStarr, Teddy Ruxpin, Cities of Gold, Barbie & the Rock Stars, My Little Pony, Care Bears, Bionic 6 Dark Wing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales, Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero) Turtles, Captain Planet…and I am sure I am leaving many out. Even Dawie die Kabouter, Swart Kat and Miena Moo reared their Afrikaans heads. No, I couldn’t understand them. I was forbidden from watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe because God is the Master of the universe, not He-Man. And my mom didn’t approve of Skeletor either. Talk about Christian fundamentalism. As an eight-year-old, I thought it my duty to bestow my mom’s principles on my four-year-old next-door-skeletorneighbour by telling her she was going to hell for watching He-Man. I really did that. Man! It sucked to be eight. But it probably sucked more to have me as a neighbour. No matter. The emotional scarring has been inflicted. **Sorry Kate** Why my mom had no brave043stampede problem with hunky Marshal BraveStarr visiting a shaman to help summon eyes of the hawk, ears of the wolf, strength of the bear and speed of the puma, in his quest to defeat the zombie-like Tex-Hex and a “demonic-looking bull skeleton” called Stampede, I have no idea.

captain-planet-tom-cruise-ted-turnerMy two brothers and I spent many an hour fighting over who was what character in what show. We played a ‘game’ (also referred to as the World War III by my mother) called Booking. Here’s how the game worked: the second the the-mysterious-cities-of-gold-bestcartoon came on screen we would have to scream “Boooooked” when our favourite character appeared on screen, thus reserving our right to ‘be’ that character for that episode. One was allowed to book as many characters as one wished. Much like Calvinball, the rules of the game often changed to suit…usually me. Naturally, as the older sister I always bullied my way to prime position, and got in there first – laying claim to my character(s). One of my favourite tricks was to ensure that if we were watching a recorded show, I had remote domination – as soon as my little paw pushed play I would belt out my Booking list. Little Brother was pretty quick on the up-take but poor Middle Brother always ended up being the girl or the gay – like Linka (Wind) and Ma-Ti (Heart) in Captain Planet. He was Gadget in Rescue Rangers, Zia in Cities of Gold, Webby (Webigale) in Duck Tales, Grammi in Gummi Bears, April in Ninja Turtles…and the list goes on. Often, instead of actually watching the show, we were screaming insults at one another because of the actions of the characters we were playing on the TV programme. So when April gave Michaelangelo a kiss, Middle Brother would never hear the end of the fact that he had kissed a dude…never teddy-ruxpin2mind a turtle. Middle Brother would, at some stage, get fed up with being mocked over his girlhood and would end up fisting either me or Little Brother in the face – usually me, and usually I deserved it. A few lummies were always thrown my way, mixed up with some spitting and scratching and the occasional Chinese-bangle. Little Brother escaped the warzone and the wrath of Middle Brother, because crying, lip-scrunching and being the cutest and the youngest went a long way in getting his older siblings blamed for most things.

Fortunately (for my mother at least) we grew out of the Booking game, although I think for old time’s sake we should go another round. Starting with SpongeBob.

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