Who can’t escape censorship under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants.
An episode of the beloved animated show has been pulled from streaming services by Nickelodeon, citing content inappropriate for children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
SpongeBob SquarePants — the fifth-longest-running American animated series ever — follows the adventures of SpongeBob and his aquatic friends in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom.
One virus-themed episode of the show from Season 12, titled Kwarantined Crab, has stopped airing as coronavirus continues to spread around the world, while another has been off the air for years, confirmed Nickelodeon on Wednesday.
“We have decided not to air [Kwarantined Crab] due to sensitivities surrounding the global, real-world pandemic,” said Nickelodeon’s executive vice president of communications David Bittler.
The episode, set in the restaurant where SpongeBob works, involves the spread of a disease called “Clam Flu.” At one point, a health inspector comes into the restaurant and tells everyone that they must quarantine inside since an unknown individual in the establishment has the flu. In true SpongeBob fashion, panic ensues and things quickly spiral out of control; those presumed to have the flu are ostracized and then thrown into a freezer.
Another episode, Mid-Life Crustacean, was taken out of rotation in 2018, confirmed Nickelodeon.
“Following a standards review… we determined some story elements were not kid-appropriate,” said Bittler.
In the episode, SpongeBob and two of his pals break into a woman’s house and steal her underwear — a storyline that might be too advanced for children.
Amazon Prime Video, which streams Seasons 1 to 6 of the show, has also dropped Mid-Life Crustacean.
The removal of Kwarantined Crab comes amid a wave of anti-Asian attacks that have played out across North America over the last year, as some have sought to blame the Asian community for the COVID-19 pandemic. Some politicians, most notably former U.S. president Donald Trump, helped fuel that sentiment by referring to the coronavirus as the “China Virus” and the “Kung Flu.”
Anti-Asian hate crime spiked by nearly 150 per cent in America’s 16 largest cities last year, even as overall cases fell by seven per cent, according to an analysis of police data by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
A report by the Chinese Canadian National Council’s Toronto chapter has found 1,150 incidents of anti-Asian racism were tallied during the COVID-19 pandemic — with many of the incidents involving people physically attacking, spitting or coughing on Asian Canadians.
— With files from Global News’ Josh K. Elliott and Kamil Karamali
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