Spongebob Squarepants, a cartoon aired on the Nickelodeon network, has had some of its older episodes pulled from all streaming services. The episodes were pulled from circulation over fears that the epidemic-themed episode, which was created before the COVID-19 pandemic, could possibly add fuel to “anti-Asian” hate.
In another episode of the show, a single scene managed to get the episode pull by depicting a cartoon “panty raid” where several main characters steal a pair of underwear from a woman’s house and was deemed to be too racy for children.
Nickelodeon is just one of the latest companies to remove its own content over changing norms and as a result of a growing number of high-profile hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Though it is not clear that any of the crimes were in any way related to cartoons, young adult graphic novels, or the novel coronavirus. This past Monday, another large company, Scholastic, released a statement that it was discontinuing a popular spinoff of the “captain underpants” novel series due to concerns that the graphic novel’s depiction of a “Kung-du master” could be seen as an example of “passive racism” that was “harmful” to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
On Wednesday, CNN Business reported that the Spongebob Squarepants episode, “‘Kwarantined Crab,’ from the show’s 12th season, centers on a virus storyline.”
A spokesperson for Nickelodeon told CNN Business that “We have decided to not air it due to sensitivities surrounding the global, real-world pandemic.”
In the episode, a few of the main characters are quarantined in the Krusty Krab, a fast-food restaurant, over the concern that one of them has been infected with the “clam Flu.” A health inspector shows up and forces the group to stay in the walk-in freezer, and there they fight amongst themselves about who is responsible for starting 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 reported.
“The removal of the ‘Kwarantined Crab’ comes during a time of increased anti-Asian violence in the United States,” CNN says. “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 “Kwarantined Crab” episode will not appear anymore on streaming services that carry the Spongebob Squarepants series. The second episode mentioned, “Mid-Life Crustacean,” has been off-air since 2018, though some streaming services still carry the episode regardless.