Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TV Tuesday...ahem, Wednesday: SpongeBob

Today's review is probably more for parents of younger children, rather than for parents of teens.

SpongeBob SquarePants, as most of you probably know is an incredibly popular, long-running, award winning cartoon series on Nickelodeon. Entering its eighth season, SpongeBob will celebrate his tenth anniversary in July. If TV Tuesday reviews were based on accolades, SpongeBob would receive a glowing review. Its tv.com rating is the third highest for any Nickelodeon program, behind Avatar: The Last Airbender (reviewed here) and The Fairly OddParents.

Our Aspies, though, need inspiration, and they glean it from any source available. They mimic what they see on television, in games, on the playground, and in the classroom. When positive examples are few and far between, they pick up on the negative ones. It's easy for them to get stuck in a rut, too comfortable with the status quo and too uncomfortable with the concept of change to exhibit meaningful ambition. SpongeBob and his friends encourage such stagnation.

SpongeBob is portrayed as an adult who exhibits very childlike tendencies. He works at his local hamburger joint and attends classes at the local community college. On the bright side, he is a loyal friend and passionate about his work. However, he shows no ambition towards greater things. He is content flipping burgers. For most of us, working in fast food is seen as a stepping stone, a job that bides the time until one has the skills or knowledge to achieve better employment. For SpongeBob, there is no such desire. Moreover, the characters who do exhibit ambition and who have made achievements are generally not people SpongeBob likes or who like SpongeBob. More importantly, they themselves are not likable.

So many parents of my acquaintance have complained that education and medical professionals alike will focus on a child's challenges to the point of ignoring strengths. They see no problem with the typically Aspie aversion to change and resulting lack of ambition, and they even encourage parents to adopt such traits in their expectations of their children. I've met mothers who have been absolutely crushed at being told by a psychologist that they should not expect their child ever to "leave the nest," or in reference to hopes for college being told that there are plenty of community college vocational programs, but not even to think about university. And, left to their own devices, many Aspie children would probably be happy to go along with such discouraging statements.

What does that have to do with SpongeBob? He embodies all of those negative messages, and tells his viewers that such a lifestyle is acceptable and desirable. While our Aspies struggle with interpersonal communication, and often academic subjects in which they have no interest, they also tend to exhibit real talent in one or two interests. Those interests can usually be nurtured towards valuable knowledge and skills that are marketable in the white collar workforce. Moreover, most of these kids do not have the social skills, patience, and sensory tolerance necessary to thrive in a blue collar environment.

I encourage parents to use extreme caution when including SpongeBob in their children's viewing. It may have a catchy theme song and humor your child (and perhaps you) find delightful, but it sends a very strong message that is counterproductive among those with social deficits.

No comments:

Post a Comment