Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Problem with Sexy Spongebob

Inspired by my friend Molly's entry on incongruously sexy Hallowe'en costumes, I ran around the Web and collected various images of the "Sexy Spongebob" costume.

This is a particularly bizarre iteration for so many reasons.  I probably don't need to spell them out but it would give me pleasure to do so.

Firstly: Spongebob Squarepants is a children's show character.  Granted, the humor is multilayered, not unlike that of Rocky and Bullwinkle, to enable adults to watch the show with their kids without feeling their brain cells dying off, but it's not so complex that it should trigger any biological reproductive drives.  The jokes aren't so clever that adults should feel aroused.  There's no aspect of the show that should elicit that response at all, so to take a children's asexual icon and convolute it for titillation is decadent (in its truest sense, not the way sex addicts and chocolatiers misconstrue it).

Secondly: Spongebob is still a male character.  Do what you will with a cultural icon and contort it to prurient ends, but the design of the outfit is such that it shows off the physical aspects of a female wearer to appeal to an audience that enjoys observing the female form.  Be this heterosexual men or homosexual women, neither signed up to get their rocks off by looking at a guy.

Thirdly: Spongebob has a goofy-looking face. What was the strategy behind plastering a garish yellow rictus over the frame of a physically appealing young woman? It's doubtful that it was intended to be a sexual deterrent but it may in practice have this effect. Someone who is doubly attracted to a woman because she is covered in a delirious caricature may harbor a few socially incompatible personal problems.

This costume presents at its core conflicting messages: an asexual icon in a sexual application, and a male visage stretched over a female frame.  I imagine the designer wasn't thinking very hard about the end product and what it's purpose was.  He was probably shooting in the dark, arbitrarily grasping any image and applying it to a tight-shirt/short-skirt template.  This could easily have been Minnie Mouse or Supergirl.  So, to filter this product through my tried-and-true "is it right/true/necessary" screen:

Ethos: It is of questionable judgment to use the trappings of childhood for adult sexual solicitation.
Logos: This costume transmits at least three discrete conflicting messages.
Pathos: This costume makes a valid erotic argument, dependent upon the wearer, of course.

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