SpongeBob SquarePants has proven to be a durable little pitchman (or is it pitchsponge?) for a variety of retail products, lending his likeness to everything from Band-Aids to green beans—and earning billions in licensing dollars for the folks at Nickelodeon.
In recent years, the MTV Networks cable channel has caught some grief for allowing SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and other Nick characters to hawk junk food and abet the scourge of childhood obesity.
So it was particularly ironic that the animated sea sponge turned up this week promoting a rather questionable attraction: torture.
These days, you can find SpongeBob’s likeness on the Waterboard Thrill Ride, a new sidwshow/art installation at New York’s Coney Island that invites curiosity seekers to feed a dollar into the slot and watch animatronic figures demonstrate that interrogation technique you’ve been hearing so much about.
Painted on the exterior wall of the exhibit/interrogation room—below the money slot and the phrase “Thrill Ride”—is an image of a smiling SpongeBob shackled to a table. Standing over him, holding a watering can, is his irritable neighbor Squidward Tentacles.
In a reference to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where enemy combatants are reportedly subjected to simulated drownings, a speech-bubble has SpongeBob exclaiming, “It don’t Gitmo better!”
Nickelodeon declined to comment on the apparent unlicensed use of its character. According to a source at the company, there are no plans to pursue any legal action at this time.
By Joel Topcik