Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michael Richards and Spongebob: Racist Bastards?

Let's get at least one ground rule established about Michael Richards' career suicide: anybody who tries to justify his meltdown by saying "Lenny Bruce used the n-word all the time. What the hell, man?" should be beaten like an old rug, because they obviously have no idea who the hell Lenny Bruce was or what he did. Personally, I think ex-Kramer went into verbal street fighter mode, went for a blow below the belt, and he did it in the worst way possible, after which he did the worst possible job of covering his ass.

But somehow--and this probably says awful things about where my head goes at 4 a.m., or how much I really care about this crap--the whole mess reminds me of a Spongebob Squarepants cartoon. The episode in question featured Spongebob as a budding stand-up comedian bombing horribly until he strikes on the idea of making jokes about the stupidity of squirrels. Spongebob instantly becomes a superstar, but at the expense of Sandy the Squirrel, who is now being treated like a moron by the sea creatures who should know better. (If you've never seen Spongebob: yes, there is a squirrel at the bottom of this ocean, she's Spongebob's friend, and she's a super genius. In spite of all that, she still hasn't figured out how to lick that hibernation thing.)

Sandy decides to take the active approach, by overloading Spongebob on "stupid squirrel" until he gets it through his thick, water-absorbent head that stereotyping is wrong. All good and well, but wait, there's more: the next night, Spongebob busts out some fresh material about squirrels, himself, and all the different types of fish. Everybody laughs, fade to black.

Now, at the risk of reading too much into what was supposed to be a pro-social cartoon, what the hell is the lesson here? The only one I'm getting is "If you're going to make race jokes, you better be ready to make them about everybody. Especially if they suck."

Today, that young sponge is known as Carlos Mencia. And now you know the rest of the story. Good day.

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