As a child, I always loved Spongebob. To this day, I still do. One memory that stands out the most, however, was going to the Dominican Republic and being able to watch Spongebob in Spanish.
In Moran and Chung’s article “Global or Local Identity? A theoretical analysis of the role of Viacom on identity formation among children in an international context,” Moran and Chung talk about how easily it is for Viacom to translate their cartoons. They write:
In the case of Nickelodeon, cartoon formats are lucrative and easily exported. Olson (1999) explains, “children’s programming is in part, so readily exportable because so often language is not a barrier: The movement of animated characters’ mouths and of puppets or actors in full-head costumes does not pose any challenges to dubbing. The animals and fantasy creatures that make up a significant portion of children’s television are internationally recognizable” (p. 135). The ease of dubbing makes it simple to seamlessly localize a program in such a way that eliminates the “foreignness.” The result is that most animated television programming becomes a transparent text that appeals to an audience in any cultural context.
In reading this, I was interested in the psychological effects that watching a show such as Spongebob has on the brain of a child. What has been found could be a bit uncomfortable to some.
In a study published in 2011 assessing the immediate impact of watching Spongebob for 9 min on the capabilities of 4 year old children, it was found that “just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds’ executive function. Parents should be aware that fast-paced television shows could at least temporarily impair young children’s executive function.” To those who love Spongebob, this might seem like a sad realization to come to. My next question would be, what does this mean for children around the world? Would we reach the same conclusion in, for example, India or the Dominican Republic?
As a testament to the influence of Spongebob (and by default Viacom) around the world, you can now stay at Spongebob’s home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for the low price of $3,800 a night!