Take Action: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to Nick and Burger King: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Nickelodeon and Burger King immediately pull a new, highly sexualized, television ad for SpongeBob SquarePants Kids Meals. The ad, viewable below, features The King singing a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1990’s hit song, “Baby Got Back” with the new lyrics, “I like square butts and I cannot lie.” The ad shows images of The King singing in front of women shaking their behinds for the camera intercut with images of SpongeBob dancing along.

“It’s bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it’s utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women,” said CCFC director Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children’s Center.

At one point during the ad, The King even measures the behind of one of the woman who has stuffed a phonebook under her dress. After the King informs children about the free SpongeBob toy they get with the purchase of a Burger King Kids Meal, the ad ends with Sir Mix-A-Lot—lounging on a couch with two female admirers—saying, “Booty is booty.” The ad ran during the NCAA men’s basketball championship and other programming recently.

“No parent watching a major sporting event with their children should have to worry about being assaulted by sexualized imagery,” said Joe Kelly of TheDadMan.com, a CCFC Steering Committee Member. “Featuring SpongeBob in an ad like this is a new low. Parents who hope to instill values in their children like respect for women would do well to steer clear of Burger King and Bikini Bottom.”

Added Dr. Linn: “Cartoon characters play a powerful role in the lives of young audiences. That Burger King and Nickelodeon would sell Kids Meals by associating a beloved, male character like SpongeBob with lechery shows how little either company cares about the wellbeing of the children they target.”


The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is headquartered at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston. www.commercialfreechildhood.org

7 Comments

  1. April 30, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes:

    SpongeBob SquareButts: An Update

    “I don’t know what could be more iconoclastic in puncturing the myth of how self- image of a body for a woman would look than to make her butt square with a telephone book in it.”

    ~Burger King President of Global Marketing Russell Klein in a televised debate with CCFC’s Steering Committee Member Joe Kelly.

    Despite nearly 10,000 letters from CCFC members – many of whom say they will no longer eat at Burger King — and a host of bad publicity, the controversial SpongeBob SquareButts commercial continues to air. Burger King insists that the commercial for Kids Meals, featuring one of the most popular kids cartoon characters, is aimed at adults. They’ve yet to explain why the “adult ad” has run on American Idol, the top-rated show for children under twelve; on the ABC Family Channel on weekend mornings; or during a Sunday afternoon showing of the animated film Madagascar.

    Meanwhile, Nickelodeon has barely commented on the use of one of their most popular characters in a commercial that objectifies women. Given the recent announcement that Nick plans to make a tween version of Dora the Explorer, we can’t help but wonder if there is a trend to make Nick’s characters edgier in order to maintain their appeal to children as they grow up.

    Like

  2. Katie said,

    April 20, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Hi nice blog :) I can see a lot of effort has been put in.

    Like

  3. April 18, 2009 at 4:25 am

    The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes:

    Our campaign to get the infamous SpongeBob SquareButts commercial off the air is gaining momentum. More than 7,000 of you have told Nickelodeon and Burger King that SpongeBob and sexualization don’t mix and our campaign has been featured in newspapers, blogs, and on television — including this morning’s Today Show.

    We’ve already cast an important spotlight on this reprehensible ad and the depths that marketers will sink to in order to interest children in their brands. Advertisers will now understand that they risk a significant backlash from parents if they include sexualization in their child-directed marketing. Burger King and Nickelodeon are clearly on the defensive, and are now disingenuously claiming the ad – which is for Kids Meals and features perhaps the most popular children’s television character – was aimed at adults.

    But the ad continues to run and, according to reports, aired this week on American Idol, a top-rated show for children under twelve. So let’s keep the pressure on. Please let others know about our campaign by using this tell-a-friend page or by writing directly to friends and family and urging them to visit http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/t/6725/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27008. And please, keep spreading the word on blogs, social networking sites, and Twitter.

    Thanks,
    The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

    Like

  4. Kim said,

    April 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Burger King you gotta be kidding me. What are you thinking. Trying to sell kids meals with filth.

    Never and I do mean NEVER will I again buy a kids meal from Burger King.

    This is what is wrong in the world just keep on pushing morals and values to less and less.

    Anytime I see this ad I am contacting other sponsors run at the same time.

    Like

  5. N Waff said,

    April 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Yes, just what we all want to teach preschoolers, to be flaunting and staring at butts. If we want to teach girls to dance like strippers and boys to be perverts, we need to start young – like pre-k. And all thanks to Burger King and Nickelodeon for their sexualization of preschoolers.

    Like

  6. Tiredofgreed said,

    April 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Yes, over the line. I have been contacting people all morning to contact burger king (305)-378-3535 and nickelodeon (212) 258-6000. Have never quite seen anything so irresponsible.

    Like

  7. erin said,

    April 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Wow!

    This is completely over the top! Disgusting! Shame on you Burger King & Nickelodeon!

    Like


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