In a recently published academic journal, professor Holly M. Barker wrote an article "Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom," in which she offers a different take on the affable sea sponge.
"SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland," the article reads.
Marker calls SpongeBob's colonization of Bikini Bottom "violent" and "racist," and also claims that the cartoon is guilty of the "whitewashing of violent American military activities" against natives of the Pacific.
Marker's beliefs come from the idea that the show is set in a version of the real-life Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. During the Cold War, natives of the area were relocated and the American military used the zone for nuclear testing.
The area remains uninhabitable to this day. That history has given rise to fans' theory that Bikini Bottom is inhabited by creatures who owe their mutation to that testing.
Marker stated that as an "American character" allowed to inhabit an area that natives had no choice but to leave, SpongeBob showed his privilege of "not caring about the detonation of nuclear bombs."
Marker also points out the cultural appropriation of Pacific culture, with Hawaiian-style shirts, homes in the shapes of pineapples, tikis and Easter Island heads, and the sounds of a steel guitar perpetuating stereotypes of the region.