The Critical 'I'

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Friday, April 30, 2004

SPONGE FESTIVAL
absorbant the greek
On tap this weekend is the annual Tarpon Springs Sponge Festival. And how can you have a Sponge Festival in the year 2004 and not include the spongiest character of them all, SpongeBob SquarePants? (I'm guessing the Spongmonkeys were otherwise occupied.)

A friend who lived in Tarpon Springs until last year said she thought she heard something about a controversy over the inclusion of SpongBob in this year's festival. SpongeBob, you see, is an artificial sponge; his square shape is a dead giveaway. Tarpon's sponge-diving industry is based upon natural sea sponges, commonly found in loofahs and other products. So there's the basis for a conflict there. In SpongeBob's favor is that his parents were natural sponges--who somehow spawned a bright yellow household sponge.

I can't find any evidence of a real controversy. But maybe it's worth it to truck up to Tarpon this weekend and see if any fistfights break out between the pro-SpongeBob and pro-natural factions...

UPDATE: A day later, I've found some evidence of the controversy, from Tarpon Springs government no less:
But the porous cartoon prodigy raised eyebrows at City Hall last year after rumors bubbled up about his less-than-perfect pedigree. Like all sponges, SpongeBob SquarePants appears on the surface to be a member of the group of marine animals known collectively as porifera. However, the cartoon character's square shape has led some in Tarpon Springs to suspect he is, in fact, synthetic.

"I've had a couple calls from residents that are not happy," [Mayor Beverley] Billiris said. "They're not happy that we're spotlighting an artificial sponge when there are people who have died making their living in the sponge industry."

[WFLA-AM radio host Jack] Harris, however, contends SpongeBob SquarePants is the real McCoy.

"He has parents, so therefore he's not synthetic," Harris said.
So that settles that. Fetch, Gary!