Can a spongy exterior hide an iron fist?

On his aptly named “Interesting Ideas” Web site (www.interest, cultural commentator William Swislow covers territory ranging from “their crackpot ideas, and mine” to politics and “culture from the margin.”

Amid considerations with such titles as “We’re all saps in cyberspace” are appreciations of outsider art and the most pop of pop culture. Recent case in point: a short essay on the dark side of niceness, using SpongeBob SquarePants as Exhibit A:

“A great study in how nice people get away with murder can be found in SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob is classic nice, insisting that everyone conform to his view of what they should be doing or how they should be acting and feeling.

“In the process, he deeply insults his (platonic) friend Sandy the squirrel, lands his driving instructor Mrs. Puff in jail, constantly invades Squidward’s privacy, takes horrible advantage of good-natured Patrick and regularly puts ... the entire town of Bikini Bottom in physical peril. In fact, he will stoop to anything to get his way. But the havoc he wreaks is excused by all. People can’t help but favor someone so forcefully sweet and sensitive.

“Only one character, Squidward, openly objects to SpongeBob’s awfulness. But Squidward’s evident preference for the life of the mind wins him little favor relative to SpongeBob’s mindless extroversion. For holding SpongeBob to ordinary standards of behavior, he is made out to be a cantankerous bully. Like anyone who stands in the way of the nice, he is bludgeoned with the specter of ostracism and loneliness and made to appear an arrogant fool.”


Now you know.