Unless you have children (and young children at that) you may not be overly familiar with the work of Spongebob Squarepants. This is not a bad thing. But what you may not realise is that the bizarre antics of the little yellow sea sponge may be preparing our children for the new reality of Australian politics.
Spongebob is a contrary character. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes stupid, always obsessive and driven by an absolute commitment to his job at the Krusty Krab burger house, he regularly finds himself in the most bizarre situations... usually of his own making.
The closest analogy to Spongebob in Australian politics is Tony Abbott. Similarly obsessive and committed to his job, Abbott is a Rhodes scholar who nevertheless is prone to the most amazing acts of stupidity. We've all become used to Abbott's practice of shooting from the lip, and there's no doubt he's well aware of it too; this is, after all, the man who told us we couldn't believe what he said unless it was written down.
Abbott's unfortunate slips of the tongue are the sign of a man who wants to be liked, but isn't quite sure how to go about it. He doesn't seem to have realised that it's not our approval he needs, but our respect. The class clown rarely becomes school captain.
Still, with an indulgent media and a forgiving (or at least forgetful) public, Abbott's gaffes tend to quickly fade from memory. This is classic Spongebob politics; outrageous statements and unthinkable antics may cause mischief and mayhem, but it doesn't last long. One episode finishes, the next one starts and we all forget what has gone before.
Abbott's latest gaffe, regarding the Tent Embassy in Canberra and the suggestion that they “move on,” may have provoked the strongest reaction yet, what with the security guards and the pushing and the shoving and the dragging and the Prime Minister being bundled into a car and the worldwide news story... but the chances are good that by this time next week, we'll all have forgotten about it and “moved on.” Well, except for Tony Hodges.
From the NBN (for interactive gambling and movie downloads) to the Queensland floods (please donate to the Liberal party), from Afghanistan (shit happens) to homosexuality (feeling a bit threatened), from Julia Gillard (and her shit-eating grin) to Julia Gillard (no doesn't mean no)... our capacity to forgive Abbott's blunders seems limitless. Even the recent stop-the-boats gaffe over the Costa Concordia seems already consigned to history. This is pure Spongebobbery in action.
But the parallels don't stop there. Spongebob's best friend and companion is Patrick, a goofy, gormless pink starfish; for Abbott, it's Joe Hockey. Spongebob works with Squidward, a bitter soul often at odds with his yellow workmate; hello, Malcolm Turnbull. And Spongebob lives in Bikini Bottom, which is undoubtably a direct reference to Abbott's penchant for getting into his Speedos at every opportunity.
So if your children are glued to the TV, drinking in Spongebob's exploits without blinking, don't worry. There's every chance they'll be the political warriors of the next generation.
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