So I was fucking around yesterday morning and this beaut came up on my phone:
A CLASSIC SpongeBob Squarepants moment, from one of the episodes I still remember well even though I last watched it years and years ago. This stuff always makes me laugh; the rude, effective humor, the stupidity that’s also relatable in a time where it feels like not knowing something (who such-and-such an artist is, what someone means by a word or phrase) is a crime. I can’t believe that SpongeBob has stayed with me as long as it has, but I’m happy and kinda proud that my friends and I can still quote dialogue from it. Relatable in its rudeness and abruptness, there are also sudden flashes of insight, in this case about body politics and feminization of a villain. Yup, SpongeBob deserves the attention and admiration, and memes like the one above keep all that alive.
I talked all this over with a good friend, just this afternoon, who’s a qualified SpongeBob historian in her own right; neither of us had thought of Man-Ray’s laughing belt as a metaphor for Christian-like purity and female body-politics. Here’s the belt, by the way:
Man Ray has this belt on that tickles him whenever he does bad things, and it continues to tickle him until he stops doing those bad things. It’s a preventative measure, right? It’s a basic metaphor of preventing evil through both laughter & loss of free will.
Now there’s no standard-issue chastity belt to my knowledge (though the ones from Mad Max: Fury Road are the go-to example in my mind), but there have to be certain features for such a thing to fit the category. First, as a belt, it should go around the waist; second, it should lock or otherwise be something the wearer can’t just take off; and finally, it should be a preventative device located around the groin or genital region. Now, this Man Ray episode first aired as a Nickelodeon cartoon in the early 2000s, and I don’t know what’s on the channel today but back then the creators couldn’t fully and frankly discuss sex and body politics, but they do place the laughing belt where one would normally find a chastity one and, in spirit and basic design, echo the imagery of other chastity belts.
If the wearer of a traditional belt (historically a woman) tried to do what was considered “bad” (have sex), the belt would prevent her from doing so, right? That’s just what the laughing belt does to Man Ray. It also feminizes him, the villain, while he wears it; as a man, good or bad, he is limited while he wears such an item. He doesn’t have total control of his body, doesn’t own it like men sans-chastity belts do, and becomes this giggling, helpless, sexless victim; it’s a funny and surprising moment for a Nickelodeon cartoon to be putting across.
What does this tell me? That my past has use and meaning, stuff to be proud of and bring up again. Grad school may feel like the stress of a demanding girlfriend without the payoff of, uh, body politics, but it instills some good habits.
Also: found out this past week that I have a minor allergy to long-hair cats.