Author Archives: johnwworth

Child Rapists Given Preferential Treatment by American Justice System

From birth, Americans are primed to put their faith in authority. A steady stream of primetime crime dramas, featuring heroic law enforcement authorities saving the day and locking up the bad guys, prompt the general public to trust the criminal justice system. While acknowledging its flaws, Americans generally believe their justice system is fundamentally fair and just.

Unfortunately, their perception is not consistent with reality.

As mentioned in the previous article, only 29% of child sexual assault cases result in an arrest and those convicted are routinely handed light sentences. Here is a list of a few notable examples:

In Texas, a judge sentenced a confessed child rapist to just 45 days in jail. The rapist was not required to be listed as a sex offender, attend treatment or even stay away from children. Even after the perpetrator’s confession, the judge insisted that the victim “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be” and emphasized her past sexual history.

In Delaware, a DuPont heir was convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter and sexually abusing his toddler son. However, he was spared jail time because the judge declared that he would “not fare well” in prison.

In Montana, a man who repeatedly raped his 12-year-old daughter was sentenced to just 60 days in jail. The judge defended his decision, arguing that the rapist needed an opportunity to improve, rehabilitate and reintegrate back into the community.

In Michigan, a man who kidnapped and raped two young girls was sentenced to just one year in a county jail, serving only six months. He went on to rape another child after being released and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison. After being released again, a judge awarded him joint custody of one of his victim’s children, which he did not request.

In Alabama, a convicted child rapist was spared jail time and instead required to serve two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals. His attorney argued that the punishment was too harsh.

In Pennsylvania, a cop who violently raped and tortured two little boys over a seven-year period was sentenced to just nine months in a county jail and given work release.

In California, a judge reduced the sentence of a man convicted of raping a toddler by 15 years. The judge went to great lengths to downplay the crime and humanize the rapist, arguing that he “didn’t mean to hurt” the toddler and that a 25-year mandatory sentence would be “cruel and unusual punishment” for him.

These cases are not isolated incidents. Post-Crescent Media examined 153 child sexual assault cases between the period of August 2009 and September 2014 and found that only about half of the cases ended in a conviction and most perpetrators served an average prison sentence of just 3-5 years. Many were spared prison. The examination also found that over half of defendants were released from jail during court proceedings and 40% were not required to register as sex offenders.

When reviewing child sexual assault cases, a startling pattern emerges, one marked by sympathy for child rapists and indifference towards victims. One possible explanation is the standard perception of child rapists as visibly evil, barbaric monsters. Ordinary-looking white guys, an archetype commonly featured and glorified in popular culture, do not comport with such an image.

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The United States Has Produced 67% of the World’s Serial Killers

The United States regularly touts itself as the best country in the world, invariably spurring rounds of boastful “We’re #1!” chants by proud, patriotic Americans. While, in actuality, the country falls near or at the bottom of most OECD rankings, it has earned its spot at the top in one notable category: serial killers.

The United States has produced a staggering 3204 serial killers, amounting to 67% of the world’s serial killers on record in a country containing just 4.35% of the world’s population. The figure is more than 19 times higher than the country with the second-highest number of serial killers, which happens to be the US’s closest ally, England. Roughly 90% of serial killers are men, over half are white and their average age is 27.5 years. In addition, more than 20% of serial killers had a military background, nearly triple the rate of the general population. The top three motives of serial killers are enjoyment (thrill, lust, power), financial gain and anger. The New Yorker estimates that there are currently more than 2,000 serial killers at large in the United States.

Interestingly, four of the six countries that make up the Anglosphere are among the top ten countries with the most serial killers, and seven out of the top ten countries are located in the West. Moreover, fourteen out of the top twenty countries with the most serial killers are predominately white countries. And despite being tarred as violent and barbaric countries in the West, not one predominately Arab or Muslim country made the top twenty.

One common thread that runs through serial killers is child abuse/neglect. One 2005 study found that serial killers are six times more likely to suffer from physical abuse, nine times more likely to suffer from sexual abuse and twenty-five times more likely to suffer from psychological abuse as children than the general population. Other studies have found similar results.

Unsurprisingly, the USA has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the world. Every year, there are more than four million child maltreatment referral reports received, involving more than seven million children. An average of four to seven children die every day from child abuse and neglect, and 70% of victims are ages two or younger. Moreover, one in five girls and one in six boys is a victim of child sex abuse, and one out of every five teenagers has reported experiencing abuse either in school or home. Predictably, children who experience child abuse and neglect are about nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

One possible reason for the USA’s enormous child abuse rate is the perplexing unwillingness of the American judicial system to properly punish perpetrators. In regard to child sex abuse, only 29% of cases even result in an arrest and those convicted are routinely handed light sentences. Indeed, one suspected serial killer currently awaiting trial (who also has a military background) was sentenced to just five years in a state penitentiary for sexual assault, and, upon release, picked up right where he left off. A journalist who attempted to alert the authorities to a potential serial rapist/killer on the loose was consistently rebuffed.

Post-Crescent Media examined 153 child sexual assault cases between the period of August 2009 and September 2014 and found that only about half of the cases ended in a conviction and most perpetrators served an average prison sentence of just 3-5 years. Many were spared prison. The examination also found that over half of defendants were released from jail during court proceedings and 40% were not required to register as sex offenders.

There is also an unwillingness of child welfare and law enforcement authorities to intervene in cases of child abuse. In Los Angeles, multiple social workers are facing criminal charges after failing to protect a little boy from deadly abuse by his mother and her boyfriend, who believed he was gay. Among other things, the boy was brutally beaten, forced to eat rotten food and cat feces and bound without food or water for long periods of time in a small, locked cabinet. Yet virtually all of the social workers’ investigations deemed the abuse allegations “unfounded.” In addition, several deputies visited the boy’s apartment and school on multiple occasions and each time concluded that there was no evidence of abuse. Furthermore, the deputies ignored a suicide note written by the boy and even said that his cigarette burns were “not an emergency.” The boy’s autopsy revealed a cracked skull, shattered ribs, severe burns and BB pellets buried in his body. Two of the social workers are still at work and all the deputies remain on the force.

This tragedy is just one of the many, many, many cases of jaw-dropping incompetence and negligence on the part of child welfare and law enforcement authorities. Even children who are removed from their homes are subject to abuse in foster or adoptive homes. Indeed, a Pennsylvania couple was recently arrested for raping, killing and chopping up their adopted daughter. The rampant abuse of adopted children in the USA even prompted Russia to impose an adoption ban on Americans in 2012.

Not only does the state fail abysmally to properly punish child abuse but it also fails to prevent such abuse. The new administration is pushing through policies that will invariably worsen child abuse by slashing funds for child welfare services, which will very likely lead to layoffs and place even heavier burdens on overworked and underpaid child welfare authorities. The Department of Education is also diverting massive funds from public schools to private schools, which are unaccountable to the public, subject to little oversight from officials and have been plagued by child abuse scandals.

While childhood trauma appears to be the leading cause of serial killers, other theories have been floated, including the glorification of serial killers in popular culture and the easy accessibility of guns. Corroborating the second theory, Radford University’s Serial Killer Database has identified shooting as the most popular killing method of serial killers. Others have pointed to hypermasculinity, militarism and white male entitlement.

But whatever the cause, one cannot dispute that serial killers are as American as apple pie. The term “serial killer” was even coined by an FBI agent. And with such an astronomical rate of serial killers, the United States is poised to retain its title as the serial killer capital of the world for the foreseeable future.

Public Media

The emergence of public media in the twentieth century shook the foundations of the media landscape. Public media would provide a valuable service to the public and rectify the numerous flaws of the private commercial media. Public media was developed in Britain in the 1920s with several lofty goals in mind. One goal was to create high quality, intellectually stimulating and culturally enriching content that would expand the horizons and broaden the cultural outlooks of viewers. Other goals included the creation of broad and diverse content and universal provision. Across the Atlantic, public media remained unavailable until the 1960s, when Newton Minow, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, delivered a historic speech denouncing commercial television as a “vast wasteland” and calling for the creation of more creative, educational and quality content. This remarkable speech paved the way to the establishment of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1967, signaling the launch of public media in the United States. The creation of the CPB led to the development of the National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). PBS developed Sesame Street, an educational children’s series aimed at preparing children, specifically low-income children, for school. Public media, unlike commercial media, strove to provide free, quality and accessible content in order to educate, inform, enlighten and enrich viewers and build high-minded and sophisticated public citizens.

Public media brilliantly executed its goals, providing the public with groundbreaking, educational and critically acclaimed content that made a mockery of the vapid sensationalist content clogging the commercial media airwaves. However, as the era of neoliberalism crept in, public media, along with the entire public sector, suffered. Budget cut after budget cut has forced public media platforms to turn to private contributors to remain afloat. And as government funding has dried up, public media has been forced to rely more and more heavily on private donations. This trend is likely to continue. The new reactionary administration has waged war on public media, calling for the elimination of funding altogether, which would force local public media stations around the country to close their doors. Though the final negotiated budget will probably maintain some funding for public media, the appropriation will likely continue to decline. The ever-shrinking government appropriation for public media and the system’s growing reliance on private contributions pose a threat to the values and goals of public media. Private contributions from wealthy sources inevitably come with strings attached, most notably the power to influence and shape public media content in accordance with their economic interests. The wealthy sources may require public media platforms to dumb down their content in order to appeal to a wider audience and steer clear of content that is critical of certain industries and/or the capitalist system itself. Thus, by depending on private donations, public media risks compromising its fundamental values and intents and morphing into a quasi-private system.

Public media is more necessary at this point in time than ever before. As the public sphere becomes increasingly segmented and polarized, a media system that has a broad and diverse appeal is crucial. The commercial for-profit media thrives on division and strife, and a non-partisan public media system is therefore needed to help bridge the differences among people and foster mutual understanding and respect. Furthermore, public media serves the public interest by providing educational and informational content, which play an essential role in cultivating an informed, cultured and engaged citizenry capable of solving local, national and international issues. By contrast, the ratings-hungry commercial media avoids educational and informational content like the plague in order to cater to the lowest common denominator, reach the largest possible audience and maximize profits for sponsors. Finally, public media is indebted to the public, whereas private media is indebted to a handful of wealthy shareholders and advertisers. Public media is thus fundamentally democratic and helps elevate the voices of ordinary working people and create a more egalitarian society. A completely revitalized, revamped and robust public media system is needed, one that is fully funded by the government and does not accept a dime of corporate money. The revenue can easily be generated by rolling back the spate of unnecessary tax breaks handed to the wealthy over the last few decades or by cutting the bloated defense budget. The investment will be worth every penny. Media not only shapes but also reflects society. And a society marked by communication, cooperation and equality is far more preferable to one marked by antagonism, cutthroat competition and drastic inequality.

The War on Higher Education

One cannot keep abreast of the news nowadays without coming across a hit piece on higher education and college students. Mainstream media outlets routinely bemoan the alleged widespread suppression of debate and discussion and the prioritization of feelings over facts on college campuses. The right wing, as always, has been at the forefront of the assault on higher education, depicting universities as liberal indoctrination centers populated by coddled politically correct liberal arts majors intent on suppressing free speech and silencing the right. Indeed, the majority of Republican voters now view universities as harmful to the country. But is this onslaught rooted in sincere concern for free speech or is there an ulterior motive?

As a recent graduate of a public university, I found myself puzzled by the negative characterization of universities, which was completely at odds with my college experience. On my left-leaning campus, there was no PC police, no liberal indoctrination centers and no safe spaces or trigger warnings (I actually learned these terms from the media). There were simply students pursuing their degrees. When I went to the tech center or library, the conversations around me typically centered on math and science. In fact, the two most popular majors are business administration and nursing. It’s almost as if people attend college to study and prepare for a good career.

In the classroom, the professors encouraged students to ask questions and provide comments. Most classes were discussion-oriented, and for the most part, discussions were civil and respectful. Respectful conversations only went south on a couple of occasions when conservative students made derogatory comments about certain demographics and insulted and attacked both students and professors who expressed opposing viewpoints. The professors, many of whom were adjuncts, rarely pushed back, and the other students remained quiet. Not only were conservative students not silenced but their insults and bigotry often went unchallenged and professors and students would go to great lengths to accommodate them. The day after the presidential election, one student, a queer black woman whose mother is undocumented, tearfully told a pro-Trump student that she was trying to understand him and his views. I would be hard-pressed to find a Trump supporter who was trying to understand the views of the left.

Right-wing viewpoints could be heard loud and clear around campus. Every day, a preacher stood in the middle of campus and loudly proselytized his views. And after the election season, a contingent of Trump supporters would regularly congregate on a popular street corner and hold up signs that read, “Homos, Muslims and Jews: Repent or Burn in Hell.” (When other students held up their own signs that promoted tolerance and equality, the police showed up to “monitor the situation”). On another occasion, a Zionist student aggressively approached and antagonized a group of female Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members, hurling insults and slurs left and right. He succeeded in provoking a male acquaintance of the group members to slap him across the face and immediately bolted to the media, posing as a victim of a brutal anti-Semitic hate crime and calling on the university to ban SJP. The media unquestionably reported his version of the incident, and the university released a statement condemning anti-Semitic violence.

Contrary to the narrative that universities are hostile to free speech and conservatives, it is conservatives who are hostile to free speech and progressives and have the backing of both the corporate media and law enforcement. And progressive professors have found themselves under threat. A few years ago, a University of Illinois professor was fired after he criticized the 2014 Israeli massacre of Gaza. More recently, a professor was fired after she had the gall to suggest that Americans should follow the laws of the land they are on. Another professor was censured for mocking the myth of “white genocide.” And at my university, a popular African-American professor, and a noted critic of capitalism and empire, was fired after he opposed the nomination of a white woman to the chair of the African-American studies department.

As a recent college graduate, I can attest to the importance of higher education. My education introduced me to new ideas, new people and new cultures. It taught me to think critically about the world around me and question dominant ideologies and beliefs. My mind was liberated and my consciousness was raised. Herein lies the true motive behind the assault on higher education. The gravest threat to the right-wing elite is independent thought. They are terrified of a populace that questions the virtue of capitalism, the genius of the Founding Fathers, the exceptionalism of the United States and the rightness of Christianity. In short, they are terrified of a populace that challenges their power. And throughout history, the most formidable challenges to their power have been mounted on college campuses. Universities have long challenged the establishment by spearheading powerful social movements, including the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement or, more recently, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement (which is currently at risk of criminalization by Congress).

Higher education critics claim that universities muzzle free speech and debate, when, in reality, it is precisely because universities foster free speech and debate that they are being smeared and muzzled. The smear campaign against higher education thus flips reality on its head. Instances that suit the narrative are cherry-picked, overblown and generalized to the entire college population. The goal is three-fold: discredit university dissent, dissuade the masses from attending college and justify education cuts and ultimate privatization. Indeed, amid the Evergreen protests, a Republican representative called for the privatization of the university. The elite envision a public that is free of educated thinkers and populated solely by ignorant, obedient laborers who can be easily manipulated to serve their interests. Education is their only obstacle.

Progressives, leftists, free thinkers and proponents of free speech must retaliate against this Orwellian assault on higher education and expose its true motives. We must use our voices to counter media narratives and emphasize the significance of higher education. We must not only fight against the creeping privatization of education but fight for fully funded public schools and universities to enable everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background or political beliefs, to receive a world-class education and pursue their hopes and dreams.

The United States has some of the most renowned and prestigious universities in the world, and I am proud to have attended one. Hopefully we can reclaim our universities as a source of national pride rather than shame and ridicule.

A Defense of Political Correctness

I am politically correct. I think women doing comparable work should receive the same pay as men. I believe that universities should seek out faculty members from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. I am angered when unarmed black people are gunned down by the police. I support programs that help homeless people, fund AIDS research and recycle.

What’s wrong with that?

It has become trendy lately to point fingers at the so-called politically correct as the “thought police,” “new McCarthyists,” even “neo-Nazis.” Critics have denounced non-sexist language and multiculturalism in a deluge of newspaper and magazine articles. PC opponents have waged a blistering attack on college campuses across the country, rejecting what they claim is regimented language and behavior. Indeed, PC-bashing is all the rage.

But political correctness is not about blindly policing language. It is about making conscious behavioral and linguistic choices and understanding why it is appropriate to do so. It is PC to call a 25-year-old female a “woman” rather than a ”girl,” because it puts her on equal footing with her male counterparts, who are not called “boys.” It is PC to say “humanity” and “police officer” instead of “mankind” and “policeman” because gender-neutral terms do not exclude or devalue women.

Women and minorities have long been required to check their speech. They have been taught to stifle themselves to make sure that they do not make others feel uncomfortable, to never create a scene. Thus, women do not always speak up when men sexually harass them on the street. People of color don’t always protest when they hear a prejudiced remark. Gay men often remain silent when they’re called a “faggot.”

Now, after years of making political and social inroads, a number of women and minorities have gained the confidence to speak up and challenge demeaning labels and attitudes. They now ask others to watch their speech in order to avoid offending others, something that they have been doing for years. PC opponents (mostly white men) feel persecuted by such a request. To them, watching what they say is a new and distasteful concept. What they don’t realize is that everyone else has been doing it all along.

Contrary to what the critics would have us believe, no one is being forced to acquire PC language or behavior. It’s just that the voices that were once ignored or silenced are beginning to finally be heard, and they are making it known that they are tired of the insulting behavior and language that until now has been accepted as the norm. The fact that so many people regard this request for a little respect as an egregious threat shows just how important the PC movement is.

It is ironic that PC people are accused of intolerance, when political correctness is all about tolerance. It’s about respect for human beings, progress, manners and basic decency.

PC means not whistling at women when they walk down the street. It means not waving the Confederate flag, not gay-bashing with verbal or physical violence and not beating a man half to death just because he is black. If you think about it, you just might be PC yourself.

My First Pet

Ever since I was a small child, I have always had a soft spot for animals. One hot summer day, when I was seven-years-old, my dad, my brother and I went to the ASPCA to adopt a cat. The cat room was cluttered with adorable and lively cats. Cages lined the walls and piled up high, towering over us. Amid the boisterous cats and chorus of meows, my brother and I spotted a tan cat in one of the back cages. The cat sat quietly in the cage with a disconsolate look in his eyes. We found his reticence endearing and decided with little debate that he was the right choice. As the staff readied him for our adoption, we began mulling over names for him. When the cashier rang up our purchase and said, “45 bucks,” we posited the name, “Bucky,” and instantly fell in love with it. We scooped up Bucky and headed home with our new pet.

Bucky spent the first week with us in hiding. He tucked himself underneath our beds and sat atop the dining room chairs behind the drooping table cover. We figured that he was simply shy and needed some time to acclimate to his new surroundings, but we later learned that his previous owners had abused him. I felt deeply saddened by these revelations and, in turn, sought to comfort and reassure him. I would often sit by him and occasionally reach a tentative hand into his hiding place and gently stroke his fur. I periodically fed him treats and attempted to roll balls back and forth with him. I wanted to show him the love and affection that he needed and deserved.

Eventually, Bucky came out of his hiding and settled into his new home, and the two of us became fast friends. We would play an assortment of games and run around the house together. He’d greet me at the door when I returned home from school and snuggle into the foot of my bed at night as I fell asleep. He eventually let me hold and carry him, and he would tolerate my frequent hugs and kisses. We developed a strong bond. I initially felt that I was the caretaker in this relationship, but, over time, I realized that we were both playing that role. I was exceedingly timid as a child and had few friends, and Bucky filled the void of loneliness inside of me. I began to love him dearly, and he warmly reciprocated. Eventually, I could not picture my life without him in it.

Our relationship remained quite durable throughout the years, but when the time came to enroll in college, it began to suffer its first cracks. For the first time in my life, I was living away from my home, my family and my furry companion, and we missed each other greatly. My mother told me that Bucky would regularly meow and paw at my door of my room. I returned home when possible and would always receive a warm and friendly reception from Bucky. But as I entered my second year of college, I began to notice a growing distance between Bucky and me. My time away from home seemed to weaken our once strong bond, and Bucky, in turn, grew closer to my father. On weekends at home, Bucky would spend more time in my father’s lap than mine, and I’d find myself falling asleep in an empty bed. But despite these fractures in our relationship, we continued to maintain a loving bond.

One day, I received a text message from my mother informing me that Bucky was not walking properly. By this time, Bucky’s fur had considerably greyed, particularly on his face, and baths became more and more infrequent. Nonetheless, I brushed off the text without too much thought. But a few days later, my mother sent me another text message informing me that Bucky was not eating or drinking. I began to grow concerned and decided to return home the next day. Upon entering the house and spotting Bucky, my heart sank. Bucky was very visibly frail and sickly. His eyes were sunken, his fur disheveled, and he struggled just to walk a few steps. He looked like death itself, and I could see the pain, agony and defeat in his timeworn eyes. My mother and I whisked him into the car and promptly drove to the veterinarian’s office. The vet only had to poke Bucky’s belly to determine the issue: he had tumors in his stomach and was on his deathbed. She said one of us could hold Bucky while she euthanized him. My teary-eyed mother shook her head, so I volunteered. I was not as emotional as I had predicted. Everything was happening so quickly that I did not have the time to fully absorb the events unfolding before me and realize that I was losing my closest friend. Almost mechanically, I held out my arms to hold Bucky one last time. The vet injected a needle into his arm, and I watched the life go out of his eyes as tears rolled out of mine. I stood holding my lifeless cat in my arms, stricken with sadness and shock, before proceeding to drive home and bury him.

A few days later, I was sitting on my bedroom floor looking through a collection of old family photos. When I came across some photos of Bucky and me from my childhood, I suddenly felt a pang of pain in the pit of my stomach. Reality finally struck me: my childhood companion was gone. I would never again hear his meow upon returning home or stroke his fur whilst he sat on my lap. I would never again get to laugh at his silly faces, feed him treats or fall asleep next to him. As reality set in, I found my eyes beginning to water. Though Bucky and I had drifted apart during the end of his life, I still cherish all of the wonderful memories we shared and fun times we spent together. Bucky was my friend when no one else was. We discovered much-needed love and companionship in one another and built a memorable and long-lasting bond, one that I will never forget.

Nearly three years later, I still miss my old furry friend. After his death, I pinned a picture of the two of us on my corkboard, my arm around him as he rubs his forehead affectionately against my temple, in order to properly remember our friendship. I will glance at it from time and time and begin reminiscing about the past, though this practice has admittedly become less frequent over time. Occasionally, I’ll hear a cat’s meow or come across a tan cat, and all the memories will start flooding back. But as I move forward in life, I know that many of these memories will inevitably fade. However, I will never forget that hot sunny day that I found Bucky, and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

A Media Literacy Analysis

One of my favorite shows growing up was the hit Nickelodeon cartoon Spongebob Squarepants. The silly, yet captivating show was very popular with my generation, and some of its best lines became staples in everyday conversation. One of the most well-received and memorable episodes is “Chocolate with Nuts,” in which the two protagonists, Spongebob and Patrick, go door-to-door selling chocolate bars in an attempt to become rich and live the “fancy life.” Before long, the two friends resort to lying about the candy’s effects in order to sell more chocolate bars. For me, the episode had some of the show’s most hilarious jokes and punch lines and really illustrated how a children’s show can address important ideas through silly humor. In critically analyzing the episode, I now understand that it reflects several cultural, economical and social ideas that are very evident with some thought but exist discreetly amid the show’s standard characters, plotlines and humor.

The “Chocolate with Nuts” episode is very significant on a cultural level. An important aspect of culture is food, and the episode centers on Spongebob and Patrick selling chocolate bars. The fact that they choose chocolate bars as their merchandise points to the candy’s high demand and irresistibility. Spongebob and Patrick know chocolate is a very popular food item, though chocolate bars contain high levels of sugar and fat and are considered junk food. Another food item featured in the episode is “barnacle chips,” which is a play on potato chips. Because the show takes place in the ocean, the show often combines our culture with aspects of marine life. Spongebob and Patrick see a billboard advertising barnacle chips and note the product’s success, despite its high salt and fat content. Thus, both food items featured as successful products are junk food, highlighting the domination of unhealthy food in American cuisine. Coupled with food, fashion is an important aspect of culture. This episode uses fashion as a symbol of social class and intelligence, much like American society. Spongebob wears a dress shirt, tie and pants, and he is hardworking, ambitious and middle class. On the other hand, Patrick simply wears tropical shorts with no shirt, and he is lackadaisical, dimwitted, and low class. The character that repeatedly scams Spongebob and Patrick into buying useless products wears a suit and tie, and he is high class and astute. Also, most of the customers wear casual shirts and pants and are middle class. After selling all their merchandise, Spongebob and Patrick use the money to rent out a fancy restaurant, wearing top hats and suits to dinner. Thus, their wardrobes now represent high class. These visual cues are symbolic of American culture, which often links formal attire with high class and intelligence, casual attire with middle class, and little attire with low class and stupidity. The episode highlights the notion in American society that fashion is a symbol of wealth, class and intelligence.

In addition to culture, the “Chocolate with Nuts” episode is significant on an economic level. An important aspect of economy is consumerism, and this episode satirizes the inane materialism that pervades American culture. The plot fixates on Spongebob and Patrick’s fascination with the fancy lifestyle and all of its luxuries. They read a Fancy Living Digest magazine in awe, which features high-priced, silly products, such as a swimming pool in a swimming pool. In selling chocolate bars, they desire to become rich and purchase similar luxuries. Throughout the episode, Spongebob and Patrick go door-to-door selling their candy and are easily tricked into purchasing merchandise from the same guy. He persuades them to buy candy bar carrying bags at two houses in a row, which pokes fun at the American habit of buying things you do not need. Spongebob and Patrick end up selling the majority of their chocolate bars to just one customer, who has an intense and frightening craving for chocolate that sends him chasing and screaming at the two chocolate bar salesman throughout the episode. The customer’s crazy and barbaric attitude satirizes the chaos and insanity that consumerism incites, often on Black Friday. At the end of the episode, after succeeding in selling all of their chocolate bars, Spongebob and Patrick immediately spend all of their money to rent out a fancy restaurant for one night. This absurd purchase mirrors many people’s impulsivity, lack of frugality and materialistic values. Thus the episode makes fun of several aspects of consumerism. Coupled with consumerism, capitalism is also an important aspect of economy. This episode pokes fun at the deception and lies that the free market allows advertisers and salespeople to employ in their marketing strategies. Spongebob and Patrick do not have success selling chocolate bars until they see a false billboard advertisement of a successful product. They decide to emulate that strategy and start telling outrageous lies about the effects of consuming the chocolate bars, including the abilities to fly and walk through walls. The guy, who sold Spongebob and Patrick the candy bar carrying bags, deceives them again by donning a full body cast, pretending to have been born with paper skin and glass bones. His nonsensical guilt trip succeeds in convincing Spongebob and Patrick to purchase crates of his own chocolate bars to help pay his medical bills. All of these silly lies symbolize the unethical and deceitful practices that free market competition encourages. Thus the episode satirizes capitalism’s corruption and lies and the senseless materialism that dominate the American consumerist economy.

The American consumers that control the economy also make up the social atmosphere in the country, and the “Chocolate with Nuts” episode has much significance on a social level. An important aspect of social relationships is social class, which is the central theme of this episode. In society, wealth is power and outlines a social hierarchy that grounds many social relationships. People typically associate with those who belong to the same social class but many inherently desire to climb up the social ladder and be among the wealthy. This hierarchy is showcased in this episode among the show’s three main characters: Spongebob, Patrick and Squidward. They all live on the same street and are among the middle and lower classes. But Squidward bemoans his state of living and despises his association with Spongebob and Patrick. He desires to be part of the upper class and heavily enjoys reading the Fancy Living Digest magazine. In this episode, the magazine is accidentally delivered to Spongebob, who spends enough time reading it with Patrick to develop an itch for wealth before Squidward angrily snatches it from them. When Spongebob and Patrick become wealthy, they end up simply renting out a fancy restaurant with two old women as their dates. The episode thus mocks the notion that the rich and fancy lifestyle is the ideal life, and Squidward’s hostility towards Spongebob and Patrick demonstrates how social class can characterize social relationships. In addition to social glass, gender is an important aspect of social relationships. The masculine gender is dominant in American society, and the show and this episode emphasize that dominance through its majority male ensemble. The show’s three main characters are males, along with the majority of the customers, whose wacky personalities drive their characters. However, the one female customer’s old age drives her character, and she is referred to as a “young lady” by Spongebob to flatter her. These personalities represent society’s double standard in judging men and women. Men are typically judged on their characters, whereas women are judged on their appearances. Thus the episode represents both social class and gender hierarchies, which underline and characterize many social relationships in society.

In conclusion, the “Chocolate with Nuts” Spongebob Squarepants episode is very memorable and meaningful to me personally, and it is highly significant on cultural, economic and social levels. The episode addresses the dominance of junk food, symbolizes fashion as a symbol for wealth and intelligence, satirizes the corruption of capitalism and the absurdity of consumerism and highlights the social class and gender hierarchies that outline social relationships in society. I have thus furthered my understanding of this episode as both a media text and cultural item by closely examining and critiquing it through cultural, economic and social lenses. In addition to enhancing my media literacy, I found it incredible that a simple children’s cartoon covered so many essential ideas and issues through farcical and outrageous humor. “Chocolate with Nuts” is hence one of my favorite episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, which was a huge cultural phenomenon throughout my childhood. The episode takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of how silly, fun and carefree life is as a child. Now, I can couple my feelings of nostalgia with a critical analysis and better media literacy.