As I watched an episode of Spongebob Squarepants with my daughter this morning a question began to nag away at me...

Why can TV shows get away with aggressive, somewhat frightening, behaviour in their episodes, yet picture book writers have to be super careful about how they phrase things?

An example:
As a result of having a picture book critiqued I was advised (by a very experienced author and reviewer I might add) to change "Someone painted a picture on my tunic. My mum's going to kill me!"
The reason given was that children of picture book age tend to take things too literally. Hence a mum killing a child for getting paint on their tunic would be far too scary. Drawing on my experience as a teacher I could see her point, and not wanting to frighten my readers I willingly changed it to something more appropriate.

However, this morning's episode of Spongebob had a gorilla thrashing Patrick and Sandy, who'd been put in a sack, within an inch of their lives!  As this was happening my daughter was calling out "No! Patrick are you okay?" She's 3 years old and the time slot it's on at is 7:30am so I wouldn't expect something inappropriate for toddlers to be on at that time...and I'm not generally offended by Spongebob's just raised the question...

Are there different standards for TV and books? (or is it just poor scheduling by TVNZ?)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. My daughter doesn't appear to have been traumatised by watching this episode, but it does serve as a reminder of the importance of monitoring what children watch!


  1. I've had the very same thought. I figure there is a departure, though I don't know the reason. But it certainly didn't start with Sponge Bob. Just watch early cartoons like Felix the Cat or Tom and Jerry, and we begin to see that cartoon violence has been around a minute. But maybe there's insight to be had from that.

    Suppose we adults figure kids can differentiate between cartoon violence and real violence—Or at least what appears to be real violence. So, maybe we figure children's imaginations sit too far inside the box of reality; and that things that happen in their minds are too closely related to things happening in real space.... Who knows?

    I would say, though, that I am forever seeing double standards in literature (not that the departures are necessarily bad). Take, for example, PB length. The moment I find out that picture books shouldn't be more than 1ooo words is the moment prior to picking up a Patricia Polacco book that comes in at a whopping 2500 words. But I digress.

    I think, bottom line: What is written and what is published are incredibly subjective things. What offends or bother's one, may completely delight the other. Go The F#@k To Sleep, anyone?

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