Life lessons from Spongebob Squarepants

An Irishwoman’s Diary

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie


Sometimes, help comes from the most unexpected quarters. If you were to pick a television show with the potential to save lives, a cartoon sponge with a pet snail might not be the first show to spring to mind.

But the show containing the most valuable life lessons of all is clearly Spongebob Squarepants, the cartoon about the optimistic yellow sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. It has been cited on several occasions as the inspiration for heroic feats of lifesaving.

Back in 2015, Staten Island teenager Brandon Williams saw his classmate Jessica Pellegrino choking on a piece of apple and he performed the Heimlich manoeuvre to dislodge the apple. When asked how he knew about it, he referenced a Spongebob episode. In it, Patrick the clueless starfish performed what he described as the “slimelich” manoeuvre on a clam that was choking. Patrick broke the clam’s back in the process, but that’s not important right now.

Incidentally, the clam coughed up a pearl which made Spongebob richer than his wildest dreams but by the end of the episode he had lost it all so don’t take financial advice from this programme.

Five years earlier, Long Island student Miriam Starobin performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on her friend who was choking on a piece of gum and again cited Spongebob as her learning source.

Also that year, Reese Ronceray (8) from New Jersey saved his five-year-old neighbour from drowning. He said he copied a scene from Spongebob SquarePants where the lifeguard brought a drowning fish to the surface.

Now that particular episode threw up a few troubling questions for me. Most problematic is the fact that they are all marine creatures living under the sea so why would they need a lifeguard? And a fish that needs rescuing from drowning is stretching credibility – even for a programme about a talking sea sponge. In another shocking plot hole, it emerges that Spongebob is a non-swimmer with a massive fear of the water.

But perhaps we should focus on the lifeguard’s rescuing technique because that is what young Reece did when he swam to the surface with one arm around his little neighbour.

Grateful parents always knew this, and now it’s official – Spongebob Squarepants truly saves lives. But it’s not the only unlikely lifesaving piece of television. Who would have thought that the X-Factor could play that role? Especially when you hear some of the caterwauling involved. And that’s just the judges.

It’s not a good day when you audition in a singing competition and the judges immediately suggest getting medical attention for your voice. But it was a good day for Jacqui Gray when she auditioned for Simon Cowell and his team in 2007. He said her voice was “very odd-sounding” and something was going on in her throat.

Both he and Sharon Osbourne recommended that she should see a doctor. That was exactly what she did, and she was diagnosed with bronchiectasis – a lung disease which can prove fatal if it goes untreated. She has been singing the judges’ praises ever since.

Not watching ER back in 2002 could have proved fatal for Angela Cooper. The American had been suffering from headaches and forgetfulness but put it down to stress until she watched the medical drama. The character Dr Mark Greene was being tested for a brain tumour and was asked to stick out his tongue. When he did, it went to one side, which suggested that he might have the tumour.

Ms Cooper realised that her symptoms matched his. She did the tongue test in front of the mirror and saw how it moved to one side. She hurried to her local ER to tell them what she just saw on the other ER, and she was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. She was reported to be cancer-free, three years later.

In the UK, the Hollyoaks soap saved the life of one of its biggest fans in 2007. Beth Cordingly had been suffering from what she thought was a virus, her GP thought it was an eye problem.

She was lying on the sofa watching Hollyoaks when the storyline started to sound very familiar. Several characters developed the same symptoms as she was suffering, because a faulty boiler was releasing carbon monoxide. She immediately switched off her gas heater and went to the hospital. Doctors said another 24 hours in her house could have proved fatal and it took two weeks to clear the poisonous gas from her system.

Who’d have thought it? Hollyoaks diagnosed a condition better than a doctor.