You know the average American probably can’t tell you who lives in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Hello Mr. Donald Trump. I am here to inform you that you I am placing you under citizen’s arrest. What are you, a moron? But what they probably can tell you is who lives in a pineapple under the sea. SpongeBob SquarePants is the most popular cartoon of my generation and nothing else really even comes close.
Here’s a challenge. Try scrolling through your typical social media feeds and see how long you can go without seeing anything Spongebob related. You may find that it’s pretty difficult because Spongebob is absolutely everywhere. People post Spongebob pictures from Tumblr to 4chan and everywhere in between and even more impressively almost all of the Spongebob related references memes and reaction images you see are based on the first three seasons of the series, a stretch of about a hundred and twenty episodes that most people would classify as the Golden Age of Spongebob.
If you look at Nickelodeon’s programming scheduled today SpongeBob SquarePants, a 19 year old cartoon, still receives more airtime than any other show on the network. To put that in perspective Futurama came out the same year as Spongebob and since then it ran for four seasons on Fox until it was canceled and then acquired by Cartoon Network where it aired as reruns on for three years. Then starting in 2006 the series was released for direct to DVD movies until 2010 when Comedy Central aired the series for two more seasons until it got canceled for the final time in 2013. That is until 2014 when future run were returned to Fox for a one-time crossover episode with the Simpsons and since that point the series has continued to air as reruns on Comedy Central and now Sci-fi and during that whole journey over all that time Spongebob has been continually broadcast on Nickelodeon.
If you compare Spongebob to other children’s cartoons released during the same time nothing even comes close to its longevity. Rocket Power came out the same year as Spongebob on Nickelodeon and it aged about as well as polio. Even historically good cartoons from around the same time as SpongeBob like Powerpuff Girls and Jimmy Neutron, all these cartoons were off the air by 2010 but not Sponge Bob and it should be no surprise why Nickelodeon still airs Spongebob as much as they do. Since Spongebob premiered in 1999 the show has generated over thirteen billion dollars in revenue from merchandising alone and considering Viacom, Nickelodeon’s parent company, earns about thirteen billion dollars of revenue per year you can infer that Spongebob alone has accounted for at least five percent of Viacom’s total revenue since 1999. Keep in mind that’s not just five percent of Nickelodeon’s revenue that’s five percent of the total revenue from every media property Viacom owns so you’re damn right they’re gonna keep airing Spongebob for as long as they’re in business.
Spongebob just keeps going and for as long as I can remember. Spongebob has always been popular. Everyone watched Spongebob when I was growing up in elementary school and as everyone got older and passed the age when most people grow out of watching cartoons Spongebob always seemed to stick around. You were never too old to make a Spongebob joke. Even during Spongebob’s later seasons it never really grew stale for me because I transitioned to watching YouTube poops of old spongebob episodes. Spongebob, the first video in the history of my channel to reach a thousand views, was a Spongebob Toutube poop. You could argue that the first three and a half years of this Youtube channel were built almost entirely from the popularity of my remixing episodes of spongebob. Even today new Spongebob YouTube poops continued to garner hundreds of thousands of views and extending beyond ytp.
Spongebob has become almost synonymous with meme culture on the Internet today from vines to reaction images to portrayed by Spongebob. Spongebob is by far the most popular cartoon character of te millennium. He has reached a status on par with the likes of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Homer Simpson but by many measures Spongebob is a more relevant character than any of them. Characters like Mickey Mouse are superficially popular due to branding and marketing. Kids today are certainly not watching Mickey Mouse cartoons or sharing Mickey Mouse memes and the character has almost completely receded into the role of a corporate mascot. Principal Skinner the happiest place on earth is a registered Disneyland copyright no no and it’s heading for a great big lawsuit you’ve made a big mistake Skinner well so did you you got an ex-green beret man I spent the next three years in a POWs camp. Characters like Homer Simpson are certainly iconic. However they exist more as relics of a bygone era.
Unlike Mickey Mouse The Simpsons grew organically in popularity and became one of the most essential cultural elements of the 1990s quality schmolitor the by the TV show I’d run that suffering in the ground but it’s 2018 now and the Simpsons is not exactly the most cutting-edge programming anymore. Homer’s legacy has already been decided and the character has nothing new to bring to the table. Spongebob not only rose to fame organically but it continues to grow and evolve within our culture 19 years later.
Next. Newest picture. It’s a never-before-seen sneak-peek at Spongebob Squarepants right after the Kids Choice Awards. You think of an event so gigantic that it changes the course of history. Do you think of a dawning of a new one, yeah here’s to another lousy millennium downward spiral. The term millennial gets thrown around a lot these days and I don’t really buy it. I think it’s just a slippery blanket term invented by 40 year old marketing people to describe young people who know how to use the Internet. We’re the first generation to have access to unlimited information. We don’t follow for the same marketing tricks that corporations used on our parents and companies can never figure out what we like because we don’t know what we like. Actually that’s not exactly true. We know one thing we like and that’s Spongebob. Spongebob has somehow managed to become the most quintessential entertainment property among young people this one show was able to crack the code of the most complex generation in history.
In the entertainment industry companies have invested millions in trying to come up with a character like Spongebob. Every media company wants a Spongebob a character that becomes so popular that it practically prints money for the network and ironically Spongebob wasn’t created by corporate think tank. He wasn’t created by a fleet of overpaid marketing public relations and diversity specialists. The most popular children’s cartoon of the 21st century was created by a marine biologist. I actually for a while studied marine science before animation. So when I start to think well if I were to do an animal show what would I do and not one about bunnies or dogs and cats it would be about these sea animals that I really like and and and somehow all that information sort of collided into one thing spongebob.
But have you ever wondered why Spongebob is so popular? You’re probably thinking it’s the humor. Practically every reference to Spongebob today exists within the context of comedy. I mean Spongebob has so many funny scenes that you could probably quote word-for-word,the style of comedy is just so random zany and unexpected. So with SpongeBob’s humor really that much better than every other show, well no not really, actually plenty of cartoons have a similar style of pacing and comedy and they aren’t nearly as popular. Maybe you could argue that Spongebob invented the style and similar cartoons aren’t as popular because the audience sees them as discount knockoffs. But even if that were true the difference in popularity between something like The Simpsons and Family Guy is far less than the difference between Spongebob and a show like Chowder. Something else is definitely going on here so what exactly makes Spongebob stick out so much from other cartoons. What makes Spongebob so memorable, what makes Spongebob click.
Well to find out I decided to watch some old episodes. I couldn’t quite figure it out until I saw this one scene from one episode then suddenly it all made sense. But before I get into what I discovered let me first preface it with a simple question who is the most important character in Spongebob? Now you’re probably looking at that and thinking no shrimp barnacle head it’s the character whose name is the title of the show and yes obviously Spongebob is the face of Spongebob but is he really the most important character? Sure he’s an energetic and optimistic protagonist but then again so were a dozen other cartoon characters from the 2000s. Spongebob alone wasn’t enough to carry a show to transcend in popularity. So who was? Maybe you’re thinking it’s Patrick and his hilariously idiotic quotes and moments. You got it set to M for many when it should be set to W for boom but once again the dim-witted best friend character has showed up in a ton of other cartoons before and after Spongebob so Patrick is nothing special. Maybe you’re thinking Mr. Krabs is the most important character and how is ruthless penny-pinching greed is a brilliant commentary on how massive corporations are suffocating American society but to be fair you have to have a very high IQ to understand the deep anti-capitalistic themes of SpongeBob SquarePants so Mr. Krabs probably isn’t the character that gives the show the widest appeal.
No, no the most important character of Spongebob isn’t Mr. Krabs, Patrick or even Spongebob. The character that single-handedly makes Spongebob work is Squidward Q Tentacles and it might not be obvious why but when I watched this one very simple scene from the episode Dying for Pie all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together. This short basic clip with no dialogue represents precisely why Spongebob is such a popular show.
When I watched this scene as a kid I was Spongebob but when I watched this scene today I’m Squidward. You see four kids that grew up watching Spongebob this show acts as a link, a connection, a time warp between their past and present selves. When we were kids we all acted like Spongebob. We were joyful, naive, enthusiastic, optimistic. Everything we did seemed like a new fun adventure then somewhere along the way almost everyone turns into Squidward – bland, cynical, pessimistic trapped in the monotonous never-ending routine of adult life.
In case you’ve forgotten here’s how things work. I order the food, you cook the food then the customer gets the food. We do that for 40 years and then we die. Get back to work Mr. Squidward.
SpongeBob and Squidward represent a balanced dichotomy between the innocence of childhood and the cynicism of adulthood.Just think about Squidward’s life in the show; it sure sucks doesn’t it. He works a minimum-wage job as a cashier. He tries to find happiness and his only true passion of art and music maintaining a sliver of hope that one day he can quit his job at the Krusty Krab to become a commercially successful artist. But his lack of talent can only produce works that are mediocre at best society rejects his efforts. He’s told time and time again that his passion projects are no good, leaving him doomed to toil in a dead-end career of fast-food service. He believes he’s better than everyone else yet there he is stuck in the same pen as the rest of the simpletons. He has abandoned his dreams. He knows he’s not good enough. Life has defeated him leaving him to stew in bitter contempt at how society has dealt him an unfair hand.
Now tell me does that description not represent almost every young adult of this generation, but a visit to the Krusty Krab makes everyone happy. Hey what could be better than serving up smiles. It seems like most of us wish we could go back to being like Spongebob, but do we really. If you strip away the bright colors the wacky underwater setting and all the weird anthropomorphic fish people SpongeBob’s life is just as depressing as Squidward’s. He works the same dead-end job at the same fast-food restaurant. He too has a passionate hobby that gets rejected by society. No one respects him. He’s not tough, he’s not strong, he’s not cool, he can’t pass his driver’s license test no matter how many times he tries. SpongeBob’s life is just as depressing as anybody else’s and yet through all of that he keeps his chin up and keeps on trying. Spongebob is the anti Squidward and Squidward is the anti Spongebob and their conflict is the essential thematic clash of not just the show but the lives of the audience watching the show.
Some of the best and most memorable Spongebob episodes of all time are the ones where SpongeBob and Squidward are involved in the same adventure. Let’s look at Idiot Box where Spongebob is able to derive more entertainment from a cardboard box than Squidward can from the television that accompanies it. Eventually SquiIdward unlocks the same enjoyment by learning to use his imagination. If you look at the plots of many Spongebob episodes involving SpongeBob and Squidward you’ll start to notice a pattern. Squidward and SpongeBob have to do some common tasks. Squidward’s cynicism clashes with SpongeBob’s enthusiasm until ultimately SpongeBob’s childlike optimism wins out and Squidward gets to experience a rare moment of genuine happiness only for his misery to quickly reset for future episodes.
But what about when the opposite happens when Spongebob experiences a rare moment of sadness. Well that happens in one of the most classic and popular episodes of all time, Pizza Delivery, it starts off as a typical SpongeBob and Squidward with SpongeBob’s optimistic spirit overcoming adversity and dragging Squidward along a marathon delivery route. For the whole journey Squidward wants to quit. He doubts Spongebob time and time again and even tries to sabotage the delivery at one point and yet despite all of this SpongeBob’s antiquated Survival Guide manages to miraculously bring them to their destination and then after all that effort this piece of fat slammed the door in SpongeBob’s face. This goddamn barnacle head is the most despicable villain in the history of fictional characters. A character so hated that they never ever brought him back. This guy should serve as a permanent reminder that you should never act this way to anyone who works in food service. Their lives are bad enough but anyway this barnacle head gives Spongebob such a brutal dose of reality that it completely shatters his naive optimistic bubble and we get a rare moment where Spongebob is genuinely dejected. This prompts one of the most memorable scenes in the whole series when Squidward puts his cynicism aside and sticks up for his friend. It’s a truly gratifying and heartwarming moment and it really makes you wonder about the true depth of Squidward’s character.
Once again if you really pay attention to some of these Spongebob episodes you’ll start to notice that Squidward often learns a lesson or changes its attitude. In many cases Squidward is as much of a protagonist as Spongebob. This idea gets fully realized in Band Geeks an episode that many fans regard as the greatest Spongebob episode ever. This is an episode that hands Squidward the reins. He finally gets an opportunity to follow his dream and make it big as a successful artist and just like every other one of his attempts at chasing his aspirations it begins to look like a complete failure but then just when all hope seems lost Spongebob helps the entire town band together and they deliver the best musical performance in the history of the bubble bowl and in the end Squidward is stood into the air triumphant, at last finally achieving his dream of becoming a successful artist. I don’t care how long the series lasts or whatever the final episode is because this moment right here is the true spiritual series finale of Spongebob Squarepants.
But why should we care about any of this. Spongebob isn’t real, Bikini Bottom isn’t real, nothing about Spongebob is real and at the end of the day Spongebob is just a series of colourful images strung together for 11 minutes a pop. A TV show that hasn’t even been good since 2004. But that’s the thing though why did Spongebob stop being good. Why do all of the show’s most memorable moments seem to only come from those vaunted first three seasons? For most fans everything else has been simply mediocre. Numerous essays have been produced attempting to explain SpongeBob’s decline in quality from season four onward citing reasons from creator Stephen Hillenburg departure to production changes to creative burnout. All of these explanations seem to have one thing in common. They all have a shared sense that new Spongebob is missing something and for me that thing is the essential dichotomy between SpongeBob and Squidward. In the early season Spongebob was an adult with childlike qualities. However if you pay attention to his characterization in later seasons he’s basically just a child. Squidward hasn’t changed that much but it doesn’t matter because simply changing Spongebob was enough to throw their entire character dynamic out of whack. SpongeBob and Squidward used to be foils, they were both just a couple of dudes in the same crappy situation but their outlook of that situation is what made them distinct.
The comedy and fun of Spongebob came from how Spongebob and Squidward saw the world differently and when you take Spongebob and turn him into a brainless child who cries over McDonald’s toys you completely destroy this balance. You no longer have a dichotomy of perspectives towards adult life. All you have at this point is Squidward basically babysitting kid Spongebob for 11 minutes rather than having Spongebob act as a foil for Squidward. You make Spongebob antagonize Squidward through obnoxious antics. This kind of stuff may have worked for Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd but it’s just not the kind of stuff that made us love Spongebob and yeah obviously there’s more to Spongebob than just Spongebob and Squidward but the same theme applies to basically everything that’s wrong with the later seasons of the show.
Spongebob started off as something truly unique and special and in just a few seasons they turned it into just another cartoon for children. The reason Spongebob became mediocre was because they removed the spirit of what connected the show to adults and the later seasons of Spongebob aren’t that good but you shouldn’t let that detract from what the show managed to accomplish during those first magical 120 episodes. There are millions of people out there who grew up watching Spongebob and are in their 20s now. People who probably stopped watching cartoons over a decade ago but still get a kick out of Spongebob references. Spongebob managed to define an entire generation and there are very few other television shows that can make that claim. I don’t think there’s a single other show that truly captures the essence of what ever a millennial is. A generation who has been raised with dreams of grandeur only to fall into a wasteland of mediocrity, a collection of young adults who desperately want to believe that they’re unique, that they’re talented, that they matter despite finding themselves wasting away in a dead-end job lining the pockets of some rich a-hole.
The sad reality is that most of the people my age are a generation of Squidward’s people who feel like they deserve better. People who feel like society has inhibited them from fulfilling their true potential. People who have grown cynical and jaded and depressed because they believe that the world has screwed them but I don’t see why it has to be that way. I don’t see why people can’t try to be more like Spongebob. I think when we grow up a lot of us are so desperate to act older and be mature and cool and edgy but I think somewhere along the way a lot of us lose sight of something important. We are all born with an inherent sense of childlike wonder When we’re kids everything is just so much more interesting. We’re naturally curious, we’re eager to discover the world and interact with it. We have hyperactive imaginations. We draw pictures, we write stories, we create things that have intrinsic value to us because we take satisfaction in creating them and eventually there comes a time when we just stop. The world stops being fun, we stop exploring, we stop imagining everything becomes dull and repetitive and uninspired.
But why do we do this to ourselves. We suddenly jettison our capacity for creativity and imagination and for what? To fit in better with other sad boring adults. I bet that everybody watching this can remember a moment in their lives when someone has told you to. It’s all too common for our society to stigmatize people who demonstrate signs of immaturity but as far as I’m concerned as long as you’re a good person and you pull your own weight what difference does it make if you occasionally act like a kid. Being an adult blows. You have taxes, insurance, rent payments, lawn care, litigation, hair loSs, weight gain, erectile disfunction and on top of all of that you’re expected to be boring too. So excuse me if I’m unwilling to abandon my childlike sense of wonderment in exchange for those fantastic perks. You shouldn’t have to buy into this nebulous perceived notion of maturity. AAs a matter of fact most people don’t buy into it if they’re being honest with themselves. When you look at the comments of any YouTube video about something more than five years old you’ll see people nostalgically fawning about the good old days. It turns out everyone’s in a race to grow up until they finally get to be grownups, then all of a sudden they want to be young again. Some of these people have such a strong desire to return to the past because they feel like everything has changed for the worse when realistically the world hasn’t changed for the worse, your outlook has.
You’ve become a Squidward and remember no one wants to be a Squidward and everyone should want to be more like Spongebob. I don’t care if you’re the most jaded cynical edgy dude on the planet you should still try to be like Spongebob because Spongebob has something that the Squidwards of the world will never have and that’s genuine happiness. I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that you only get to be a kid for so long. Enjoy it and even if you think you’re too old you shouldn’t let that stop yourself from enjoying the same stuff you did when you were a kid. You shouldn’t worry about those people telling you to act your age because that’s just another way of telling you to be boring so don’t be boring. Go out and have some fun like a kid.Draw a picture, write a story sing a song, watch some cartoons and if you happen to watch one about a talking sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea you can stop and appreciate it because there will never ever be another cartoon like it it’s not about winning, it’s about fun.