Childhood Cartoons Revisited

Cartoons from our youth dissected as a young adult

Spongebob Squarepants: Nickelodeon’s Lifeline

on April 6, 2012

For you to have never of heard of Spongebob Squarepants, you must either live in a pineapple under the sea, under a rock or in an Easter Island head. Since 1999, the little yellow sponge that is Spongebob Squarepants has become an American icon. His face has been plastered on everything including clothing, food, beverages, stores, jewelry, etc. Simply put, if you have a pulse, you’ve seen Spongebob Squarepants sometime during your life. The show is impossible to avoid, which has become a problem over the years. As is the case with just about everything in life, the longer something goes on, the worse off it becomes until eventually it dies off. Like every kid growing up, I adored Spongebob and would watch it anytime it was on the television. However, now that it’s been spamming my television screen for the past 13 years, I have grown tired of the show and just want it to end already. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon does not agree with my viewpoint.

Spongebob Squarepants made its debut on Nickelodeon way back on May 1, 1999, following The Kids Choice Awards. The show centers around the crazy happenings of a yellow sponge who wears square pants and lives in a pineapple in the sea city of Bikini Bottom. That was one of the strong points to the show; the names of the characters were so direct, but at the same time creative. Spongebob’s best friend, Patrick Star, is a pink starfish that lives under a rock. As a young kid, I glanced over some of the details of this show that were so obvious to me now as a college student. Patrick was portrayed as the least intelligent character on the show, constantly saying or doing extremely dumb things that the average person would never think of. But the symbolism in Patrick’s character is the idea that he lives under a rock. The old saying of someone living under a rock is used when someone hasn’t heard of a something that is well-known to the rest of the world. In Patrick’s case, it’s logic that he’s never heard of and it’s perfectly fitting that he lives under a rock.

My favorite character in the show was without question Squidward Tentacles. Squidward, an octopus who lives in an Easter Island head, neighbors both Spongebob and Patrick, and hates both of them with a passion, although they believe that they are all best friends. Squidward is the show’s pessimist, offsetting Spongebob and Patrick’s severe optimism. He finds himself desperately searching for peace and quiet, attempting to live out his dream of being a famous clarinet player or artist, even though he is terrible at both. I see a lot of Squidward in myself and that is why I like him as much as I do. We both have a sheer disdain for those who are overly cheery and want nothing more than to be left alone the majority of the time. We both take comfort in being alone or being surrounded by others that share our same values. Of the 320 episodes that have aired, Squidward has made an appearance in 270 of them.

The secondary characters in Spongebob Squarepants is what has really allowed this cartoon to air as long as it has. They open up a plethora of different story lines to delay the feeling that the show has grown stale. Most notably is the business rivalry between Mr. Krabs, the owner of a fast-food burger joint called the Krusty Krab, and Plankton, the owner of a failing restaurant called the Chum Bucket. Again, great names that are both simple and creative. Several episodes center on Plankton attempting to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula using a variety of evil schemes, but in the end are foiled. The funniest episodes of the show come when Mrs. Puff, a puffer fish that is the driving instructor in Bikini Bottom, is a central character. Mrs. Puff secretly despises Spongebob because of the misery he has instilled upon her, as she has experienced 38 failed driving tests of his, usually ending with her being sent to the hospital on a stretcher. I always got a laugh when Spongebob would hit a wall or an obstacle and crash the boat, causing Mrs. Puff to puff up. I still laugh when I think of that image.

Now I used to absolutely love Spongebob Squarepants growing up. Don’t get me wrong; it was a great show. But all good things must come to an end and Nickelodeon is crazy to think that they can get by with showing 10+ hours of Spongebob Squarepants everyday. A network cannot rely on a cartoon lasting forever and Spongebob is clearly past its prime. Everything has an ending point. If a cartoon as great as Rugrats can’t last forever then there is no way Spongebob can escape the same fate. As of today, there have been 204 30-minute shows produced with 168 of them already aired. In total, there are 320 individual segments within those 168 episodes. Spongebob Squarepants has won 27 awards, including its fifth straight “Favorite Cartoon” award at the 2012 Kids Choice Awards. There have been 16 special episodes of the show, three television movies, one theatrical movie back in 2004 and a second movie that will premier on the big screen sometime in 2014. The eighth season of the show debuted on March 26 and the network has already announced that it has picked up Spongebob for a ninth season. It doesn’t look as if Nickelodeon is ready to pull the plug on Spongebob just yet, which is bad news for those of us who have had enough of his annoying, high-pitched laugh.

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5 responses to “Spongebob Squarepants: Nickelodeon’s Lifeline

  1. Mike,

    I definitely agree that Spongebob is getting very old and it’s almost overdone. I have no problem watching the old episodes of some of my favorite cartoons, but so many times when they choose to keep going with a show that’s way past it’s prime it gets old fast. I used to love this show when I was younger too. It was one of those shows that was stupid but not too stupid. My favorite episode is the Krusty Krab training video. I can’t get over the part where the little guy yells “HOOPLA!”
    I really liked how you discussed why you felt a connection to Squidward in the show, I thought that was really interesting. I’ve always liked Squidward too because I think he’s a really dimensional character..he acts like he hates Spongebob but I think he really loves him deep down and as we’ve seen in a few episodes, he misses Spongebob when he’s not around.
    I do agree that Spongebob’s laugh can definitely get to me and I have no problem changing the channel when I hear it.
    Good post! I think its important to talk about shows that just won’t quit. There must be something about it that keeps the new generation interested, though I’m not exactly sure what yet.

    -Molly

  2. Mike-
    Though I have heard of Spongebob Squarepants, I must admit I have never seen an episode of the show. Because of this, I really appriciated your explaination of the show and it’s symbolism. I can see why the whole nautical theme would appeal to children, but I also do not understand how a show with such a simple plot has lasted so long.
    I really liked this post. It was focused, well formated, and taught me effectively about a show I had never seen before. Keep up the good work!
    -Laura

  3. bissell89 says:

    Mike,

    It’s funny, I missed out on the whole Spongebob thing, the show hit after I grew out of cartoons. The only time I’ve ever seen an episode, funnily enough, was with a stoner friend who insisted it we watch it. (I agree about the high-pitched laughter, I didn’t dig it.) I don’t know, even when I was a kid, cartoons were never really my thing, so it’s hard to relate on that. You do a good job summarizing the show though, and once again, the post is brimming with facts. Nice.

    -Alex

  4. deanna says:

    I agree that spongebob is past its time. I believe that all shows that are good should end when they are still good. They shouldn’t be dragged out until they are stale and can’t produce a good idea. When I was an anime geek I used to see that all the time and it really annoyed me. I agree that nicktoons needs to start coming out with some new ideas. They can’t rely on spongebob forever. I like how you put all the facts into the show and that you are making an effort to add personal information to your blog. Still I’d like to see more of you. Right now it’s mostly your opinions that I’m seeing and I’d like to see more stories about you in there.

  5. cmcphers says:

    I would say that I loved the post but would have liked to see is more personality. I think that you explain how you dee about the show, but I think that you should work on and decipher what your angle is in the story. In most of your past posts, you put a lot of things aout how you feel about the cartoon, but it was difficult because Spongebob was angled in a way that is new.
    I think that although Spongebob is still on air, they definite should!

    -Chris McPherson

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