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SpongeBob SquarePants at 10
May 13, 2009 1:58 PM   Subscribe

“He’s courageous, he’s optimistic, he’s representing everything that Mickey Mouse should have represented but never did. There’s even something Jesus-like about him—a 9-year-old Jesus after 15 packets of Junior Mints.” SpongeBob SquarePants at ten years old.
posted by ColdChef (61 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
posted by prufrock at 2:01 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like SpongeBob's attitude. He's enthusiastic, friendly and a little bit insane. He's what we should all aspire to be.
posted by ND¢ at 2:07 PM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


First and foremost, SpongeBob could be the poster child for James 1:2-4. SpongeBob perseveres through trial after trial doggedly pursuing maturity. James tells us that perseverance is the most valuable arrow in our quiver of spiritual growth. It is the character trait that God wants us to develop so that we will be “grown up” in our faith.
posted by ColdChef at 2:10 PM on May 13, 2009


As a cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants absorbed the advances made by John Kricfalusi’s The Ren and Stimpy Show—the mood swings, the fugue-like interludes, the surreal plasticity of the characters—but without the earlier show’s edge of psychic antagonism.

Not sure how I feel about that. I still can't look at SpongeBob without seeing Ren and Stimpy's influence splattered all over it. What the author calls "psychic antagonism" I always saw as adult humor.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Le Bob helped me get through many impossible mornings and for that I owe the yellow bastard a krabby patty or two. Bikini Bottom represent.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:24 PM on May 13, 2009


If the author can't see that Patrick the Starfish is in fact the ULTIMATE "Psychic Antagonism" he simply wasn't paying attention. The friend who (sometimes intentionally) blithely thwarts your every happiness is in fact the ultimate enemy.
posted by NiteMayr at 2:25 PM on May 13, 2009


I liked Ren & Stimpy, but watching it always made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. "Psychic antagonism" is a pretty apt way of describing the greasy minded sensations that show instills. Spongebob, while most certainly owing much to Ren & Stimpy, doesn't give me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:25 PM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Spongebob is more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - Spongebob Squarepants or Christianity.
posted by box at 2:29 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, check out the Infancy Gospel of Thomas--nine-year-old Jesus was a bit of a jerk, even without the Junior Mints.
posted by box at 2:32 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My kids already stopped watching this. So now I'm sneaking out quietly alone on Sunday mornings to see my square yellow friend.
posted by ouke at 2:37 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but something about the high pitched in your face tension of Sponge Bob seems to turn the children who watch it into hopelessly simpering ninnies. Kids will be kids, but that show has a peculiar (and imitated) quality of displacing their sense of knowing how to be relaxed.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:40 PM on May 13, 2009


What the author calls "psychic antagonism" I always saw as adult humor.

But with more cat litter. And nose-picking.
posted by amyms at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


What the author calls "psychic antagonism" I always saw as adult humor.

But with more cat litter. And nose-picking.


And revoltingly over-detailed close-ups of blemishes, chewed food, mold, otherwise unidentified goop, and other unsightly items.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:45 PM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised the article didn't explore Sandy Cheek's role in Spongebob's life. I think she's the most interesting character on the show.
posted by amyms at 2:49 PM on May 13, 2009


To me, S. Bob perfectly captures that 9-10 year old "goofy goofer" stage, at least for my kids. Plus, he inspired one of the Shins' best and least known songs.
posted by msalt at 3:02 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have tried to watch Sponge Bob on three separate occasions now, and just the opening credits freak me out something fierce. I yelp and turn the TV off. It's like this horrible, primal feeling. I really can't explain it.
posted by Nattie at 3:07 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"SpongeBob is one of the greatest believers in the American dream in all of children’s entertainment," says Greg Rowland, whose consultancy, Greg Rowland Semiotics, has performed brand analyses for Unilever, KFC, and Coca-Cola. "He's courageous, he's optimistic, he's representing everything that Mickey Mouse should have represented but never did. There's even something Jesus-like about him—a 9-year-old Jesus after 15 packets of Junior Mints."

So many awkward feelings. Yes, I like Greg's vivid imagery, but the notions which he refers to are not ones I want associated with a cartoon character. Is that American Dream the one of the better life? Maybe I missed that message in my few watchings of the cartoon, or maybe you've mixed the messages. And tying the potential of Mickey Mouse to a youthful Christ-child? This feels like all the filth of product branding, boiled into a syrupy sound-bite.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


tangent: box, I had heard about the story of young Jesus the Jerk, who killed the child who bumped into him, but have never read the others. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 3:57 PM on May 13, 2009


To me, S. Bob perfectly captures that 9-10 year old "goofy goofer" stage

don't you mean Goofy GooBer?
posted by nomisxid at 4:00 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My ninety-year-old grandma calls him "that yellow Bob" and sends us SpongeBob candies and other trinkets sometimes. She once said he reminded her of my husband (who is actually very mellow and not at all SpongeBob-like; of course, I don't think Grandma's ever seen the show, just the merchandise.)

One of my best friends used to nanny for a kid who ended up calling her "Squidward."




I can't believe that show's ten years old. Madness. (And I agree with solipsophistocracy that Ren + Stimpy was uncomfortable viewing. I appreciate SpongeBob's lack of heebies and jeebies.)

In fact,

Bikini Bottom has something of the flavor of a midafternoon classroom reverie. Gauzy flower-like symbols float in the upper depth; ferns nod, bubbles rise; wafts of Hawaiian guitar go by. SpongeBob stares and stares from the window of his pineapple-shaped house, making a tiny glockenspiel noise every time he blinks.

That actually kind of sums up why I always ended up enjoying SpongeBob when it happened to come on.
posted by Neofelis at 4:01 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have only one thing to say to all you Ren and Stimpy haterz:

I'LL TEACH YOUR GRANDMOTHER TO SUCK EGGS!!
posted by spicynuts at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Bikini Bottom."

I'm ashamed at how long it took me to get the joke there.
posted by ColdChef at 4:40 PM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel like I am defiantly in the minority here, but I do not like spongebob. I've sat through endless episodes while babysitting and can honestly say, I find it not only unappealing but appalling.

This (from the article) might be part of why:
"...the position of fry cook represents the summit of his ambition."

"SpongeBob and Patrick themselves are feverishly suggestible—no gimmick or promotion targeted at them can possibly miss."
posted by silkygreenbelly at 4:41 PM on May 13, 2009


I will never understand the allure.
posted by tkchrist at 4:54 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This (from the article) might be part of why:
"...the position of fry cook represents the summit of his ambition."


Your criteria for acceptable cartoon people is that they have realistic ambition?
posted by spicynuts at 5:02 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


nomisxid: don't you mean Goofy GooBer?

Of course you're right. But not so rock n roll, more like this.
posted by msalt at 5:16 PM on May 13, 2009


Watching Spongebob makes me miss Rocko's Modern Life. Don't step on the white ones. Hot lava. PINEAPPLES!

One of my favorite parts about Spongebob is how all of Pearl's male classmates are boring, generic, interchangeable fish. Reminds me of Catholic school dances.
posted by giraffe at 5:17 PM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have tried to watch Sponge Bob on three separate occasions now, and just the opening credits freak me out something fierce. I yelp and turn the TV off. It's like this horrible, primal feeling. I really can't explain it

Well, the creator did explain in an interview once that the opening credits were designed for kids to yell along with AND be suer-annoying to grown-ups, because all little kids know that anything a grown-up thinks is annoying is supposed to be THE COOLEST THING EVER to a kid.
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:21 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spongebob is completely awesome and I say that having discovered it and watched it, alone, as an adult. And not high or drunk. And I also completely agree with the "psychic antagonism" of R&S, although I would NOT say that SB is completely free of heebie-jeebies. See for instance the Halloween episode where he shaves off most of his sponge layer (which I actually deleted from our collection) or the one where SB and Patrick sell chocolate door to door and meet some pretty disgusting/disturbing characters (which I didn't delete but wish I could every time I see it).

Anyway, he's completely quotable at my house, from the youngest (<2) to the oldest (36).

- What in the name of Davy Jones' locker is a sal-lad?!
- Stop on your right foot DON'T FORGET IT!
- SB's slow, huge knowing grin when he realizes Squidward loves crabby patties.
- Now, I'm gonna let go of your lips...
posted by DU at 5:47 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I happen to like Spongebob Squarepants. He represents what, to me, is an essential part of children's entertainment: the capacity that children have to embrace the completely surreal for its own sake. There have been surreal television shows for adults, but they always, without exception, contain elements of reality like “plot” and “character development.” The best kids' shows take great pleasure in having none of that bullshit. Take Pee Wee Herman's show from some time back; it had characters, yes; it sort of had some plot, yes; it even had a few jokes, although those jokes were generally self-referential in that they were stupid on purpose; but the whole point of the show was abject surreality and the celebration of primal irrationality. Spongebob Squarepants is the same: he makes little sense, and that's the whole point.

But I came here to mention that it seems strange to me that nobody's mentioned the desecration, the defilement, and the complete abhorrent abomination that is the Spongebob Squarepants/Sir Mix-A-Lot/Burger King commercial, which frightens me in many, many ways.
posted by koeselitz at 5:50 PM on May 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


box: Also, check out the Infancy Gospel of Thomas--nine-year-old Jesus was a bit of a jerk, even without the Junior Mints.

He really was a terror at that age. Thankfully, by the time he was a teenager, he'd mellowed out a little; the trouble is that, by then, all his friends were jerks.

Yes, that was a Lydia Lunch joke. No, I'm not going to explain it to you.
posted by koeselitz at 5:54 PM on May 13, 2009


The movie is like the show, only an hour and a half long and with a very large budget.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:57 PM on May 13, 2009


And revoltingly over-detailed close-ups of blemishes, chewed food, mold, otherwise unidentified goop, and other unsightly items.

That's clearly part of the psychic antagonism. (starts biting nails and pouring beads of sweat)
posted by furtive at 6:08 PM on May 13, 2009


Ten years of marine biologist-approved six-tentacled squid and two-footed snails.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 6:20 PM on May 13, 2009


I think that SpongeBob episodes are pretty hugely uneven in quality. Some of the best ones-- Squidward directs a band, SpongeBob gets lost in an unfamiliar town-- are inspired silliness. But some of the lesser episodes have much less interesting plots and gags. I don't know who the good and bad writers are, but it's frustrated me a couple times when I've talked it up to someone, only to have an episode even I can't stand pop up.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:26 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a Ren and Stimply fan AND a SBSP fan. It's basically the difference between being high on crack and high on sugar. I do massively agree with the notion that SBSP is everything that Mickey Mouse should have been but wasn't.
posted by unSane at 6:47 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I kinda agree with koeselitz's assessment, by the way. But I don't like the show.

There's a section in some Malcolm Gladwell book where he talks about Sesame Street versus Blue's Clues, and how the former is made for both adults and children while the latter is aimed squarely and solely at the kids. This is a big change, and it's one that's taken place within my lifetime (and, as I don't have any kids, it happened without me really noticing--that is, until Teletubbies became a big fad). All the reasons that kids love Spongebob, and that it's a great show, are the same reasons that it's not for me, y'know?

Incidentally, gimme 8-Eyed Spy over Teenage Jesus any day. That skronky No-Wave horn sound is where it's at.
posted by box at 6:54 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: There have been surreal television shows for adults, but they always, without exception, contain elements of reality like “plot” and “character development.” The best kids' shows take great pleasure in having none of that bullshit.

I disprove you with this example: The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
posted by JHarris at 7:14 PM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I always liked Chance & the Contortions. Flip... Your... FACE!
posted by koeselitz at 7:51 PM on May 13, 2009


I'LL TEACH YOUR GRANDMOTHER TO SUCK EGGS!!

Is there any finer cartoon moment than Ren and Stimpy's Powdered Toast Man's instructions, to the Pope, voiced by Frank Zappa, "cling tenaciously to my buttocks!"?
posted by zippy at 9:00 PM on May 13, 2009 [5 favorites]




Aha. So that's why there's a massive SpongeBob chllin' on the roof of the local BK. It has mystified me for the past few weeks.

I avoided Spongebob when it first became popular, because, well, it was popular, and it just didn't translate well when people were attempting to describe it to me. Most modern cartoons give me a headache due to the choppy scenes, bright colors, and purposefully simple drawings that offend my sense of design.

But then I was forced to watch the movie one afternoon while I was baby-sitting, and I found myself crying I was laughing so hard. The poor kid watching with me had no idea what I found so funny; he was laughing at completely other stuff. Or we'd be laughing at the same scene, but not for the same reasons: he's laughing because it's funny to see them riding on some dude's leg, and I'm laughing because the dude is David Hasselhoff, for cryin' out loud.

That's when I realized SpongeBob might be a bandwagon worth hopping on.

But the huge inflatable SpongeBob continues to creep me out.
posted by paisley sheep at 10:06 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


SpongeBob is on in the mornings after the news so for 10 minutes a few days a week I get to feel like a kid watching saturday morning cartoons before I trudge off to work. He makes me giggle and I enjoy that. Also, it annoys the heck out of my flatmate as she is too cool for cartoons. Whatever, yo! Give me SpongeBob over Karl Stefanovic any day!
posted by latch24 at 10:17 PM on May 13, 2009


I hate the show, myself. Not that we don't break out in frequent theme-song chorus in the car sometimes.

But I love nail polish, and feel obligated to share with you that fancy-schmancy Rescue Beauty Lounge of New York includes in their high-end nail polish line the following colors:

Square Pants
Starfish-Patrick
Bikini Bottom
posted by padraigin at 10:20 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


SpongeBob loves life. Therefore, we love him. Problem is, SpongeBob has to love life in a universe where he's a wage slave, where his neighborhood is trashed with pop culture bric-a-brac, where his neighbor hates him just for trying to be friendly, where other people constantly chase fads. This is post-modern society?

Damn, that's depressing. At least SpongeBob's got a friend.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:58 PM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


When I think of spongebob, I can't help but think of walking across the desert at burning man (this was when SBSP wasn't hugely popular)...and saw a man wearing nothing but a spongebob t-shirt- the bright yellow one with a face, as if the shirt is bob's body. I excitedly said to my friend, "oh look, it's spongebob!" And, my friend replied, "you know that guy?" (meaning the pantless man).
posted by hazel at 11:07 PM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and from then on, SBSP became known as Spongebob No Pants.
posted by hazel at 11:20 PM on May 13, 2009


Spongebob is genius. However, it needs more squick - more, I dunno, Stimpyishness. More Rennitude.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:03 AM on May 14, 2009


One summer in San Francisco, I subleased a room from a 38-year-old dude who had a Spongebob shower curtain and a filthy Spongebob rug in his kitchen. He didn't like telling people how old he was, he didn't really have a job, and he sometimes disappeared for days at a time. He was perfectly nice to me, but those few months were slightly bizarre. I blame Spongebob.
posted by dreamyshade at 2:48 AM on May 14, 2009


I love watching SB with the kids. I love watching SB by myself. I can't put my finger on what I like so much about this cartoon, except maybe that it is so superior to the saturday morning crap I watched in the 70s and 80s.

My question is where the hell was spongebob when I was smoking pot? I quit long before the show started and I am certainly not going to start back up again but my god! I think that would much rather have gotten high to spongebob than beavis and butthead, and that is really saying something for me.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:48 AM on May 14, 2009


Those looking for a more Ren and Stimpy vibe in SpongeBob should seek out The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack (warning: sound). It's a mindfuck.

And if we're quoting favorite SpongeBob lines, well, "From now on only the captain says Argh!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:11 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like Spongebob, he is pure joy in the face of adversity, and darn funny to boot. I've always found it a refreshing reprieve from everything that has to be steeped in self-aware hip irony, lest it belie something genuine or emotional.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:40 AM on May 14, 2009


Chowder is another cartoon that seems to fit the surreal/bizzare/kiddie/quality mold of Spongebob and Flapjack.
posted by absalom at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2009


Imaginaaaaaation.
posted by greensweater at 6:39 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flapjack is a case of the network execs saying, "Make us a Spongebob of our own! You know, enthusiastic, happy kid, with the weird and gross stuff, nautical themes, the works!" And then the Animators were clearly resentful of the mandate, and have been doing everything in their power to get the show re-assigned to Adult Swim.

Captain Canuckle's thiiiiiinly disguised alcoholism is at once horrifying and hilarious - not because of "drunken antics", he never acts drunk, but because of the horrible consequences that alcoholism has on your life and the people in it. The constant need for the next drink, the complete derailment of his life, being passed out when he's needed, placing his addiction above the people he loves. To see it dealt with so honestly yet irreverently is very, very uncomfortable... but brilliant.

The problem I have with Chowder is that it tries too hard, and the characters aren't very compelling. The world it's set in is amazingly creative, though, and its obsessively detailed settings are always worth watching the show for.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:52 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a Ren and Stimply fan AND a SBSP fan. It's basically the difference between being high on crack and high on sugar.

I think that nails it. For me, SpongeBob SquarePants shows that you can still approach the surreal, stoner creativity of classic 70s kiddie TV in a Just Say No, Partnership for a Drug Free America era. In fact, it may be the first show that truly revives 1970s kiddie-show surrealism for a new generation.
posted by jonp72 at 7:07 AM on May 14, 2009


I have to say, I enjoy Spongebob, and it's fun having private jokes with the kids that are riffs on Spongebob lines. (I can even sometimes stop a bickering sibling brawl mid-scream by saying, a la Squidward, "I don't like your tone!" -- which usually makes them stop and repeat whatever they had just been shouting at each other in a high, angelic Spongebob voice, which makes them laugh, and then nobody remembers what the fight was about. Or by saying, "No, people. Let's be smart and bring it OFF!")

One night, a few years ago, when my oldest was maybe 6 or 7, I was putting her to sleep, and we were lying there in the dark talking about school and her day and why certain things and people are the way they are. Then, out of nowhere, she says, "So. Who was Jesus, exactly?" Now, the kids go to a Quaker school, their dad is culturally Jewish, and I was raised going to church and stuff, but we're a-religious. Meaning we talk about stuff and attend the holidays and celebrate things with presents, but we're basically secular with a little Buddhist thrown in. No church, no Hebrew school, just occasional mindfulness meditation. So she's heard of Jesus, but only vaguely. So I started out with the whole, "Well, he was a person, who was kind of like a teacher" thing, and she asked, "Like Martin Luther King, Jr.?" And I said, "Sure." I couldn't think about how to condense a whole big complicated thing into something her sleepy 6-year-old brain could understand or even tolerate, since maybe this was just a random bedtime-stalling question she didn't really want an answer to, so finally I said, "And people really like him because when he was alive and being a teacher, mostly he just wanted people to love each other and get along."

And she said, "Huh. Just like Spongebob."

And I paused and thought about how my mom would think I was going to Hell and I said, "Just. Like. Spongebob."
posted by mothershock at 10:14 AM on May 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


robocop is bleeding & absolom: Beat me too it. Spongebob, Flapjack & Chowder are Saturday morning for me and my 7yo daughter, tho I suspect that I enjoy Flapjack more than she does.
posted by kjs3 at 10:23 AM on May 14, 2009


I love chowder. The animation technique is definitely eye catching.

I really miss Mike, Lou, & Ogg.

The other day, I managed to score a complete collection of the "new" Duck Dodgers, including their hilarious take on another fave toon, Samurai Jack.
posted by nomisxid at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was flipping through a "quotes from Spongebob" book once (my cousin is a huge fan) and came across something that Spongebob said to Patrick once. I guess it was in an episode where Patrick was feeling down on himself for not being able to succeed at anything, and Spongebob had an idea:

"Okay: what you need is success. So we need to find something for you to do that you are guaranteed to succeed at, and then you'll realize that you can TOO do things. That's it! Come on, Patrick! Let's go OPEN A JAR!"

Something about that struck me as very sweet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 AM on May 15, 2009


Ahr ye ready, kids??

...[crickets chirping]...

I can't hear you!!

Arrrr, I reckon I be too late to this thread, aye?

I watched Spongebob a lot when my kid was much younger, like 7-10 years old. The thing I liked about spongebob is that many really great comix artists with cracked senses of humor have worked on the show over the years. And although they played the "dumb is funny" card a lot, the humor wasn't dumb at all.

Lately though, I watched it and it didn't seem as funny. Dunno if it's me, or a new batch of writers, or the inevitable downward slope of anything that's on TV for too long.
posted by not_on_display at 4:52 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


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