Indulge me, gentle readers. I would like to speak to you today of SpongeBob Squarepants. I now, I know, with his cube-shaped, gap-toothed smiling face appearing on every lunchbox, notebook and bedsheet set, you’ve had just about enough of him, but hear me out. I am here to confess that his is my favorite show on television — and I’m not alone.
The average demographic age for SpongeBob viewers is a surprising 28. Okay, admittedly if you took out those under the influence of some variety of chemical that would probably dip to eight-year-olds, but I would argue that it is actually a pretty complex show.
It was my niece and nephew, Elena and Peter, who first told me about the show. We were parked out on the couch with my then infant son when the first strains of the bizarre piratesque theme song pulled my attention away from the catalog on my lap. “What’s this?” I asked.
They answered rather nonchalantly, “Oh, its SpongeBob Squarepants. It’s about a talking sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea.”
Huh? Slack-jawed I watched the show and was instantly sucked into the bizarre world of Bikini Bottom. What were these writers on when they came up with this? I wondered, trying to imagine the pitch and what kind of producers would have recognized this as a good idea (not to mention the tremendous hit it would become). As my son grew, he became interested as well, and whenever I walked by the living room and saw that bright yellow face, heard the effervescently cheerful voice, and spied the gloriously tropical colored graphics I would stop whatever I was doing to watch. I wasn’t sure why, but I was soothed by the show.
Now my mother used to say that Mickey Mouse was going to be the downfall of Western civilization. She claimed that he represented what Walt Disney considered to be the typical American: brainless, passive and relentlessly cheerful. I often wonder: what would she have thought about SpongeBob? I mean, he is so enamored of his minimum wage, fast food job he is willing to pay to work, and he is constantly going along with any exploitative scheme that his cheapskate boss Mister Krabs dreams up. His only goal is to earn his driver’s license so he can buy a boatmobile, thereby contributing to society’s consumerist mentality, and his fleshy pink starfish buddy Patrick is obnoxiously brainless yet somehow arrogant. I mean, really, SpongeBob is the ultimate stooge of a capitalist system. But even knowing all this, he still comforts me. Sorry, Mom.