Nicktoon-cember Part 25: Spongebob Squarepants

Spongebob Squarepants, a title so weird and unpredictable yet somehow became Nickelodeon’s highest rated nicktoon. The show is also Nickelodeon’s longest running show as well. The show got started in 1999 and has since then been airing on Nickelodeon with new episodes to this day. The show takes place in the ocean, in that ocean we go to a fictional town called Bikini Bottom where fish and other ocean life live, and in that fictional town we focus on a sponge named Spongebob Squarepants who lives in a pineapple and follow the chronicles of his day to day adventures and endeavors. I remember watching the premiere episode of this series and thinking to myself there’s no way this series will last long and to my surprise not only was I wrong but this series was also very clever, funny, and enjoyable. Everybody loved this show, even adults found this show enjoyably good and funny and making a show that appeals to both kids and adults is never easy, I dare say it’s almost impossible.

Most of the show’s popularity had to do with its characters and their personalities. Spongebob wasn’t a very smart character, he was kind of dumb, and easily misguided but he was kind, innocent, and funny, and as time went people came to see his acts of dumbness as just him being misguided. Kind of like a child who doesn’t know right from wrong and is just trying to figure out the world around them. On top of having a good leading character we had a good cast of supporting characters. We have Patrick, Spongebob’s best friend and neighbor who lived under a rock because he’s a starfish and had the same personality and characteristics as Spongebob only more stupid but what saves his character is that he has thoughts and ideas of his own and can actually say some pretty smart stuff. Next up is Squidward, Spongebob’s other neighbor who is the exact opposite of Spongebob. Spongebob was fun-loving, kind, and innocent while Squidward was ill-mannered, mature, cynical, and a self-proclaimed artist. Because of Spongebob and Patrick’s immature behavior, Squidward easily gets annoyed by them and doesn’t like them all that much but there will be times in the show where he’ll be nice to them plus he drops a lot of funny lines here and there. There was also Sandy, an intelligent squirrel from Texas who moved to Bikini Bottom to study ocean life and practices karate with Spongebob becoming friends with him and often being the voice of reason for him. Finally, we have Mr. Krabs my favorite character in the show. He’s the owner of a restaurant known as the Krusty Krab where Spongebob and Squidward work at. Spongebob the fry cook and Squidward the cashier. Mr. Krabs is that boss who makes your boss look like a good guy. Mr. Krabs is a money-loving penny pincher, who is cheap and works his employees like slaves barely paying them and even finding ways to charge them extra taxes just so he can get money back. He loves money and will do whatever he has to to get more of it but despite that the guy does secretly love his employees and sees them as his friends, and he does have daughter named Pearl who’s a whale and a stereotypical teenage girl that he cares for and loves doing his best as a single father to make her happy.

On top of having a good cast of characters, the show had great episodes. Like there are a number of episodes where Spongebob attends boating school to get his driving license but every time he takes the test he panics at the wheel and fails the test destroying the school and nearly giving the instructor a heart attack. There are a few episodes where Plankton a copepod who is Mr. Krabs’ evil business rival tries to steal the Krusty Krabs’ secret formula to run Mr. Krabs out of business but keeps failing because his own stupidity or the stupidity of others. There are even a few episodes where Spongebob and Patrick meet their favorite superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy who are old, retired, and live in a retirement home and get them to come out of retirement and fight evil (yeah, I don’t feel like putting that clip in. I’m kidding, here: Other episodes include Spongebob and Patrick jelly fishing, annoying Squidward, and just normal everyday life events. Yep, the show was very popular with top quality characters, jokes, stories, and productivity but that all came to a crash in 2004.

In 2004, the show got a theatrical release movie which was also good and received positive reviews from everywhere but this movie would mark the end of Spongebob’s golden age. Originally, the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg had planned for the movie to be the show’s finale but the executives at Nickelodeon told him to continue the show. Hillenburg didn’t agree with this and chose to leave the show (he came back later to serve as an Executive Producer, but he doesn’t have a lot of control of what happens in the show as he used to) and along with him leaving so too did a man named Derek Drymon who served as the creative director for the show writing a majority of the stories from seasons 1-3 to the time of the movie. With Hillenburg and Drymon gone the show started going downhill on all fronts. The episodes lost their creative story-telling and became pandering episodes for little kids. Actually no, I take that back the episodes became demented and messed up. These new writers took are favorite characters and turned them into assholes. Seriously, in one episode Mr. Krabs almost drives Plankton to suicide and feels no remorse for it. In another Spongebob cripples Mrs. Puff and doesn’t feel any remorse for it and Mrs. Puff was no better as she tries to get Spongebob killed in the episode in order to get revenge on him. What the hell is wrong with these writers? In case you got this is a kid’s show not a horror show please think about your style of writing. The jokes weren’t funny or clever anymore, and the worst part of all is the character changes.

The characters went through what the fans like to call flanderization, taking a single (usually minor) action or trait of a character and exaggerating on that action or trait more and more over time until it completely consumes the character. Basically what this means is I take one trait of a character and keep exaggerating on that trait until that trait becomes his only defining character. Take for example Yu from Persona 4 the animation. Yu is wacky but he’s also cool, kind, caring and badass. Now let’s flanderize him and exaggerate on Yu’s wackiness pushing aside all of his other action and traits making him lose all of his badassery, kindness, and coolness until the only defining trait he has is just him being wacky. You see how that ruins the character? And that’s what they did to the characters in Spongebob Squarepants and it pisses me off. Spongebob and Patrick lost their misguided innocents and just became idiots that shouldn’t exist. Patrick got the worst of the deal. In the earlier seasons his stupidity was funny and a little bit charming but now he’s the biggest asshole in the show whose stupidity is annoying and actually comes across as a guy who hates and loves torturing his friends. Mr. Krabs just becomes a cheap money-lover who cares about money and nothing else (did I mention he almost drove Plankton to suicide in one episode?), Sandy barely appears in the show now, and probably the character who got flanderized the most is Squidward who barely gets any lines in the show now and becomes someone you can’t relate to. Yeah, I admit Squidward is a jerk but in the first three seasons he was a jerk you could relate to and understand. The reason why he’s such a jerk is because his life sucks so much. He has annoying neighbors who won’t leave him alone, works at a job that undermines him and his self-esteem, and lives a life of disappointment after disappointment but continues to live and laugh holding on to the hope that his dreams will come true. Plus the pain that was bought upon was usually well-deserved pain. He did something in which he deserved to be in pain. We don’t get that after season 3, all we get is a character who has only a few lines of dialog and one expression. So with all these changes does this mean the show is bad? No, not completely. While the show may have gone downhill after the movie the first three seasons are very good, creative, and funny and keep you coming back for more. While the show may have gone downhill after the movie I’m pretty sure if you look hard enough you’ll find an episode or two that still reminds you of the golden era of the show and gets a good laugh out of you. In the end Spongebob Squarepants may not be entirely bad but it is a show that needs to come to a satisfying end so the show’s reputation and legacy can be salvaged.

Posted in Nicktoon-cember, Specials and tagged , , , .