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Why I Still Binge Spongebob Squarepants as a 22-Year-Old.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? The sea sponge whose endless optimism has kept me sane since childhood.

Gen Z - my generation - arguably has the best cartoons associated with our formative years. Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time, Phineas and Ferb, Teen Titans, and Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends are just some of the few gems which graced our television screens after we came home from school. But what was the holy grail of these fantastic cartoons? That nautical nonsense we couldn't get enough of? The television program even our parents knew the theme song to?

That's right: Spongebob Squarepants.

Whether you've watched the show or not, you know who Spongebob Squarepants is. Everyone does. He is my generation's Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny. He's been on TV for over twenty years now, and is considered Nickelodeon's iconic yellow mascot.

Outside of the television screen, he's everywhere. There are three movies about him, a Broadway show, some hip hop lyrics, a Super Bowl appearance, popsicles, parade floats, and more memes on the internet than fish in the deep blue sea.

I think the reason why the cartoon is still beloved today is because of how secretly intelligent it is. It's made for kids, but adults can laugh at the jokes, too. There are some surprisingly mature themes within its eleven-minute episodes that make the characters and circumstances relatable. For example, Spongebob and Squidward both work dead-end jobs at the Krusty Krab. As a kid, I never understood why Squidward was so grumpy all the time. Now that I've dealt with annoying co-workers and bosses who value money more than the wellbeing of their employees, I relate to him more than any other character.

And why else is the cartoon beloved? All the quotable lines, of course! "Is mayonnaise an instrument?" and "Imaginaaaation!" and "Who ya callin' Pinhead?" are some of my favorite phrases. The show's remained iconic because of good writing like that. It also helps Spongebob Squarepants prioritizes visuals over dialogue. That's why it's easy to remember those quotes: because there are actions and expressions that go with them.

If you know me personally, you know how much I adore Spongebob Squarepants. I love it to a semi-embarrassing degree. My brother teases me often for how much I quote it. This is no joke - I once made friends with a boy in my college class because he understood my "immeeeeediately" reference from the episode "One Krab's Trash." I'm probably going to be quoting Spongebob even when I'm in a nursing home.

Besides referencing Spongebob 24/7, I have a Spongebob lanyard and a big yellow Spongebob rain poncho from when the first movie was released. I've dressed up as Patrick Star for Halloween (in the presence of Tessa Thompson, no less), and when my famous TikTok friend, Henry Qiu, 3D-printed a bunch of "Bold and Brash" earrings for his online shop, I was one of the first to buy a pair. They are now my most prized possession.

My "Bold and Brash" earrings made by Henry Qiu. You can buy a pair from his online shop! (Sold out now, but will be restocked!)

Spongebob Shame

Here's the thing: while I'm unafraid to express my love for the show now, there was a time I was very embarrassed to call myself a Spongebob fan. When season 4 was released in 2005, the show suffered a noticeable dip in quality. Stephen Hillenburg left the series, stepping down as a main overseer and only serving as executive producer. Because of this, the jokes went flat and the animation looked...a little too perfect? Like many fans, I stopped watching. I still haven't seen the most recent seasons, and don't intend to. They're not good.

Calling myself a Spongebob fan after 2005 felt odd. Still, I loved seasons 1-3, and especially loved rewatching The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004). I still have DVD box sets of all those episodes, but in middle school, the Spongebob movie was the DVD I rewatched the most. I'd put it on whenever I was bored. The Patty Wagon, the "Now That We're Men" song, David Hasselhoff...it's a great flick. I think the humor still holds up in 2021.

I kept rewatching it from 2004 until 2013, when I was a freshman in high school. One evening, my new high school friends came over for a movie night at my house. Everyone brought their own DVDs. We all felt like watching a comedy, but my new pals didn't have any films that matched the goofy criteria we looked for.

"Wait, I have an idea!" I said. I opened the drawer underneath my parents' TV and pulled out the bright yellow case of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

"We can watch this! I've seen it plenty of times! Do you remember watching it in theaters? It's really funny!"

All my friends' faces shriveled up when they saw the DVD. It was like I pulled out a cheap Adam Sandler movie.

"Um, Katy," said my friend, Courtney, "I don't think that's the kind of movie we're looking for."

The way she said that sentence, it was like I had suggested playing with dolls or watching Teletubbies. My cheeks went warm. I was so embarrassed. What "kind" of movie was the Spongebob movie? Was it really that bad? Was I too old for Spongebob? I felt like the most uncool, immature person in the room.

High school me, embarrassed and alone, after my friends' reactions to "The Spongebob Squarepants Movie" (2004)

We rented The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy instead. The whole time watching it, I wondered if my friends still wanted to hang out with me. After that incident, I tossed The Spongebob Squarepants Movie back into the TV drawer and haven't touched it since.

While memes were certainly around in 2013, internet humor didn't have as many of the absurdist qualities it has today. I don't remember seeing any Spongebob memes back then. No one talked about it, so I figured Spongebob Squarepants was lame. I didn't make any Spongebob references all throughout high school. I didn't re-watch any episodes, I didn't turn on Nickelodeon, and I certainly didn't wear my awesome yellow Spongebob rain poncho. In fact, I hid it deep in my closet. Only recently have I opened it up again.

I didn't find pride in admitting my love for Spongebob until college. Suddenly, I found my new NYC peers had no problem quoting it or wearing Spongebob merch. This makes sense: according to a Vox article, a famous subreddit accredited to modern day Spongebob memes didn't start until 2016. When Spongebob became meme-worthy, the show became popular again.

Modern Spongebob memes have only become popular in the last five years or so. The one meme that catapulted all the others to internet glory is 2017's "Mocking Spongebob". You've probably seen it before. It's that meme where Spongebob looks like a chicken and the capitalization is weird.

Spongebob memes even became a political tool during the Trump presidency. Because of the cartoon's wholesome humor, using Spongebob memes to protest was a great way to get some laughs while pushing progressive ideals. Unlike Pepe the Frog, Spongebob has never been used to promote dangerous ideologies. (I'm knocking on wood now, just in case.)

Remember that Krusty Krab and Chum Bucket meme from the beginning of this article? Here it is again, on a sign during the March For Our Lives in 2018. Pretty neat.

As I said before, with Spongebob meme popularity came a resurgence of the show. The first three seasons became classics. It was finally cool to like Spongebob again. And because of that, I started re-watching.

Why Spongebob Is My Guilty Pleasure (And Why It Should Be Yours)

Yes, Spongebob Squarepants is a cartoon made for kids. But if you're a writer like me, particularly a screenwriter interested in comedy, the older episodes are like masterclasses for how to create good jokes.

Classic Spongebob episodes are effective because of their simple-yet-silly formats. Episodes like "Band Geeks", "Chocolate With Nuts", and "The Krusty Krab Training Video" are funny because their plots never get too complicated. Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob, even admitted one of his favorite episodes is "Procrastination" (the episode where Spongebob writes an essay), because it was simple and grounded in real-world problems. It's totally relatable. Even I'm procrastinating while trying to write this essay for a Vocal challenge.

If you're a comedy writer, Spongebob episodes teach you that jokes don't have to be deep to be funny. Humor can be found in the mundane, too.

Furthermore, Spongebob is an iconic character because of his boundless optimism. Watching an episode of Spongebob Squarepants is always fun because the show never takes itself too seriously. It never gets too dark. It's goofy and makes no sense at times. And that's why it's a perfect show to binge during quarantine.

I've been watching Spongebob as a de-stressor whenever I get anxious about the pandemic, and I've gotta say, it works wonders. Laughter is the best medicine, right? Not only do I appreciate the eleven minutes of pure hilarity per episode, but Spongebob's philosophy of finding joy in every situation - even bad situations - is a much-needed takeaway for me during these crazy times.

Oh, and the episode "I Had An Accident", which is about Spongebob quarantining himself inside his house, has been particularly cathartic. Thank goodness I'm not the only one making friends with inanimate objects while hiding from Covid.

I may not be a child anymore, and I'm definitely not the target audience for Spongebob Squarepants. But even after the show's been around for 21 years, it never fails to make me chuckle. The Nickelodeon show may be my guilty pleasure, but in 2021, at least I'm not afraid to own it. I'M A SPONGEBOB ADDICT AND I'M PROUD!!!

Oh, and I'm not the only Spongebob addict in my life, either. My boyfriend and I basically got together because we were able to understand each others' language of Spongebob references. We watched the Rock Bottom episode while intoxicated one time and it was the best. date night. ever. He's the Patrick to my Spongebob. (Not because he's pink or dimwitted, but because he's taller than me.) He even liked the Spongebob mask I got him for his birthday.

Me and Dan. Look at that beautiful mask on his adorable face. More handsome than handsome Squidward.

So yeah. Spongebob helped me find love, too.

Take that, uncultured high school friends.

__________________________

For Dan. Here's your ten-page Spongebob review. xxx

As always, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, make sure to drop a like. Don't be cheap like Eugene Krabs...send your girl a tip if you had a good time reading! (Jk. You don't have to give me a tip. But of course, they're always appreciated.)

What's your favorite episode of Spongebob? Lemme know via DM @katyisaladybug on Insta! Hope y'all have a great week, and if you're from the USA, have a fun and safe Super Bowl Sunday! I hope they finally play Sweet Victory during the halftime show.

Best,

-Katy <3

pop culture
Kathryn Milewski
Kathryn Milewski
Read next: Best Customizable Games
Kathryn Milewski

Insta: @katyisaladybug

Playlists, memoirs, and other wacky pieces.

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