Like every kid who grew up in the 1990's, I grew up with SpongeBob SquarePants. What child didn't wake up early on Saturday morning to watch the random misadventures of the yellow kitchen sponge that lived under the sea? For years, children across the globe were entertained by the show's adorable titular character and his shenanigans with his undersea friends. President Barack Obama even went so far as to say that SpongeBob was one of his favorite characters and he would watch the series with his daughters. The series has left behind such a legacy that there is a viral video of Russian troops marching through the streets singing the show's theme song.
Why was the series so appealing? It didn't try to teach some clever lesson like so many other series at the time, nor did try too hard to be "hip" or "cool". If anything, it provided jokes that both kids and adults alike could enjoy while providing audiences with an irritating yet adorable character.
After the release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in 2004, the ratings slowly began to decline. Some people blame the fact that the target audience was slowly growing older. The real issue was not the age of their target audience, but instead was that the quality of the episodes began to rapidly deteriorate. After the film release, Derek Drymon stepped down as the show's creative director leaving Vincent Waller in charge. Many of the original writers also left the show. From there, the new episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants were dull at best and offensive at worst.
The new writers had also saturated the characters to the point where they are no longer recognizable. In the earlier episodes, SpongeBob was adorable and childish, completely blind to the faults of the world around him. His best friend Patrick Star was the loveable town idiot, yet SpongeBob didn't care that others thought that Patrick was dumb. Instead, SpongeBob still thought Patrick was the best friend a sponge could ever have. Squidward was the jerk who knew how to do the right thing once in a while. Mr. Krabs, while a complete miser, was SpongeBob's boss who treated his employees fairly and even served as somewhat of a mentor figure to SpongeBob. Sandy was the rough tomboy squirrel whom SpongeBob was always trying to impress. In the new episodes, SpongeBob is now even more immature, and most of his antics not only annoy the other characters on the show, but now annoy the viewers. Patrick is still not the brightest crayon in the box, but now he's just plain inconsiderate. Squidward is still a jerk, but there are no episodes in which he actually tries to do the right thing. Mr. Krabs is still a miser, but now he's just deplorable, going so far as to sell SpongeBob's soul for money or tear a fish's arm off for a penny. Sandy used to be one of the main characters, but now she only exists to get SpongeBob out of his messes, and only half the time is she successful. The new writers have distorted the characters so severely that the new episodes could be likened to bad fan fiction.
So just how terrible are the new episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants? There are some episodes that I can't watch while eating in front of the television simply because the gross-out humor is too hard to swallow ("The Card" and "The Battle of Bikini Bottom" are two episodes that come to mind that fall under this category). However, there are some episodes that make me question the sanity and morality of the writers. Here, I provide three examples of how the innocence and silly humor of the childhood classic are gone and in its place are storylines with dark, off-putting humor, jokes that aren't laugh-worthy, and endings that place the episode on a low-note.
1. Demolition Doofus (Season 8)
This episode is probably the best of the worst offenders. In this episode, SpongeBob accidentally deflates his driving instructor with his reckless driving. Mrs. Puff gets revenge on SpongeBob by entering him in a demolition derby where he is sure to be crushed by the more experienced demolition drivers. Perhaps the most disturbing thing in this episode is that Mrs. Puff is actually fed-up with SpongeBob enough to where she wants to kill him (or at the very least, see him brutally injured). In the older episodes, Mrs. Puff was clearly annoyed with SpongeBob, but at least had enough patience to put up with his repeat failures and lack of driving skills. Mrs. Puff is disturbingly out of character in this episode, and that's probably what irks me the most.
2. Are You Happy Now? (Season 8)
This episode is unbelievably dark. Squidward claims he doesn't have a happiest memory. For starters, this episode is one giant plot hole. Squidward had plenty of happy memories. He dated Squilvia, he upstaged Squilliam in "Band Geeks", and his neighbors even took the high road for once and built him a nice little tiki paradise. Anyway, the episode goes on and SpongeBob tries to cheer Squidward up. Squidward winds up so depressed that the writers take it upon themselves to put in suicide jokes. Who on earth decided those jokes would be funny to put in a kid's show? It's one thing to have a show riddled with double-entendres, but it's entirely another to make light of an issue that many people struggle with. The episode didn't even go out on a high-note either. Instead, SpongeBob's attempts to cheer up Squidward fail miserably and Squidward then claims his happiest memory is destroying the paper-machet models that SpongeBob made since no one could come to the party he was throwing for Squidward. There are so many ways this episode could've ended, and yet the writers chose to end it on such a dark note.
3. One Coarse Meal (Season 7)
This is probably the most infamous, controversial episode of SpongeBob to ever exist. In this episode, Mr. Krabs discovers that Plankton is afraid of whales, so he dresses up like Pearl to terrorize Plankton to the point where Plankton actually lies in the middle of the road and hopes for someone to come by and crush him. There are so many things wrong with this episode that I don't know where to begin. I suppose a good place to begin would be that there are gigantic, gaping plot holes. I had no idea it was legal to actually eat others in Bikini Bottom, and I thought whales ate krill instead of plankton. Secondly, if Mr. Krabs didn't already start to irk audiences before, the fact that he's cruel enough to drive Plankton to sixteen days of misery and a suicide attempt is just plain disgusting. The episode received a tremendous outcry from angry fans on the internet, yet Nickelodeon still insists on airing this episode like they would any other.
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants who have been watching since the beginning are wondering when is it going to stop? The writers of the new episodes have already proved that they can't take the high road, so maybe if we just stop watching, the show will get cancelled eventually, right? Year after year, the producers come forward and say that they're not going to renew the show for another season, yet they still do it anyway. In fact, there are even rumors that another full-length SpongeBob SquarePants movie is in the works. As long as this series still brings in money, there is no way it will be cancelled, even if ratings continue to rapidly fall. This is probably one reason why gone are the days of classic 90's Nickelodeon cartoons and in their place are poorly-written shows that only exist as a cash cow.
On that note, I'm off to get the bad taste of these episodes out of my mouth with some anime.