I couldn’t let the day go by without commenting on the passing of one of the most influential figures of my childhood. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants and a director of Rocko’s Modern Life, died yesterday from ALS, leaving behind an indelible legacy on American culture and television. He was 57.
To say that Spongebob helped shape me as a person would be a massive, massive understatement. There wasn’t a show I watched more. The humor and absurdity of it spoke to me as a 7-year-old or however old I was when I first watched it, and it still speaks to me now. When I work on my own projects, I find myself leaving heavily towards the same style that was so present in Spongebob and Rocko. I mean, if you’ve read the stories I’ve posted here the influence is pretty obvious. Spongebob was my life. I was always watching it, I played most of the video games (every single one was fire), I was there opening night for the first movie. It was legitimately my thing in middle school. We had pajama days and whenever we did I would bring in this giant stuffed Patrick I had, because why not? If you were to compile a list of everything that’s made me who I am today, Spongebob would be in the top three or four at worst.
To me, one of the marks of a masterpiece in the world of film and television is the ability to give the viewer a new takeaway with each consumption. On the surface, Spongebob is just a goofy children’s show that distracts kids long enough for their parents to do something other that watch them (I’d apologize to my mom and dad for having Spongebob blasting through the house 24/7 but I know they loved it). But there’s so much there for older viewers. There’s countless adult jokes, obviously, but a character like Squidward really stands out for me. He seems like just a stick in the mud, but he’s the most relatable and most human character on the show. He’s just an introvert who wants to be left alone and thinks his neighbors are annoying, but he also wants their companionship and doesn’t quite know how to ask for it. He’s one of the more complex characters in TV history and he’s hiding in Bikini Bottom. What a show. Also Plankton is the G.O.A.T.
So here’s to Stephen Hillenburg, the architect of one of the best fictional worlds ever created and the second ever Patron Saint of the Brian’s Den. Thank you, and rest in peace.
Impossible But Necessary Top Ten Spongebob Episodes
- Band Geeks
- Christmas Who?
- I’m Your Biggest Fanatic
- Pizza Delivery
- Chocolate With Nuts
- Graveyard Shift
- Fry Cook Games
- Artist Unknown + Something Smells (tie)