How Spongebob Predicted Meme Culture

Meme culture loves Spongebob. And why wouldn’t it? Spongebob was the perfect comedy cartoon for children. It balanced the soft line, between farcical and intelligent, so that kids wouldn’t be the only people in the end, who found its humor entertaining. If you were to start quoting Zoey 101, or even something as popular as Jimmy Neutron, the reference likely would not garner much attention. But if you quote ANY SpongeBob episode,
even one that I haven’t seen in over a decade, I’ll immediately recognize the humor, line by line. The thing that surprises me the most about SpongeBob, as an adult, is how many moral lessons the show taught us so flawlessly. Usually, moral lessons in kid shows are
pretty obvious, annoying, and poorly written. “Be nice to other people”, “don’t steal”, “don’t lie”.
“Let the kid in the wheelchair do stuff on his own”. Oh, and while we’re at it – Bill, can we step… can we step to the side, and talk about- let’s just lay out some of the ground rules…? SpongeBob is set apart from the rest of these shows, because as a child, I never realized I was being taught anything at all. I just figured there was a bunch of random, funny things happening in a row, that didn’t have any “big picture” messages. But it’s only when I think about the episodes as an adult,
that something finally floats to the top of the water. And the cool thing is, that most of these morals are things, that I wouldn’t have had any real use for as a kid. But instead, they are the sorts of things,
that most adults need to be paying attention to. Like uh, what about the episode, where
Squidward makes a political movement, specifically to accomplish a set of goals.
Then, he accomplishes those goals. But SpongeBob goes erratical, and uses the same ideological beliefs, to justify him mindlessly destroying everything in his path. And in the end, no-one wins! – I did exactly as you said, Squidward!
I dismantled the establishment. Ten there’s the episode, where Spongebob makes a bunch of racist, squirrel jokes, at Sandy’s expense. Remember that? People actually start to believe everything, that Spongebob jokes about, because he doesn’t do a good enough job explaining, that it is just a joke. And in the end, he doesn’t save the day by apologizing, or no longer doing squirrel jokes; but simply, by doing jokes about everyone in Bikini Bottom. – Crabs? Oh, brother. They’re so cheap,
they can’t even pay attention! – It’s true! I am cheap! Also, I think the one in the tree dome, is like an allegory for social anxiety, or something. SpongeBob knew, that we wouldn’t be children forever. And the creators knew, that making memorable stories about smaller lessons, would always have a much greater impact on our lives, than anything else. The thing, that makes SpongeBob’s first
three seasons so iconic and memorable, is the long list of amazing and iconic jokes,
which are pretty much only used, once or twice. It’s the long list of amusing moments,
rarely brought up more than once or twice, that makes the first 3 seasons of Spongebob SquarePants so iconic and hilarious. The Internet’s humorous culture, is built very much around the idea of resurrecting jokes in waves. The first wave, is where people laugh at the viral
clip or image on its own standalone basis. The second wave, is where people reappropriate the humor in some new context, satirizing some element about the original,
in a way, that isn’t initially presented. The third wave comes, when the joke is recognizable enough, that the punchline is a reference to the original joke itself. After that, the humor will continuously devolve further and further, until it eventually ends up on the Ellen show. “Damn, Daniel!” *audience laughter* [sudden zoom in] This circular pattern of internet humor has had a very strange effect on some people, who have seen themselves become living memes. As their faces and personalities are so intertwined with the latest viral joke, that they can’t avoid taking part in the craze. It’s for these people, that I have to recommend a little cautionary tale, entitled “Ripped Pants”. Ripped Pants have aged incredibly well, considering that’s one of the most iconic and recognizable SpongeBob episodes, and it aired before the start of the new millennium. Tom Kenny has said, that it’s easily one of the best stories, that the team has ever put out. And it’s once again, one of those old stories that has a secret moral, that you likely really can’t pick out, unless you’re much older. “Ripped Pants” is all about one thing: a joke. A joke, that gets less funny,
every time some one uses it. “dAmN, dAnIeL!” [audience full of normies laughs] A joke, which starts off as a specific reference to a specific event; that initially only a few people know about. Until eventually, everyone knows about it – and everyone hates it. While attempting to lift weights, so that he can impress Sandy, SpongeBob suffers a wardrobe malfunction, as his pants rip in the center. SpongeBob’s accident soon begins to spread around the beach. And while he’s initially downtrodden about the experience, he changes his tone, when someone begins to tell him, about how impressive the moment had actually been. Soon after that, people are finally starting to recognize who he is. No longer see the low-life pipsqueak, that tries
to piggyback off of other people’s fun. Now, he’s the funniest guy on the beach.
He is the “ripped pants” guy! He’s not only popular, he’s near famous. So in the following scenes, whenever SpongeBob creates an awkward moment, or just isn’t a fun person to be around – he just pulls out his beloved bit, and everyone goes wild. But then, SpongeBob makes his first big mistake. He starts showing off his supposed “amazing talent”,
to people, who just don’t get the reference. There’s nothing more frustrating, than having to live through a meme, that you didn’t experience from the beginning. By the time the trend hit you, it’s
developed so far into the process, that it’s already at the stage, where it’s
only funny in reference to the original. So to the people who weren’t there,
when SpongeBob ripped his pants, there is nothing funny about him, continuously
bringing it back out of the woodworks. By assaulting hard-working, cynical people,
with his dying and empty humor, SpongeBob is starting a decay, where his joke,
while obnoxious to only some people at the moment, will slowly start to grate on everyone else in his community, one by one; until eventually, he pushes the boundaries too far. So far out of its original place, that he starts
to actually lose the friends, that he had beforehand. There’s this awful, embarrassing scene, where Spongebob is trying to meticulously figure out, how to make his dead, dead joke into a fresh routine. Not by exploring new concepts,
or by moving on with his life, but by taking the same formula,
and trying to reverse engineer it. And not only does it not work, no one cares!
No one’s even there to look. It’s like watching a one-hit wonder,
desperately trying to write their second song. It’s at his lowest a moment, when Spongebob
meets a community of the beaches’ biggest losers. These aren’t just lonely people,
who don’t have many friends. These are specifically people, who have been mocked and joked about, for minut attributes. But were so unoriginal, and so lacking an honest personality, that they were quickly abandoned, left to be buried in the sands of time. Obviously, SpongeBob does win the people back in the end. But not by apologizing, or trying to find
a way to make his old joke work again; but by doing something he loves,
in a way that no one else can. SpongeBob manages to prove, that he has a talent,
outside of just telling the same joke over and over again. In creating something actually artistic,
that he’s actually put real work and thought into, he’s proven to people, that he’s more than just an internet meme. He’s shown, that he’s someone with a legitimate personality, who cares about the people around him. And people are moved by his creation. It’s something, that they’ll think about in a period much longer, than a month, or a month and a half. And it’s something, that will actually cause them to remember his name. The moral isn’t literally, that internet humor is trash, and that it isn’t real art. Rather, I think the true point is hammered home,
by part of the final line to SpongeBob’s song. “A joke is much more than just a joke.” It’s a chance to start something fun, to have
great experiences, and to grow as a person. The problem comes about, when the line between you and the joke is lost. When you don’t let people see, that you’re a person,
when you make them think that you’re just a reference – – as soon, as that reference isn’t culturally relevant anymore, they’re gonna forget who you are. When you try to stand on a podium,
that other people have constructed for you, instead of continuously climbing higher and higher; you can’t be shocked, when people decide to knock your ass down. Be true to yourself. Don’t miss your chance. And you won’t end up like the fool, who ripped his pants. (Also, get naked.)

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