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Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, explained the Internet language



Although SpongeBob SquarePants broadcast in a more or less coherent way for almost 20 years, it was the first three seasons of the series, broadcast between 1999 and 2004, that were the most influential. These 60 episodes were the only ones personally watched by creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died yesterday from ALS. They were broadcast during a critical period for adults around 20 years old. We were young enough to be captivated by the idiotic and absurd characters in the series and go home after school to watch any episode of Bob sponge who played on Nickelodeon. I was seven years old when Bob sponge first broadcast, and I remember very well these first seasons.

It was also a time when this same generation was just starting to connect to finally making the Internet what it is today. Nearly two decades later, people who have grown up watching Bob sponge are the same people who make memes – which is why, of course, there have been so many Bob sponge memes over the years. From Winded SpongeBob to Menacing Patrick to Squidward Watch, the most common Bob sponge The memes on the Internet come from these first three seasons with Hillenburg.


Bob sponge

"Bob the sponge tired."
Image: Nickelodeon

In retrospect, these first episodes were exceptionally special, confirming that Hillenburg had managed to achieve this ever-enviable feat in children's programming: early Bob sponge was foolish enough for kids to love the animated slapstick comedy that was on the screen, and adults could understand the more mundane fate of his characters. As Laura Michele Jackson wrote to Vulture:

In show, Bob sponge did not grow with the number of original viewers. It seems significant that many of these memes come from the first three seasons of the series (notable exception: "Mocking SpongeBob" comes from the episode of the tenth season "Little Yellow Book"). The creator Stephen Hillenburg resigned from his showrunner capacity after the third season in 2004 and the resulting decline in quality has become evident.

This common relatability was part of the reason Bob sponge Memes proliferated beyond the average ground reaction. The characters were perfect avatars: SpongeBob works with a minimum wage, trying to do his best even when the odds are against him, which is a fundamental nature that embodies survival against the ever submerged waves of digital life. Squidward is a misanthropic and creatively frustrated hipster, whose attitude seems perfectly conditioned by today's online culture, extremely conscious and always in question. Patrick is the silly magnet whose healthy nature and inability to recognize his own flaws are easily understood in today's self-deprecating online culture, where our flaws blend in with our online characters. (Remember to define characters like "Sad Girl".)

More than that, however SpongeBob Squarepants – The seasons that Hillenburg oversaw, in particular, work online because they arrived exactly at the right time. If it had been released even 10 years ago, it is possible that these characters have never been online. (Hillenburg had previously worked on the same subject, as absurd The modern life of Rocko, for example, but these characters have never really made the same digital jump.)

Children like me devoured SpongeBob SquarePants at the same time, we entered new spaces, discovering new ways of communicating with our friends. The show debuted at the turning point between our analog past and our digital future, giving it the potential to become something bigger, even as we get older. Our language has evolved and, as we grew up with the Internet, these first Bob sponge jokes and stories came with us.


Bob sponge

"Threat Patrick."
Image: Nickelodeon

It's no secret that nostalgic content is ubiquitous on the Internet, but Bob sponge is also one of the few shows that has evolved over memes that depend on nostalgia. He has more in common with The simpsons than Rick and Morty; while the latter is still a meme factory, its community is still insular, almost like a fraternity. These memes are a shortcut for fans rather than a language in and of themselves. Rick and Morty It's always enough for someone who has never seen an episode to ask why fans are interested in the character named Rick Pickle. Moreover, its creators are aware that the Internet exists.

Bob the sponge, On the other hand, was injected into a mainstream audience that could not yet predict the role of the internet in our social and pop cultural life. The grandparents of the people remember SpongeBob Squarepants; tthey recognized the mascots of the theme parks; they attended the show on Broadway. As The simpsons, people did not need to watch it to understand his characters and enter into a conversation about the series – or use the pieces of the series to have a totally different conversation. Today & # 39; hui, Bob sponge is a universal online standard, a digital tower of Babel. Hillenburg's stories gave us real language on the Internet, not just a series of memes on Twitter.

In many ways, this kind of universal language resembles a vestige of the past of pop cultures, recalling the monoculture that engendered Bob sponge precursors like The simpsons. Now, there is always too much happening on the Internet. We are constantly excited and online languages ​​are increasingly fragmented, divided in the same way as our consumption of pop culture.


Bob sponge

"Squidward surveillance."
Image: Nickelodeon

But Bob sponge remains, and it continues to grow on the internet as people remember moments from these first seasons and turn them into memes. This effort – trying to recall a moment from our past and explore with others online – is more than just an attempt to score points or make a joke. It is an attempt to connect with people for something that has impacted all our lives at one time.

Bob sponge is more than just an online meme. He gave the Internet a part of his voice. We will always have Stephen Hillenburg to thank for that.


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