Stephen Hillenburg, creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” died last Monday, Nov. 26, at the age of 57. First aired in 1999, the iconic Nickelodeon show quickly became a household name adored by children and adults of all ages.
The success of "SpongeBob SquarePants" and the impact it had on fans is undeniable and speaks to the creative genius of Hillenburg. Of course, "SpongeBob SquarePants" can’t necessarily be labeled as intellectually stimulating, but it's difficult to undermine its sheer brilliance.
In a memorial piece about the late creator for Vice, contributing writer River Donaghey hit the nail on the head when describing Hillenberg’s legacy. “Hillenburg's iconic cartoon about a porous yellow rectangle brought some light and optimism to our dark world,” Donaghey said.
As of today, more than 400,000 fans have signed a petition to play the song “Sweet Victory” at the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show. “Sweet Victory” is from the infamous "SpongeBob SquarePants" episode where SpongeBob performs during a fictional Bikini Bottom halftime show.
“As a tribute to his legacy, his contributions to a generation of children and to truly showcase the greatness of this song, we call for 'Sweet Victory' to be performed at the halftime show,” said Isreal Colunga, the creator of the petition.
“Sweet Victory” is just one of countless examples that illustrates the ingenuity and legacy of "SpongeBob SquarePants." With the number of helicopter parents growing by the day, as well as the very competitive parents who want their kids to be the “next big thing,” a show like "SpongeBob SquarePants" might be dismissed or have a bad reputation. But in reality, the reason behind why the cartoon was so successful and is still so loved is that it is a show that brings happiness and laughter to kids.
SpongeBob, alongside Mr. Krabs, Patrick, Squidward and Plankton, nervously performed “Sweet Victory.” But before we knew it, SpongeBob belted out the anthem, sounding like a rockstar. Fans commented under the petition on change.org saying the song is inspirational and it's a scene they remember and think back on.
Maybe you don’t think a "SpongeBob SquarePants" episode will have an impact on you when you’re 7 years old, but the feelings SpongeBob brought to kids is one we’ll never forget.
"SpongeBob SquarePants" is goofy, uplifting and funny. It aspires to simply get kids to laugh and for that we are forever indebted to Hillenburg, for being a man who brought joy to so many of us.
In a op-ed for The Guardian, Ben Beaumont-Thomas reflected on the purity that makes "SpongeBob SquarePants" so globally popular and understood, which he believes has helped the cartoon remain relevant in a meme-obsessed digital age. “It’s such an absorbent medium for online memes ... The memes work because we both see ourselves in SpongeBob and aspire to be him. He is flawed, vulnerable but endearing, while being quietly, mutably omnipotent,” Beaumont-Thomas said.
"SpongeBob SquarePants" gained popularity with its audience from a young age and even as that fan base grows, they can still look back at the show fondly. We laugh at SpongeBob, his life and friends, as we did as children. As young adults, we even adapted "SpongeBob SquarePants" to fit our older sense of humor and our changing media platforms. You can easily find a SpongeBob meme on Twitter or Instagram.
The magic of "SpongeBob SquarePants" is how it didn’t and continues not to take itself too seriously. From the show we loved as kids, to the memes we make now, "SpongeBob SquarePants" has such a special place in so many hearts.
It is a sad time now that Hillenburg has passed and we mourn the creative genius with a pure idea that brought continuous joy and laughter. Thankfully, "SpongeBob SquarePants" will continue to air. "The show isn't cancelled," Nickelodeon wrote to Newsweek representatives. "Steve Hillenburg's creations will continue to bring joy to kids and families everywhere."