Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the animated cartoon show “SpongeBob SquarePants,” passed away on Nov. 27, leaving behind him a world of creativity and imagination.
Though Hillenburg oversaw only the first three seasons of production, his characters live on, forever immortalized in our culture and leave a huge impact on society.
It is the fifth longest-running animated show in the United States, and continues to be a symbol for people who are just not ready to grow up.
“The show definitely shaped my childhood, I can’t imagine growing up without it,” said Leo Rodriguez, a first-year psychology major. “It’s something that I always think about because it really did shape who I was as a kid, it helped me embrace what it means to be a kid and I think that’s really valuable.”
What makes “SpongeBob” so unique from other shows is the simplistic yet comprehensive setting in which everything happens. It is it’s own world, a timeless masterpiece rich with content that most everyone can relate to.
“I feel like this has happened several times where I’ve bonded with people that I’ve just met over ‘SpongeBob,’” said Cathy Hasson, a third-year public relations major.
People can relate to the ridiculous characters from Patrick Star and Mr. Krabs, to Squidward Tentacles and a whole cast of misfits scattered throughout Bikini Bottom. Every sea creature embodies a different persona, generalizing several stereotypes found back on land.
Despite originally airing in 1999, the characters never seem to age and it’s as if time stands still for the citizens of Bikini Bottom — they all seem to be waiting for their big break but are stuck in their current situation.
SpongeBob SquarePants hopes to make it as a professional fry cook but works a dead-end fast food job where his talents are exploited.
Squidward, a classical hipster of sorts, annoyed with everything around him, is in the same boat as he tries to launch his career as a professional clarinet player.
Mr. Krabs represents the endless greed of capitalism and love of money while the naive Patrick is unaffected by events around him as he literally lives under a rock.
There are many iconic moments throughout the show’s history: from selling chocolate to mayonnaise instruments to broken bones and the “Bubble Bowl,” the anecdotes are endless.
“It’s definitely had a huge impact,” Hasson said, “I used to watch it every day with my sisters and we would literally just go back and forth sometimes referencing random episodes.”
Images from the show have even gone on to become viral internet memes.
This year, the most popular memes include a picture of a winded SpongeBob without any pants on, Patrick looking down menacingly and Squidward miserably looking outside his window at Patrick and Spongebob roaming around, unsure if he wishes to join them or if he’s happy staying home right where he is.
“It’s something that really shapes humor in our society and I think it’s really inspirational to see that it carried through for a whole decade if not longer,” Rodriguez said.
As with many artists, their work becomes more popular when they are no longer around and “SpongeBob” certainly has the potential to rise even higher than its current status.
“He certainly deserves the recognition of his great work and I hope that carries through for years and years to come,” Rodriguez said.
This legacy of millennial humor and almost universal relatability is what remains of Hillenburg’s original vision for the show, and it’s probably a bigger phenomenon than he could have ever imagined.