Every child of the 90’s and beyond can likely finish the entire theme song of SpongeBob SquarePants by memory. There’s no denying Stephen Hillenburg, who died Nov. 26 at the age of 57 from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), has made an impact on pop culture. The beloved cartoon of his creation has aired on Nickelodeon since 1999 and spawned movies, video games, and even a Broadway musical. According to CNN, the show has aired in 200 countries and been translated into more than 50 languages. It has also won many awards during its run, including four Emmys.
A few writers on the Geeks Under Grace staff wanted to share some of their fondest memories of the Bikini Bottom crew with our readers in honor of an animator gone far too soon.
Lexi Tucker, Editor-in-Chief
SpongeBob will always hold a special place in my heart for multiple reasons. My younger brother Adam and I would watch it every day before walking to school together, and to this day still quote memorable lines to each other randomly. My boyfriend Ryan and I, now in our mid-twenties, will turn on Amazon Prime to watch a few classic episodes to kill time or just have something on in the background. My high school friend Kassandra and I used to scream “Gold Team RULES” at each other across the classroom in our Environmental Science AP class just to make each other laugh.
Spongebob memes have seemingly taken over the internet, and are used to express a myriad of emotions, from sleeping Squidward to mocking SpongeBob and savage Patrick. There’s little doubt in my mind these have encouraged a newer generation to check the show out and made them laugh in a time when the world seems even more absurd than when that campfire stayed lit underwater (because why not?).
Sometimes we all just need a laugh, and I believe Hillenburg understood this better than anyone. The show never took itself seriously, and sometimes that’s what we need to decompress after a long day of “adulting”.
(For the record, the best episode will always be Chocolate with Nuts, which my mom and I still quote.)
John Campbell, Video Game Associate Editor
Eventually, my afternoon cartoon time after school shifted from watching Arthur on KPBS to Courage the Cowardly Dog on Cartoon Network and Spongebob Squarepants on Nickelodeon. Nothing made me laugh more than the dumb phrases Patrick would blurt out or the unfortunate situations Spongebob would get himself into. In fact, most of my humor growing up was based on the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea and his best friend who literally lives under a rock.
But I did not only learn humor from the show. Through all of the Krabby Patties, karate chopping, and leaf blowing, I also learned to be proud and confident of who I am as a person and that it’s okay to be a goof. Growing up, I resonated with Spongebob since I was a sensitive kid. I had almost every video game associated with him and I even drew my own comics starring the cast of the show. I went as far as to learn how to laugh like Spongebob (and got pretty close, in my opinion). Thinking back now, it was the laughs that drew me in and the comedy that was so different from all of the other shows I had seen since that time.
I’m torn between so many good episodes; it’s hard to choose a favorite. Some of my top favorites include Pizza Delivery, Pickles, and Frankendoodle. Today, a lot of these classic episodes have become infamous memes sprawled across the web. But Pickles strikes a chord in me because it focuses on Spongebob losing all confidence in his abilities as a fry cook, therefore losing all self-assurance to do any normal life activity. In the episode, Mr. Krabs helps him remember just how talented he is, allowing him to regain his self-esteem. Spongebob Squarepants had a lot of feel-good episodes like this one, another reason why I enjoyed it so much.
To me, the show meant humor, but considering it now, it shaped a lot of my personality. It taught me how to stand up for my friends like Squidward does for Spongebob in Pizza Delivery. It taught me to be joyful in all of life’s circumstances, like Spongebob is consistently content with being a fry cook. And thirdly, it taught me to try and try again, like Spongebob tries again and again to get his driver’s license.
Today, the show is still going, with a third movie on the way in 2020. I do not keep up with it anymore, mostly because my interests have changed. But if anything, Stephen Hillenburg will leave behind a legacy of laughs. He created some hilarious and lovable characters, which I will always hold dear in my heart. So farewell, Stephen Hillenburg, and thank you for making my childhood self laugh to tears.
Noel Davila, TV Department Writer
With the recent passing of a legend and icon such as Stan Lee who contributed characters and content which defined modern pop culture, it would be easy to overlook the passing of another influential creator. On Monday November 26th, 2018 the world lost Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of one of the most beloved cartoon characters in the last two decades at the young age of 57 from complications due to ALS. Hillenburg, a former marine biologist and teacher, brought his love and passion for the sea and its inhabitants to living rooms around the world.
(Photo: Carlos Cazurro Burgos)
Hillenburg’s quirky cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” premiered in May 1999 and quickly stole the hearts of children and viewers of all ages. SpongeBob was critically praised, and nominated for and won multiple awards. SpongeBob SquarePants has gone on to complete 259 episodes over 12 seasons with no signs of stopping. Surrounded by a lovable cast of uniquely and equally off-beat characters, SpongeBob rapidly cemented himself in our pop cultures consciousness. No other cartoon character in the modern era has rose to the heights of such popularity and relevance. Not since Mickey Mouse and Buggs Bunny have we seen such adoration of a newly introduced cartoon character.
I was in my last year of high school when SpongeBob premiered. As a fan of animation, I was reluctant to watch something with such an odd concept. However, my hesitancy quickly changed to adoration. I found SpongeBob to be one of the most unique, lovable, witty, and most of all funny animations I’ve seen in many years. Now that I am a father of three with my youngest being four years old, I can honestly say SpongeBob SquarePants has been a staple in my household and continues to be a show I can sit and enjoy not only by myself, but also with my 23 year old, my 15 year old, and my four year old.
As a filmmaker, content creator, screenwriter, and current producer of my own animated short film which is currently in the works, I want to take this moment to thank Stephen Hillenburg for teaching me no matter how ridiculous and out of this world some ideas are, when I doubt myself and think my ideas are foolish, I can think back and realize Hillenburg took a dish washing tool, shoved it into a pair of trousers, and made the world fall in love with it.
Thank you, Stephen Hillenburg.
Lexi Tucker wishes she had a more exciting story to tell about being saved, but she's been a Christian literally her whole life. She's a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif. with a bachelor's degree in English and minor in Asian Pacific Studies with a certificate in Journalism. She likes anime, manga, handheld games, cats, and boba.
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