Yet another tragic loss in the entertainment world this week. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants – one of the most beloved pop culture icons of all-time – has passed away at age 56.
With all due respect to The Simpsons and South Park, Spongebob Squarepants may just be the most influential television cartoon of all time. While The Simpsons changed up both primetime and television animation, and South Park continues to push the envelope, one could easily claim that Spongebob Squarepants has shaped the sense of humor of an entire generation. The show’s lighthearted absurdity has permeated all facets of popular culture, and anyone, anyone from my generation can instantly recognize even a passing reference to a joke from the show’s heyday.
I don’t think Stephen Hillenburg – or anyone else – could have imagined that nearly twenty years later, his creation would still be going strong. Although the quality of Spongebob Squarepants has fluctuated over the last decade (after Stephen Hillenburg took on a smaller role in production), its classic episodes are as timeless and hilarious as television gets. Its endearing characters and sharp wit have etched its place in television history.
Everyone and their grandmother knows of Spongebob’s antics with best friend Patrick, and how they constantly get on the nerves of their pretentious neighbor Squidward (whom both Spongebob and Patrick naively idolize). Everyone knows of Mr. Krabs’ insatiable lust for money, and how the sacred Krabby Patty secret formula is the target of the “evil” Plankton’s many failed thefts. People can quote Spongebob’s many songs word for word, and the show as a whole has delighted children of all ages for over two decades. And everyone who grew up with it, and continues to grow up with it, will make sure it continues to do so forever more.
Thank you Stephen Hillenburg, for bringing so much joy and laughter to the world.