Move over Sesame Street. Clever skits that target older generations (remember Sesame Street’s Bruce Springsteen parody, “Born to Add”?) have been replaced by the hyper pre-teen SpongeBob SquarePants.
Though it's hard for many adults to feel comfortable with such tinsel flashing before our youngsters’ eyes, James Parker, writing for the very mature Atlantic magazine, embraces that change. Parker offers up a philosophical view of SpongeBob, dissecting the “postmodern place” that is Bikini Bottom (SpongeBob’s home), and explaining why kids love—and should love—the golden sponge:
As a cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants absorbed the advances made by John Kricfalusi’s The Ren and Stimpy Show—the mood swings, the fugue-like interludes, the surreal plasticity of the characters—but without the earlier show’s edge of psychic antagonism […] But where Ren and Stimpy seemed bent on freaking out the more fragile (or stoned) sectors of its audience, the SquarePants writers are interested in stories, even in lessons. Again and again, a kind of innocence triumphs—over fear, over snobbery, and over skepticism.
If your eyes hurt at sight of SpongeBob’s manic grin, try reading this story and consider Parker’s plea: “Embrace him, drained adult. Where you see his little yellow flag, salute it; it’s a sign of life.”
For more, watch Parker analyze a few scenes from the show in the video below: