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3 Reasons Why SpongeBob SquarePants is One Giant Message About Environmentalism – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

SpongeBob SquarePants: Do you know who resides in a pineapple beneath the ocean? It is difficult to find someone who has access to Nickelodeon and cannot answer this question accurately. SpongeBob SquarePants has been bringing joy, laughter, and love to homes worldwide for over 24 years. With a cast of characters that is perhaps the richest ever seen in animation, especially of the aquatic nature, SpongeBob and his friends have been subconsciously instilling a love for undersea creatures and nature in the minds of viewers with every episode and film.

Was this the show’s primary objective? Perhaps not, but it was the foundation of its creation. The creator of the show, Stephen Hillenburg, began his professional career as an instructor of marine biology in Dana Point, California, before achieving global fame with SpongeBob SquarePants. Hillenburg had a deep desire to educate the world about the beauty and wonder of undersea life and how to preserve it, which is why he brought the sponge and other underwater creatures to his second career in animation. What better way to educate people than through mass entertainment?

3 Reasons Why SpongeBob SquarePants is One Giant Message About Environmentalism

Before leaving his teaching career to study animation, Hillenburg wrote a comic book called “The Intertidal Zone,” which eventually inspired the future SpongeBob SquarePants. After completing his post-graduate degree and working on “Rocko’s Modern Life” for a few years, Hillenburg was finally able to pitch his aquatic animated series to Nickelodeon executives, who gave him the green light to begin the official work on his show.

There have been several popular fan theories suggesting that SpongeBob SquarePants represents different environmental topics such as pollution and global warming, but this article has its own interpretation of such speculation. The characters within the show can also be likened to various pieces of environmental awareness based on their unique personalities.

For instance, Mr. Krabs, who is a crab, has a daughter named Pearl, who is a whale. How did this happen? Perhaps he rescued her from poachers, raising awareness of hunting. Whatever the reason, a whale and a crab being family represent the same thing as a sponge being best friends with a starfish and a squid – diversity in family and friends is normal, wonderful, and prominent underwater.

Sea creatures of all kinds use one another for protection, food, and survival. Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel, is a representative from the surface world who throws off the characters so often and so drastically that it cannot be ignored. Sandy isn’t meant to live underwater and isn’t meant to interfere with the undersea critters and their lives. Luckily, she has benevolent intentions, but the awareness of the outsider interfering is obvious and apparent throughout the show.

It isn’t just Sandy who brings to light how outside influence from the surface world can disrupt the harmony of the ocean. A butterfly literally causes the entire town of Bikini Bottom to implode. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, two human beings, are literal superheroes. Plankton, a natural sea creature, wields the might of industrialization and causes his rival Mr. Krabs to enter into a world of pollution driven by competition and money, all obvious influences of humanity.

The warning signs of outsider influence, especially that of humans, shine even more prominently in story events within the first three seasons of the show, the seasons that Hillenburg had the most influence over before stepping down as a writer. There are the “small” examples of unnatural occurrences, such as Ms. Puff’s husband becoming a lamp and Krabs forcing Jellyfish to give him their jelly, and there are the larger ones, such as the magic pencil from the artist and the hooks that are a theme-park of doom!

One simple pencil falling from the surface causes SpongeBob to use a tool that sea critters were not meant to wield, and immediate and widespread destruction is the end result. In the hooks episode, Patrick becomes obsessed with the thrill of fishing hooks to the point where he becomes canned tuna. Each of these episodes is ridiculous but meant to be an engaging story about goofballs taking on the unfortunate unknown of humanity’s interference.

Hillenburg’s most enduring representation of environmentalism, however, is the show as a whole. He created dozens of delightful, memorable characters and placed them inside a colorful world filled with innocence, joy, and laughs.

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Hillenburg created a means for children and adults alike to engage with and enjoy something that, although silly, represents a world that people do not see very often, and therefore are more likely to be unaware of its issues caused by humanity. It would not be surprising to find that those who have watched SpongeBob SquarePants are more likely to relate to these ecosystems and creatures found within the beloved series, and that viewers are more engaged, environmentally aware, and conscious of the amazing life that exists in the ocean deep.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? It would be a difficult task to find anyone with access to Nickelodeon that could not accurately answer this question. SpongeBob SquarePants has brought love, laughter, and joy to households across the globe for over 24 years.


With perhaps the richest cast of characters ever seen in animation (certainly of the aquatic nature), SpongeBob and his pals have been subconsciously pushing a love of undersea critters and nature into the minds of audiences with every episode and movie. Was this the show’s primary intent? Probably not, but it was perhaps its initial foundation of creation.


The Show’s Creator Started His Professional Career as a Marine Biology Instructor

Spongebob Squarepants
Nickelodeon

 

Before the late Stephen Hillenburg received global fame as the creator of SpongeBob SquarePantshe was an instructor of marine biology in Dana Point, California. Hillenburg always possessed a strong desire to teach the world about the beauty and wonder of undersea life and how to preserve it, and it is by no coincidence that he brought the sponge and so many other underwater creatures to his second career in animation. What better way to instruct in an engaging way than by mass entertainment?

 

In fact, before leaving his teaching role to pursue a degree in animation, Hillenburg wrote a comic book called “The Intertidal Zone” that would eventually serve as an inspiration for the future SpongeBob SquarePants. After receiving his post-graduate degree, and a few years off the back of working on Rocko’s Modern LifeHillenburg was finally able to pitch his aquatic animated series to Nickelodeon executives, who gave him the green light to begin official work on his show.

Related: SpongeBob SquarePants: The 10 Best Characters From the TV Show, Ranked

Character Representation

Sandy from Spongebob Squarepants
Nickelodeon

There have been several popular fan theories put out regarding SpongeBob SquarePants representing different topics of environmentalism (such as pollution, global warming, etc.), but this article has its own thoughts and interpretations of such speculation. The characters within the show, as iconic as they are simply based off of personality, also can liken themselves to varying pieces of environmental awareness. For example, Mr. Krabs (a crab) has a daughter named Pearl, who is literally a whale. How did this happen? Perhaps he rescued her from poachers, bringing an awareness of hunting into the mix.

Perhaps he did have relations with another whale, or maybe he adopted Pearl through legal means and without the drama of whale hunting. In any case, a whale and a crab being family represent the same thing that a sponge being best friends with a starfish and a squid (in his mind) represents – diversity in family and friends is normal, wonderful, and is prominent under the sea. Sea animals of all kinds use one another for protection, food, and life.

Disrupting this harmony is Sandy Cheeks (among other things from above the ocean floor), a squirrel, and a representative from the surface world, who throws off the characters so often and so drastically that it cannot be ignored. Sandy isn’t meant to live underwater, and isn’t meant to interfere with the undersea critters and their lives. Luckily for the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom, she is benevolent in her intentions, but the awareness of the outsider interfering is obvious and apparent throughout the show.

It isn’t just Sandy that brings to light how outside influence from the surface world can disrupt the harmony of the ocean. A butterfly literally causes the entire town of Bikini Bottom to implode. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, two human beings (that possibly shrunk themselves so many times that they became smaller than a pencil) are literal superheroes. Plankton, converse to Sandy as a natural sea critter himself, wields the might of industrialization and causes his rival Mr. Krabs to enter into a world of pollution driven by competition and money, all obvious influences of humanity.

Related: The 10 Best Animated Movie Villains From the 2000s, Ranked

Story Events

SpongeBob SquarePants superheroes
Nickleodeon

The warning signs of outsider influence, especially that of humans, shine even more prominently in story events within the first three seasons of the show (the seasons that Hillenburg had the most influence over before stepping down as a writer). There are the “small” examples of unnatural occurrences – such as Ms. Puff’s husband becoming a lamp, Krabs forcing Jellyfish to give him their jelly, and a man in a gorilla suit attacking Patrick and SpongeBob – and there are larger ones, such as the magic pencil from the artist and the hooks that are a theme-park of doom!

One simple pencil falling from the surface causes SpongeBob to use a tool that sea critters were not meant to wield, and immediate and widespread destruction is the end result. In the hooks episode, Patrick becomes obsessed with the thrill of fishing hooks, to the point where he becomes canned tuna. Obviously, each of these episodes is ridiculous, but they are meant to be. An engaging story about goofballs taking on the unfortunate unknown of humanity’s interference is a fascinatingly amazing way to call light-hearted attention to certain actions, events, and situations that humans cause to ocean life.

Hillenburg’s most enduring representation of environmentalism, however, is the show as a whole. He created dozens of delightful, memorable characters and placed them inside a colorful world filled with innocence, joy, and laughs. Hillenburg created a means for children and adults alike to engage with and enjoy something that, although silly, represents a world that people do not see very often, and therefore are more likely to be unaware of its issues (caused by humanity).

It would not be shocking to find that those who have watched SpongeBob SquarePants are more likely to relate to these ecosystems and creatures found within the beloved series, and that viewers are more engaged, environmentally aware, and conscious of the amazing life that exists in the ocean deep.

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