The edgiest character on TV these days is a sponge. He’s SpongeBob Squarepants and if you’ve never seen or heard of him, I strongly recommend you check out this creative, cutting-edge cartoon on the Nickelodeon cable network.
Before I explain why he’s so edgy, perhaps a brief introduction is in order, for those late arrivals to the Squarepants party. Allow me to loosely quote from his theme song: SpongeBob is a buck-toothed, rectangular-shaped character who “lives in a pineapple under the sea.” He’s “absorbent, yellow and porous,” and he fills his hometown, Bikini Bottom, with “nautical nonsense.”
SpongeBob’s pants are square, and so is his underwear, which reflects his preference for briefs over boxers. His best friends are a starfish named Patrick (picture a pink Homer Simpson, only not as refined), and a squirrel from Texas named Sandy. His other “friend” is a squid named Squidward, who loathes him. He also has a pet snail named Gary who meows like a cat. SpongeBob is gainfully employed and takes pride in his work. He flips burgers in a seafood restaurant called “The Krusty Krab,” for a miserly boss named Mr. Krabs. Okay, ya got all that?
One of the great things about SpongeBob is that he appeals to young and old alike. Not only do my wife and I (two baby-boomers) love the dentally challenged little sea critter, but the two millennials we share our home with (our kids) never miss his show. They are faithful fans whenever they’re not on restriction, that is. When they are on “T.V. time-out,” the wife and I just go in our room and tune in without them.
Now here’s what’s so edgy about SpongeBob: He is innocent, forgiving, honest, optimistic, loving, sensitive and selfless. He is completely free of irony, sarcasm, hostility, and jaded hip-ness. These days, a character like that is so rare and refreshing, that when you find one, it seems revolutionary. It is important to note that audiences have responded, and this show is immensely popular. I guess there is hope for America after all.
As research for this story (you didn’t think I did research?!), I asked my kids what they liked about the show. All I could extract from them was that he was funny (and believe me, getting that was like pulling teeth). When I shared my point of view on why I love this character, they pointed out that mostly, SpongeBob is blissfully unaware. Since he doesn’t know when someone is responding to him sarcastically, he takes everyone at his or her word. It’s true, he is naive, but it doesn’t seem to work against him. In fact, the other characters often come around to rethink their position as a result of SpongeBob’s relentless optimism. Besides, who ever said being blissfully unaware was a bad thing? Remember, the operative word here is “blissfully.”
SpongeBob isn’t without his flaws. Sometimes he does get righteously angry and when his temper gets the best of him, he does let loose with the expletives. Fortunately for his target demographic, the worst his language ever gets is when he says “Fish paste!,” “Barnacles!,” or “Tartar sauce!” This is his version of “#$@&!*,” and from where I’m sittin’, if that’s as racy as he gets, I will gladly indulge him this one foible. He is on cable, after all.