By Aambar Agarwal

SpongeBob SquarePants.

It was the show that brought meaning to my childhood. The show that offered me comfort during my worst days. The show that never failed to make me dizzy from laughter. The show that once seemed to be immortal.

It’s been twenty years since the first episode aired, with SpongeBob getting his iconic job at the Krusty Krab. Now, it’s ready for its thirteenth season, with no end in sight. Twenty years of nonstop nautical nonsense, but at what price?

Once upon a time, SpongeBob’s stupidity was the center of the show, whether it was about him spontaneously becoming one with the jellyfish or mistakenly capturing all of Bikini Bottom. But it was more than that; it was his innocent optimism, his boundless enthusiasm, and his clear compassion towards life that brought meaning to the episodes. Even though living with the jellyfish wouldn’t work out, SpongeBob realized how important his friends are to him. It was this expectation of the unexpected – never knowing what SpongeBob would do yet knowing that he would always follow his heart – a lesson that I took to heart.

However, in these new episodes, it’s clear that he’s no longer the sponge of my childhood. His chanting of “I’m ready! I’m ready!” fails to bring any hint of a smile to my face. His antics at the Krusty Krab now make me sympathize with poor Squidward. His inability to pass his driving test frustrates me more than Mrs. Puff. His stupidity has manifested in a different way: a way that teaches the audience no lesson, that reflects nothing of his past character. He simply repeats the same mistakes over and over again, only in brighter and clearer pixels. There is no anticipation of what will happen or how he’ll respond because it’s the same plot each time. It’s a disgrace to who he once was. Yet despite these meaningless episodes, stale jokes, and overused characters, Nickelodeon continues to renew the show.

Why? The answer’s simple: money. In sorry attempts to save their failing show, old one-time characters are brought back into these new episodes, reusing already worn-down ideas, except with a new twist: a nonsensical plot. Plankton and Mr. Krabs combined bodies in the newest season? Saw that season 5, episode 7. Spongebob ventured to land? Saw that season 2, episode 32. Since SpongeBob SquarePants is Nickelodeon’s only show from the 90s that’s still running, they feel pressured to keep it going, to extract its very last cent more thoroughly than even Mr. Krabs.
While this new generation of fans may still laugh at SpongeBob’s imposter, they’re undoubtedly missing out on the real deal: a true message. All in all, Nickelodeon needs to pull the plug on this beloved series before its legacy is tarnished any further.