SpongeBob Squarepants, a classic childhood show that first aired in 1999 portrays anthropomorphism in sea creates living in fictional underwater city Bikini Bottom. The show usually centers on everyday silly misadventures of SpongeBob and his friends. But, a frequent recurring plot is of evil Plankton’s (a zooplankton) numerous (and failed) attempts at stealing the “secret formula” to make the irresistible Krabby Patty of Mr. Krab’s Krusty Krab restaurant .The target audience, children and young teens, interpret a good versus evil scheme, perpetuating the hegemony that evil Plankton will never prevail and that SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs are the “good guys” for foiling his plan.
However, on a deeper level, it is the materialistic goods that drive the plot: the moral economy of Mr. Krabs, the possession of the physical (and only copy) of the secret formula, and the physical body dominance. Therefore, a Marxist analysis is appropriate and important in understanding the hidden messages of how material possessions lead to wealth and ultimately empowers the owner to have control of those who do not have ownership, leading to the latter’s disempowerment. Note that material possessions include all norms, physical items, social practices, rules, ideas, and laws in a given society (Sellnow 72).
SpongeBob, a carefree character, exudes a naïve personality that gets him easily taken advantage of. By contrast Mr. Krab, owner of fast food restaurant and SpongeBob’s employer, possesses a sly and calculating. As a result, Mr. Krab’s always takes advantage of the sponge chef, leading to an example of hegemony, where dominating groups (the bosses) have more power over other groups (the employees for instance) in a working society, where the workers seem to have no personal voice. The restaurant owner crustacean holds all the power. He is the one that employs SpongeBob as the cook that gives him a low wage job. But, it is Mr. Krabs who is really benefitting and earning almost the entire profit margin. SpongeBob has accepted this as normal as a result of Mr. Krabs feeding him praises and nonsensical excuses to encourage him to work his best while exploiting his worker’s rights.
For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJTH6Bq3CKM
Even merely possessing the one –of- a -kind on paper secret formula has given Mr. Krabs great power in the fast food industry. This secret ingredient that Plankton has been trying to steal from him has started has started a huge rivalry. Plankton believes that just be possessing the formula is the key to turning his lacking -of -quality -food restaurant into a booming business. This motive alone sends an ideological message to children that as long as you possess some physical secret weapon, even if you steal it, you will be successful.
Aside from SpongeBob’s naivety, Plankton’s diminutive size emphasizes his disempowerment. Being only 4 inches tall is a serious disadvantage when trying to physically overcome a crab 20 times his size. To me, their difference in statures is a powerful symbolism that once again reinforces to the child audience that evil will never win. I mean, how could that happen when its obvious Plankton can be squished so easily by not just Mr. Krabs, but really by anyone. Once again, just by having a size trait, there is an obvious and unquestionable immediate sense of empowerment and disempowerment balance.
This video demonstrates how vulnerable Plankton’s size makes him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T-LjQYRaQc
SpongeBob Squarepants has been quite a popular show for children. At first, the show gives off a strong childhood innocence vibe. However, deeper analysis can reveal the subtle messages of power based on possession of certain economies, whether they are intangible ones or physical ones that you can own. Since children are not likely to overthink the more intense messages broadcasted, it is very unlikely for the young target audience to realize that they are exposing themselves to a hegemony. In the long run, negative effects may show after these children grow up into teenagers and subconsciously have accepted that naturally, there will be rightful empowerment and rightful disempowerment in their lives without stopping to question any of it.
Sellnow, Deanna. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE
Publications Inc., 2010. Print.
SpongeBob Squarepants (TV Series). YouTube. YouTube, 1999-2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2013