I watched an episode of Spongebob today. It was Season 12, Episode 25: Escape Beneath Glove World. It was the first Spongebob I watched in a while, and by a while I mean since I was in elementary school. To be honest, it was a lot creepier than I remember it to be.
The episode brought up some interesting commentary on the authenticity of human and machine consciousness, not to mention some eerie critiques on the prison industrial complex that utilizes prisons to propel scientific advancement by subverting ethics.
The setting was in an amusement park complex called Glove World, a direct allusion to Disney World, filled with its own rendition of a cryogenically frozen founder that continues to be commodified. It reminds me of the actual Disney World, brimming with an image of artificial paradise that hides a internal surveillance and enforcement system observable by some authoritarian regimes. When I went to Disney World as a child, I was able to overlook the sense of fakeness, mostly because I wasn’t able to perceive it. Now as an adult, I am unable to have the same experience without this connotation.
The thing about Spongebob and Patrick is that they never grow up. They went to Glove World in the early seasons, and they continue to go to Glove World with the same fascination. The disillusion I feel with Disney World has never occurred to them. The idea of Spongebob and Patrick themselves represents this idea of adults who never become adults, instead remaining children even as they participate in the workforce.
This attitude of viewing the world like a child allows them to be happy for sure, but it also does not allow them to see the world in all of its grotesqueness. Spongebob is unaware that he is being pretty blatantly exploited at the Krusty Krab, instead viewing his job as the greatest job in the world. He could very well be enjoying flipping patties — it is very satisfying, I admit — but I wonder how much of it is a defense mechanism that creates a sense of double consciousness to justify the absurdity of his experience?
I wonder if I actually want to be Spongebob. I would be happy as Spongebob. He seems happy, right? I want to be happy. Do I want to Spongebob? I don’t think I want to be Spongebob.