The show “SpongeBob SquarePants” was influential for many children growing up in the late ’90s and early 2000s. The show’s daring creativity and wild antics made the cartoon a hit for many children at the time and even children now.
The show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, died on Nov. 26, 2018 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He was 57 years old.
The show had an immense effect on many University of Georgia students, who shared their devastation and heartbreak.
Grace Santaguida, a senior psychology major from Bridgewater, New Jersey, was scrolling through Facebook when she first saw the news.
“I saw the shared article and I was like, ‘No this can’t be true,’” Santaguida said. “So I actually went to Twitter and I always check the trending to see if things are true … It was, and I was mad.”
Santaguida, who has fond memories of watching the show with her siblings while growing up, felt the show also influenced other cartoons at the time.
“I don’t want to say it molded a lot of other animated series, but it really did, because it was creative and it was funny,” Santaguida said.
She also appreciated the show for its unapologetic humor and purpose.
“It was super silly and funny,” Santaguida said. “I think that’s why I liked it — because … other cartoons always had a moral or a story or were educational. And the whole point of ‘SpongeBob’ was just to be funny, which I liked. It just kind of showed you can just be funny and that’s enough.”
Benjamin Buchanan, a senior anthropology major from Lawrenceville, found the news on Reddit.
“I actually knew that he already had ALS, so it’s not like it was a big shock to me,” Buchanan said. “I’m definitely saddened by it, because ‘SpongeBob’ was a big part of my childhood.”
He valued the show because it was something he and his father could enjoy.
“I watched a lot of cartoons and my dad wasn’t really into them,” Buchanan said. “[‘SpongeBob SquarePants’] was one of the ones that he was actually into. It was really good for all ages. It was just more engaging than any other cartoon at the time.”
Buchanan recalled some of his favorite moments from of the series.
“My favorite episode was the special where they got stuck on the Flying Dutchman’s ship with the perfume department and stuff,” Buchanan said. “As far as regular episodes go, I really like the one where they deliver the pizzas. I feel like that’s everyone’s favorite.”
Buchanan appreciates the bond the show created amongst a generation.
“You can hear someone just walking by you and they’ll make a reference [to] the show and you’ll immediately know what they're talking about,” Buchanan said. “I feel like in our age group, people anywhere between like 15 and 25 or 30, [the show’s] like one giant inside joke.”
Junior dance major and Spanish minor Evann Guthrie, also felt that the series brought people together.
“I mean, you always see people referencing it. It’s a way for us to all connect on something,” Guthrie said. “It lets us find a common language and a common ground.”
Guthrie was deeply saddened by Hillenburg’s death, and she felt as though the show was connected to her childhood.
“[His death] is just kind of like the end of an era of ‘SpongeBob,’ and that kind of constitutes my childhood,” Guthrie said. “I don’t want that to end.”
Guthrie also reminisced about the show, citing her favorite scene from “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”
“I often think about that scene where Patrick had on the fishnets and did a jump split. That’s pretty freaking hilarious,” she said.
Faith Settipani, a sophomore human development and family science major from Suwanee, saw the news when her brother posted about it on Facebook.
“We used to watch ‘SpongeBob’ all the time,” Settipani said. “So we were all pretty bummed about it.”
Settipani appreciated the show for how it helped develop the humor she has today.
“When I think about half of the things I say, they are generally like memes relating to either ‘SpongeBob’ or other TV shows,” Settipani said. “So I think he influenced my humor now as well as when I was a kid.”
She also remembered how her mother was not too fond of her watching the show.
“My mom wouldn’t let me watch it until I was like 10 because she said it would turn me dumb,” Settipani said. “But I watched them all anyway, and I’m at UGA so [it’s] not that bad.”