TV Article: Spongebob Squarepants – Band Geeks (A Retrospective)

Written by Matt Butler February 14, 2019

So how about that halftime show eh?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/maroon-5-super-bowl-halftime-1.5004295

https://bphawkeye.org/editorial-2/2019/02/05/meme-review-super-bowl-halftime-show-disappoints-disturbs/

https://www.pride.com/music/2019/2/03/10-super-bowl-halftime-show-performances-better-maroon-5s

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/4/18210541/adam-levine-super-bowl-shirt

I mean, sure we didn’t get that performance of Sweet Victory that over one million people signed a petition for. Sure, it was teased by both Maroon 5 and Mercedes Benz. Sure, we only got a ten-second animated clip as an introduction to an entirely different song that doesn’t even sync up musically with the clip that doesn’t even include the actual song that over a million fans asked for in the first place.

But hey, at least we got Maroon 5…

I have a lot of opinions on this whole hoopla. How it’s pretty much a slap in the face to Spongebob fans and makes everyone involved in the halftime show look stupid just by association. How teasing the song only to not play the song at all makes absolutely no sense. I could write a ten-page essay explaining in excruciating detail how stupid this whole thing is. But I’m going to do it in nine.

For every one of you that already agrees with me, I’m sure there’s just as many of you out there who look at this whole thing and say “Eh, whatever. Didn’t Spongebob stop being good like 15 years ago?”

And I get it. Spongebob isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially the last… *quick Google search* …nine seasons? Wow. And even in its heyday, at its core, Spongebob has always been a ridiculous cartoon show for kids. But it’s also a really popular ridiculous cartoon show for kids. It’s won six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 15 Kids’ Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children’s Awards. It’s a show that’s lasted nearly 20 years and has become a $12 Billion industry. I could go on, but I’d just be reading the Wikipedia page.

It’s also worth noting that this whole petition was made as a tribute to the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who died last November due to complications with ALS. Millions of people asked for Sweet Victory, a song made famous in the Season 2 Episode “Band Geeks”, to be performed at this year’s halftime show in Hillenburg’s memory. Could have even settled for a video clip of the song right from the episode. Throw in some lights, some fireworks. Would have been pretty kickass. But none of that happened.

But it’s okay, because we have America’s Sweetheart, Travis Scott, performing the 2018 classic, Sicko Mode.

Now there’s a musical genius that needs no introduction.

So the question from most Spongebob fans is “If you aren’t going to play the song we asked for? Why tease it at all?”. But I think I’ve rambled on enough about all this. Also, the answer is very simple…

Now I want to address everyone who didn’t grow up with Spongebob. “But why this song?” You, the hypothetical non-Spongebob fan may ask. “Why play Sweet Victory? Is it just because it’s a fun song the characters played in the show in a setting that references the Super Bowl?”

I believe there’s a lot more to it than that.

Spongebob Squarepants

Season 2 Episode 15B

BAND GEEKS

Before you keep reading, just watch the episode.

There’s a lot to unpack and enjoy about Band Geeks. The consistent laughs, the now immortal “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” exchange, the fact that it involves just about every character in the show with a name, and of course, that kick-ass finale. I would love to geek out about each and every ridiculous line and sight gag in this episode, but I don’t think that would explain the overall appeal of Band Geeks. After all, comedy is subjective. But there is something at work here that makes this episode one of the best. And that something is philosophy!

Wait, don’t go!

One of the most central philosophies of Spongebob Squarepants is an appreciation of the simple joys in life. This is personified by Spongebob himself, who takes great joy in blowing bubbles, catching jellyfish and making Krabby Patties. While these are simple hobbies, Spongebob approaches them with absolute fervour and dedication. Even his job as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, the type of job most people use to pay rent and student loans, but rarely as a choice for a lifelong career. For most people, this job is a means to an end, but for Spongebob, fry cooking is the end goal. He takes such joy in his work that he has, on occasion, actually refused pay.

“I can’t accept your money Mr. Krabs. Grilling is my passion.”

S02E24 Squid on Strike

And what’s more, the show rewards him for it. Throughout the series, Spongebob’s optimism is often the cause of his triumphs, of which the show affords him many. He is so buoyant that it can quite literally propel him off the ground.

Squidward, conversely, is cynical from head to tentacles. He longs for glory, higher social status, a musical career, wealth, and hair. He has none of these things, and because of that, he is perpetually miserable. Spongebob and his oafish BFF Patrick, earnest as they are, only add insult to injury.

Geographically speaking, Squidward is stuck between a rock and a pineapple. As even the most casual viewer would tell you, he’d rather be anywhere else. But note the ending of the Season 2 Episode “Squidsville”, in which Squidward fulfills his dream of moving away from Spongebob and Patrick. Although he finally gets to live amongst his own kind, with clarinet trios, a dance academy and canned bread to boot, he ultimately finds himself just as unhappy as before, if not worse.

“Yep, this is great. We might as well rename this town ‘Squidward’s Paradise’. Or perhaps, ‘Too Much Paradise’.”

As one would expect, Squidward realizes how much he misses his obnoxious nautical neighbours and all their destructive antics. That’s because Squidward, and the audience, knows that alone he is only one half of a whole; the Yin to Spongebob and Patrick’s Yang. If you ask me, this is what gives the show its core appeal. It’s this constant back and forth between optimism and pessimism; the wide-eyed kids and the baggy-eyed adults.

While most episodes end with Spongebob as the victor, there’s an undeniable hope that Squidward will, eventually, get his day in the sun. We can be inspired by how much Spongebob enjoys his job as a fry cook, but as we get older and face more of life’s mishaps and miseries, we start to see more of ourselves in Squidward. This might explain the more negative reactions to episodes like “Ink Lemonade”, which engages in what fans call “Squidward Torture Porn”. Sure, his cynicism makes him a much easier target for comic torment than Spongebob, but give the guy a break! And that’s exactly what Band Geeks is; Squidward’s big break.

Note the friendship ring on Spongebob’s finger, a callback to the prior episode, Idiot Box and a rare moment of continuity in a show that rarely feels the need for it.

I’ve heard fans propose Band Geeks as the true series finale, and when you take into account all the crap Squidward’s taken, and still gets handed ten seasons later, placing this at the end of it all makes Band Geeks pretty satisfying. This is also one of the few episodes where Squidward combats his deeply rooted cynicism if only to be overrun by his deeply rooted arrogance. But really, Squidward’s only act of arrogance in this episode is claiming he has a band, but it’s his wild ambition, and his fear of embarrassment, that drives him to bring it all together, even when he knows no one in the band has any experience. This plot would later be remodeled in the Season Three episode, “Squilliam Returns”, in which Squidward attempts again to impress his old rival, this time by dressing up the Krusty Krab as a five-star restaurant. The result is less a sweet victory than a bitter defeat. Yet another reason why Band Geeks is so unique to the series.

Still, there is a tongue-in-cheek awareness in this episode that Squidward doesn’t outright deserve a happy ending just by sheer willpower. Spongebob, in a last ditch effort to rally the troops together after Squidward’s departure, makes it very clear that Squidward’s never done much for anyone in Bikini Bottom.

SPONGEBOB: What kind of monsters are we? That poor creature came to us in his hour of need, and we failed him. Squidward’s always been there for us when it was convenient for him! Evelyn! When your little Jimmy was trapped in a fire, who rescued him?

EVELYN: A fireman.

SPONGEBOB: And Larry! When your heart gave out from all those tanning pills, who revived you?

LARRY: Some guy in an ambulance.

SPONGEBOB: Right! So if we all could just pretend that Squidward was a fireman or some guy in an ambulance, then I’m sure we could all pull together and discover what it truly means to be in a marching band!

RANDOM FISH: Yeah! For the fireman!

(EVERYONE cheers)

This is an interesting character choice for Spongebob. It shows us that he isn’t as sycophantic as we may have believed and that he might actually have a decent understanding of Squidward’s self-centered nature. And yet, he still wants the best for him all the same. It’s a beautiful example of unconditional kindness that brings out the best in Spongebob, Squidward and the entire ensemble cast of Bikini Bottom. It’s also a fun twist that the band ditches their high school marching band sound for a power ballad rock song. It catches everyone by surprise, which puts us right in Squidward’s shoes, er tentacles.

Bands Geeks believes that even the Squidwards in life deserve their time to shine.

So yeah, that’s my not-so-short explanation of why this 11-minute episode of a dorky kids show is kind of incredibly wonderful. It’s still one of the most acclaimed episodes of the entire series, and it’s hardly just because it’s funny. It’s as funny for first-time viewers as it is satisfying for series veterans. It’s Spongebob at the height of its powers. That Band Geeks should receive as cheap a tribute as it did by the Super Bowl, well that’s a damn shame. But, as one would expect, the fans always strike back.

RIP Stephen Hillenburg

(1961-2018)

 

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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