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Defining Class in SpongeBob

Many readings of the show have identified Squidward as the working class hero who stands up to Mr. Krabs and his greed (for instance in the episodes, “Squid’s Day Off” and “Squid on Strike”). However, in my opinion, Squidward is both the most class conscious and problematic character of the series. His indoctrination of Spongebob to Marxist lore is purely selfish. He is not motivated by the liberation of the proletariat, but by self-interest.

His interest in classical music and art indicates that perhaps Squidward has more education than Spongebob. His decision to move to Squidville (Season 2 Episode 26b) is motivated by a desire to be with other “cultured” seemingly high-nosed squids. His initial bliss in Squidville indicates that Squidward is not the working class hero some pretends he is but rather a bourgeois-at-heart.

Spongebob is a proletarian with no class consciousness. When prompted to go on strike, he asks “What’s a strike?” True to his sponge nature, Spongebob has absorbed all the capitalist ideologies of Bikini Bottom. He’s naturalized the abuse and injustices he faces daily as an employee of the Krusty Krab.

However, what is made salient in the episode “Squid On Strike” is that when his perception shifts, when Squidward sheds light on their oppression, he is more than willing to act. Spongebob sneaks out in the night to both figuratively and literally dismantle the oppressive establishment where he worked.

Moreover, Spongebob represents the ideal striker. Not only driven by the cause, but also by the power of friendship and comradery. Spongebob knows, the real strike is the friends we made along the way.

Sandy represents the voice of reason and science in the show. A brilliant progress-driven scientist, whose goal is to build an eco-communist autarkic utopia, much like her Treehouse.

However, much like the well-meaning liberal elites of today, Sandy’s higher level education renders her completely out-of-touch with the daily working class reality of the other denizens of Bikini Bottom: She lives...... in a bubble.

Patrick is often construed as a depiction of the Lumpenproletariat. Idle, unemployed, and seemingly devoid of class consciousness. I want to argue however that Patrick is the character with the highest revolutionary potential.

In his idleness, Patrick is actively contesting the capitalist impetus to be “productive”. Patrick is a constant reminder that the privileged will always uphold “work” as a sort of sanctified activity, as a means to value an individual’s worth. Patrick by sleeping all day, by living under a rock is a pink star-shaped Fuck-You to capitalism.

He represents, to me, what Marcuse called the Great Refusal: “A protest against unnecessary repression, the struggle for the ultimate form of freedom — ‘to live without anxiety.’”


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