What’s pink and square at the same time?
“Naughty Nautical Neighbors” and “Boating School” are two episodes that feel like the beginning of an exploration of who SpongeBob is as a character. It’s a movement the series makes and continues throughout the next several episodes, linking quite a few of them thematically.
This episode is the first one to make me actively wonder how old SpongeBob is. Watching him and Patrick blow bubbles to each other is cute and amusing and oddly juxtaposed with the fact that they’re doing so from their respective backyards–these are homeowners, implying their adulthood.
And yet, “Naughty Nautical Neighbors” is an episode that casts these adults as children competing for Squidward’s affections after he orchestrates a fight between them. It’s the rare episode that allows me to enjoy Squidward’s victories, if only to see how the consequences play out and enjoy the character development given to Bikini Bottom’s two best friends.
The best moment of this competition belongs to Patrick. When Squidward voices aloud his desire to relax in the tub, he finds Patrick waiting for him, a bath already drawn. I choked on the soda I was drinking. The visual alone is funny.
“Boating School” is not as funny as “Naughty Nautical Neighbors,” but it does run with the idea that SpongeBob is a child in an adult’s body. In “Boating School” we learn that SpongeBob doesn’t have his boating license and is in school to get one. He’s attempted the test 38 times and he fails over and over again.
The episode starts with SpongeBob confident as ever that today will be the day he finally aces the exam. He passes the oral exam with flying colors, confident in his answers. As soon as he gets behind the wheel of the boat, we realize why SpongeBob fails.
Getting a boating license seems to be the only thing holding SpongeBob back from being a fully fleshed adult, at least in the materialistic sense. He’s got a house, a full time job and even a pet that he takes care of. What he doesn’t have, however, is something that’s largely considered in our world to be a must have for any grown up: a license.
When he steps behind the wheel of the boat to drive, SpongeBob instead panics and his anxiety takes over. He becomes erratic and loses control of the boat.
Could it be that our juvenile underwater friend can’t stand the idea of being an adult? That when confronted with the final step in adulthood, his brain freezes and can’t allow that threshold to be crossed?
I find it likely. SpongeBob doesn’t want to be an adult–he wants to sit in his backyard and blow bubbles with his friend Patrick. His mind literally collapses at the idea of achieving all of the material requirements of adulthood.
“Boating School” shows us another thing SpongeBob’s mind can’t handle: cheating. SquarePants has a strong moral center, usually placing him on the side of goodness. Faced with the idea that he’s cheating to win his boating license, SpongeBob crashes again. Either he truly can’t fathom the idea of being a cheater, or he latches onto the first excuse to present itself to avoid getting his license.
Pairing both these episodes is a great way to give us insight into our favorite living sponge. Look for the series to continue this trend as it moves forward.
- “My best and my ex best friend, and *gasp!* …rubber bath toys!” The insidiousness of rubber bath toys is on full display.
- *Sniiiifffff* “Squidddddwaaaardddd.”
- “What a surprise, I invited them in, and then I left them alone. Well Squidward, what did we learn today?”
- “Hey, I just got my license!” “Hey, I’m getting mine next!” “Hey, I doubt it!”
- Welcome Mrs. Puff to SpongeBob SquarePants! I love the decision to have her be a blowfish and puff out when SpongeBob crashes.
- “My leg!” The meme arises. Hello, Fred, and welcome. I look forward to hearing your catch phrase many more times as the series goes on.