THE T&C GUIDE TO GUILTY PLEASURES
ADMIT IT: YOU MAY PACK DOSTOYEVSKY AND RAW ALMONDS, BUT ONCE YOU’RE LYING ON THE SAND IT’S ALL ABOUT TABLOIDS AND TOSTITOS. HAVE NO SHAME: AS EVIDENCED HERE, EVEN THE MOST HIGH-MINDED AMONG US REQUIRE INDULGENCES.
Admit it: You may pack Dostoyevsky and raw almonds, but once you’re lying on the sand it’s all about tabloids and Tostitos. Have no shame—as evidenced here, even the most high-minded among us require indulgences.
of the many good reasons to have kids, having license to watch cartoons with them is pretty high on the list. I felt I was contributing to their education by introducing my son and daughter to the Looney tunes classics. My daughter preferred live action shows like Lizzie
McGuire and Hannah Montana, but I spent many satisfying hours on the couch with my son watching The Powerpuff Girls and The Simpsons. Discovering SpongeBob SquarePants was, for us, the equivalent of Keats first looking into Chapman’s Homer. My son is now an adult, but I’m still watching SpongeBob, 18 years after its debut.
I’m not quite sure how to explain this obsession, although over the years I’ve discovered I’m not alone among my contemporaries. some- times, after my wife has publicly aired her amusement about this inexplicable proclivity, I’ve gotten whispered confessions from other devotees. Like most of the great cartoons,
SpongeBob is sprinkled with cultural references that go over the head of its ostensible audience, such as, just to pluck one out of the water, the intermittent appearance of smooth jazz purveyor Kelpy g—a squid version of saxophonist Kenny g—the favorite musician of the curmudgeonly middlebrow artiste squidward. Kids may not get the reference, although they probably understand that squidward’s taste in music is being mocked, albeit gently. In contrast to his dour neighbor squidward, the eponymous yellow spongebob squarepants is relentlessly sunny. He lives in a pineapple-shaped house next door to squidward, whose house resembles an easter Island head, and to his best friend, patrick, a dimwitted starfish who lives under a rock. although he is childlike in every regard, spongebob has a job he loves as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, working for an exploitative, Mammon-worshipping crab. Mr. Krabs’s archnemesis is plankton, a cyclopean single-celled villain whose sisyphean mission in life is to steal the secret recipe for the Krabby patty and thereby achieve world domination, and increased revenue for his own restaurant, the Chum bucket.
When the world is too much with me, and I can’t watch another minute of Cnn, I turn to nickelodeon to contemplate the benign mysteries of bikini bottom. Why does spongebob live in a pineapple? the show takes place underwater, and yet the characters employ fire and consume soft drinks. Why does the narrator speak with a bad French accent? and why is Mr. Krabs’s daughter pearl a whale? until I have the answers to these questions, I think I’ll keep
T&c Jay McInerney is the wine critic for Town & country.