|Captain:||Are you ready kids?|
|Captain:||I can’t hear you…|
|Captain:||Oh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?|
|Captain:||Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!|
|Captain:||If nautical nonsense be something you wish…|
|Captain:||Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!|
|EveryBody:||SpongeBob SquarePants! SpongeBob SquarePants! SpongeBob SquarePants!|
|Captain:||SpongeBob…. SquarePants! Haha.|
(Lyrics courtesy of http://www.spongebobworld.com)
If you were born in the during or after the 1990′s, have a younger sibling, or if you are a parent or grandparent of a child under 20, you probably don’t need any music to know the tune to which the above song is placed. In fact, I could have just used the first three words and you probably would have belted out the rest, in tune, without even thinking about it. It is SEARED into your mind, I guarantee it. Along with this creepy picture…
I am twenty years old. I was born in 1991. And I have never enjoyed an episode of Spongebob Squarepants more than I do at this moment. The sheer mastery of what is the Spongebob empire is second to none. Children’s first words around the globe? Spongebob. Want to know how to dress your kids for school so they will be “cool”? Spongebob. Throwing a birthday party for a child? Spongebob theme.
Want your child to just CHILL out and watch television so that you can actually get something done? SPONGEBOB SQUARE PANTS, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, SPONGEBOOOOOOOOB SQUAREEEEEPANTS! AHAHAHA!!
But next time your child down in front of Spongebob and sit down to “watch” it with him/her (while you sit and “work” on your computer or whatever), pay attention to something. Watch your child. Are they laughing at the jokes you find yourself snickering at? Or do they only laugh when there is a slow motion scene where someone is injured or when they see and hear you cracking up?
If you’re my age, think back to when you first watched Spongebob. Did you laugh at all the jokes back then? Or do you find yourself laughing and marveling at all the things you missed as a child?
I know, right? The simple fact of the matter is that most children under about the age of eight or so, don’t understand anything going on in Spongebob. They don’t get the jokes, many of which are quite subtly very adult jokes, and the action and scenes move much too fast for a small child to comprehend. For them? its colorful, loud, the characters are easily recognizable, and most importantly, they see YOU laughing and enjoying it, so they know it must be good.
In fact, recent studies have shown that children under about 5 are more likely to have some form of Attention Deficit Disorder when exposed to massive amounts of Spongebob and other similar shows. They simply lose the ability to concentrate, hours of their daily lives are spent watching a yellow square flash by at high-speed, how could they concentrate?
So, why is Spongebob so popular? Because WE love it!!! By “we” I mean adults, the “mature” crowd. We tried the whole slow-moving, dull, mind-numbing Barney and Teletubbies and whatever has come out since then. Its EXCRUCIATING to sit and just listen to it when our children are watching it. But Spongebob? We can plop our kids down in front of Spongebob and not only do they enjoy it and “learn” some moral lessons (the 13 bad words anyone?) but we can enjoy it too. We laugh at the jokes, we get the humor, WE GET THE NARRATIVE!! Want to know why? Because it’s aimed at US. Not children.
Think about it. Who picks the television that an adolescent watches? Their parents. So, if we can market a show for kids, but TARGET their parents, it’s going to be HUGE!
So what does all of this have to do with my usual political and philosophical writings? The issue of a Narrative, and the recognition of who the target audience is for that narrative.
This is a little outdated now, but I’ll use Rush Limbaugh’s recent gaff as my primary example here. Most of us know which one I’m talking about, but for those who don’t:
Rush Limbaugh, right-wing radio host and “commentator” recently called a Georgetown University Law student a “slut” after she appeared before Congress to discuss the issue of health insurance insofar as contraception is concerned.
Almost immediately, outrage began to pour in. Limbaugh’s show lost advertiser after advertiser and he was slammed by people on both sides of the aisle. And, much to the surprise of many rational people, it took Rush COMPLETELY by surprise. How could the fact that people got mad over something so egregious surprise him?
Because we weren’t the target audience of his narrative. He makes it sound like he’s going after this young lady and all women, but he really wasn’t. Rush Limbaugh is smart. He knows what he’s saying. He wasn’t attacking women. He was simply stroking the egos of his audience. His audience? They already think like this. But telling them “Hey, you’re right” does nothing for them. But by seeming to attack this woman, all Rush was doing was subtly targeting his audience. Making them feel smart, making himself more popular amongst them, drawing them in.
Another example: Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has been on the campaign trail blasting “Obamacare” and “attacking” those on the left for supporting it. Or at least that’s how it seems. Does he really expect to win-over or change the minds of any of these people? Does he really expect President Obama to say, “Hmmm… Mitt is making some really good points, he just changed my mind.”?
The people on the left, even though they are they one’s Mr. Romney is addressing, is not the target audience for his narrative. His target audience is the people who already think like he does. He’s not impacting the mind’s of anyone on the left, but by addressing “them” his narrative is actually subtly targeted at the people on the right.
Perhaps my favorite example is the continual stream of “Like this image if you love Jesus” posts on Facebook. We’ve all seen them. What is the purpose of these images? What purpose does having people “like” the image serve? Is the narrative really for all of the non-believers out there? Are they supposed to see these images and the sheer number of people who “like” them and instantly convert? Is that the purpose of these images?
Outwardly, maybe that’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves when we “like” or redistribute that image. But what is the target audience for the narrative? People who already think similarly. You’re not going to convert a non-believer by redistributing that image. BUT! When you see that 50,000 other people have liked that image, you feel great about yourself. “Look at all of these great people who believe exactly like I do.”
Is there anything wrong with this kind of action? No. Is it wrong to sit your kid down in front of Spongebob because YOU are the one who likes it? Is it wrong to distribute and image “Thinking” that you’re going to bring someone to Jesus when it’s really just about making yourself feel better?? No on both counts.
None of this stuff is overtly “BAD.” I’m not slamming parents who watch Spongebob or people who “like” the Jesus pictures on Facebook. But we live in a world where we are literally bombarded on a daily basis by information. We hear a “narrative” every second of every day. Let’s just take some time to look and see who’s the ACTUAL target of that comment. Instead of cheering someone for “scolding” or telling “those” people how it is, stop and think. Is that what they are really doing? Or are they just saying, to someone else, what they know YOU already want to hear? Quit taking things at face value. Its an exercise that will benefit everyone.
Think Freely My Friends.