I Disagree With the Concept of a 10-Year-Old SpongeBob
There comes a time, in every person's life, when the thing they love the most is taken away from them. That day has come. I just didn't think it would look like this.
I met SpongeBob Squarepants when I was five years old. I tagged along for every adventure. In my head, I imagined us catching jellyfish together. Eating Krabby Patties after. We giggled that obnoxious giggle together. As I reached elder millennial age, I was prepared for Spongebob to be snatched from me. Some reboot or revival or sequel or spinoff that would disrespect the name of my good friend Spongebob Squarepants, the only sponge I have ever loved. Any day now.
On March 4, Paramount+ debuted the first SpongeBob Squarepants spinoff in the franchise's 21-year history. It's called Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years. The show follows a preteen SpongeBob and the usual suspects (Patrick, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, Squidward, and Plankton, all aged down) at summer camp. There, they clown around and annoy the hell each other until one of them inevitably reaches a moral lesson, per the usual. Just camp-themed. Which is a sweet premise, sure. Fine for a one-off animated short, like Frozen does with Olaf. When I watched the first episode, something felt off. Shit wasn't right. It hit me.
I can't accept the very idea of SpongeBob Squarepants at 10 years old.
You see, SpongeBob has evolved far beyond his prior cultural status as an anthropomorphized sponge on a children's TV show. He's an icon. Not even like Bugs Bunny, who was also criminally de-aged in 2001's Baby Looney Tunes. SpongeBob Squarepants is more like the Nike logo. You don't fuck with him. SpongeBob Squarepants is SpongeBob Squarepants. He has a certain number of pores on his body, three eyelashes, blue eyes, shirt, tie, titular square pants. This new SpongeBob, with his goofy red hat and scout badges, is not the SpongeBob I know.*
Here's another problem: Immaturity and youth are kinda already SpongeBob's thing. Dude torments his neighbors and hangs out with a slobby star who doesn't know what his own parents look like. SpongeBob downs a Triple Gooberberry Sunrise like he still belongs at not Weenie Hut Jr.'s, but Super Weenie Hut Jr.'s. There's a literal episode where SpongeBob cries, "I DON'T WANNA GROW UP!" And that he wants cookies and milky. Really, the concept of Young SpongeBob is an oxymoron. Seriously. Galaxy brain it. You know what a 10-year-old SpongeBob is? It's SpongeBob!
While we're on that train: Kamp Koral is just SpongeBob Squarepants with fancy animation. It's delightful! Just no different than if all the adult SpongeBob characters went camping again. One exception: Pearl is a tiny little baby. It's actually a little bit funny, because, if anything, Star Wars showed that if you need to de-age a make-believe character, you need to go full baby. Take a look at Teenage Yoda, then look at me straight in the eyes and tell me why we need a 10-year-old SpongeBob. I understand that there are likely some IRL human children closer to young SpongeBob's age who might find this new take more relatable. I'd like to tell these children that they're wrong.
SpongeBob is immortal, SpongeBob is forever, SpongeBob will outlive me and every single one of you, and I reject the idea that he was anything other than the fully-formed Sponge we met in that big pineapple on May 1, 1999.
* Definitive evidence that any and all permutations of SpongeBob should be banned immediately: DoodleBob. ME HOY MINOY. That'll teach you.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.