Speaking with some of my A-day sophomores at the end of class on Friday, I was informing them that I wouldn’t be seeing them for nearly a week, as they will spend the bulk of the day Tuesday doing pre-ACT testing – new territory for them, and I’m not sure they are ready for the rigor of this sort of testing. I was collecting work as I reiterated some of the test strategies they should be using, and they were generally agreeable – then, one young man, usually one of my hipper, more engaging students in that group, asked what I would be doing on Tuesday, if I would be giving a test.
“Nope. I have a senior homeroom, so I get to spend the morning being SpongeBob.” I continued my stroll around collecting tests.
“Yeah. I get to be…HALL MONITOR!”
There was a pause, then the same young man said, “Mr. Lucker – that was so…corny.”
His tone was one of great concern.
“Yeah. Saying you get to be SpongeBob is corny.”
“O.K. But it will be a nice opportunity to wear a SpongeBob tie.”
His tone switched to one of disapproving admonishment. “But that is really corny.”
“Corny that I will be a hall monitor?” The rest of the class seemed nonplussed.
“Yeah, and I don’t think you should be.” He was serious, though the disapproving tone was mostly gone. He was drifting into disappointment.
I shrugged, the bell rang, I told them to have a nice weekend.
I thought the kid’s use of the word ‘corny’ was out of place, so I did a quick check on Urban Dictionary to see if I might have missed some nuance to his concern. What I found didn’t stray very far from my initial thought of how I would use the word ‘corny’ – meaning a lame joke or reference to something. Turns out urban teen ‘corny’ is pretty much middle-aged-dude ’corny’:
‘Something presented as fresh or original, but which is actually tired
‘Especially, when its lameness derives from being obvious or done to death.
Oh Grandpa! That joke is soooo corny.’
‘Trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing’
‘Something cheesy or lame’
‘The status of “corniness” is achieved when something picks up old and overused fads just to “fit in,” falsely believes it is cool, and then takes itself too seriously, resulting in a complete destruction of its social life’
I have been a SpongeBob fan since the beginning of the show in 1999, but haven’t watched much the last few years, kids being pretty much grown up and all, though I have watched a few recent episodes with my five-year-old grandson – and, of course, I have seen the movies.
But Encyclopedia SpongeBobia was new to me.
Having two sons both into comic books and superheroes to one degree or another, and being a high school teacher, I have a reasonable understanding of fandom and general obsession with the minutiae of certain characters and their environs, but this?
Of course, I had to (virtually) thumb through the ESB.
Original episode air dates, character list, plot synopsis (‘In this episode, SpongeBob becomes hall monitor, resulting in chaos.’) pretty basic, sums it up nicely. But so does the six-paragraph full synopsis you can scroll to further down the page. And you can keep scrolling, because there is a lot more. In fact, reading through the key points on this compendium entry will take you far longer than the eleven minutes it would take you to watch the actual episode.
OK, kids cartoons being made into books is not a new thing – you could purchase Little Golden Books of many of the cartoons I watched as a kid, but my curiosity being hat it is, I decided to click to see if the unbridled enthusiasm of the episode Wiki was as detailed for the book.
All sixty-four pages. Thirty, if you are reading on a Kindle.
I am a Kindle-kind-of-guy, so I had to check it out. Sixty-four pages gives you a lot of time for character development and story exposition, and by golly the folks who put it together deliver on all counts. Pretty decent read, to be honest – a bit of an Alexander Wollcott/Robert Benchley vibe, actually – and it did hold my attention, probably more than it should have.
This started out being about the concept of corniness, and while some of this strikes me as all rather corny, and while others may say there are people with way too much time on their hands, I think Encyclopedia SpongeBobia is a good example of how information can be mined, refined, and shared with a broad audience. I mean, somebody had to take the time to compile this information, reformulate and format it, post it for the world to see. That took a certain set of skills that I would love to impart to my students and I might just be able to turn this little classroom anecdote into a true ‘teachable moment.’
My students would surely find that to be a very corny thing to do.
But I’m still wearing a SpongeBob tie on Tuesday.