Monday, June 21, 2010

Know Your Audience: Judd Apatow and Spongebob Squarepants

My son has found Spongebob. My son adores Spongebob. My life is now filled with Spongebob. And, I have to say - I'm pretty amazed by Spongebob.

I'm amazed by Spongebob in the same way I'm amazed by Judd Apatow. Husband and I went to see Get Him To The Greek this weekend - and it was pretty hilarious in parts. Disgusting in others, sweet in others. But as I watched Adam laugh until he cried, I realized what Spongebob and the Apatow gang have all figured out - they know thier audience. Boys and man-boys. And, of course, the women that love them.

Which might seem simple - the common denominator for both seems to be butt jokes. But here is my arguement, Maureen-style...which means with numbers.

1. Guys love gross things. Butt jokes. Fart jokes, the strage close ups on Spongebob's disguting face after pulling an all nighter at the Krusty Krab. They love this - and both use it to maximum advantage. The jokes have a point and they're used sparingly. They appeal to the common denominator, they know where boys and man-boys live. In the bathroom.

2. They don't underestimate thier audience. Which is strange - for as low as the humor can get, they don't wallow in the gutter. For all the bathroom jokes, Apatow's crowd handles dark material with total confidence. Death, lonliness, never fitting in, never finding real love, are all pretty heavy subjects for the man-boy and to get those messages across while at the same time having Jonah Hill stick things up his butt - amazing. Spongebob is the E-Z reader version of that same dichotmy. Spongebob only wants to be loved as much as he loves - which, is my four year old son's total reason for living.

3. Lots and lots of heart. Spongebob is a nerd, with a few great friends and his heart is easily broken. Spongebob cries - quite a bit, but for good reason. He's a good guy. Apatow and gang, have the grown up versions of Spongebob. Nerds. Good friends. I think Get Him To The Greek, Pineapple Express, Superbad and Funny People rise about the other R-rated comedys because they don't rely on a man/woman romance to give them heart. That's easy - that path has been paved and lit with ballpark lights - and it's often totally forgetable. Instead, they've mastered the bromance. And it's really touching and often suprising, because the character arc reveals itself in ways that are so unexpected.

I clearly have too much time on my hands.

7 comments:

Eileen said...

Ah, the amazing world of the Pineapple under the Sea. I have a friend who has a whole theory about the world of SpongeBob being an allegory of sorts for the Freudian model of personality with Patrick being the Id, SpongeBob being the Ego and Squidward being the SuperEgo. Or maybe SpongeBob was SuperEgo. At any rate, there's more there than meets the eye. Or we all think too much. Either is possible.

But to your actual point . . . you do have to know your audience! There are times for a fart joke and time when it's just not appropriate. There was some philosopher who said that meaning is actually context.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great insight, Molly! I realized last night that I forgot to ask you which movie you saw.

Get Him to the Greek exceeded my expectations, too. Surprisingly deep and sweet. Or at least deeper and sweeter than I expected. (despite the scatological humor.)

Maureen McGowan said...

I also loved that Greek was a sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall... I knew Brand was playing a similar character, but I didn't realize until it started that it was the SAME character. Only thing that would've made it better for me is if the Jonah Hill character was the same guy, too. In Sarah Marshall he played a waiter obsessed with Aldus Snow. If in that first scene with P Diddy he'd said, "Oh, I met Aldus once in Hawaii. We're buds." I would have loved it. Or maybe they did do this and I missed it...

Sinead M said...

It will be a long time before I get to see it, but I am looking forward to watching it.


As for Spongebob, we're big fans at our house. But nothing outdoes the magic of those barbie movies for little girls...
Another example of knowing your audience.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I think context is everything. And I would not be suprised if Spongebob could be an allegory of all sorts of things, and not because the creator/writers are smart or are trying - it's just in it's childlike little way - really pure.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Those Apatow movies are ALWAYS deeper and sweeter than you think they're going to be and that's the freaking magic.

I also think because it's so many of the same guys, they all have chemistry and genuine affection for each other - (James Franco and Seth Rogan in Pineapple Express were so perfect it hurt me, repeatedly) so the sweetness comes off as genuine as opposed to the LOADS of crappy rom cons that are so forgettable becasue there's no connection between the leads.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Welcome back Sinead! Sinead has spent four days in a pub in the bahamas...feel free to hate her.

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