- Source citation: Miller, Martin (July 13, 2009). "SpongeBob SquarePants and the Terminator are modern heroes." Tribune Newspapers. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
One serves up the glorious Krabby Patty; the other metes out pitiless death. You might think that a gregarious sponge who is fond of red ties and speaks crystal-clear English underwater has little in common with a time-traveling, red-eyed killing machine whose default language setting comes with a heavy Austrian accent.
And that's where you would be wrong, Spongy, dead wrong.
Despite their obvious differences, SpongeBob SquarePants and the Terminator are actually brothers from different mothers, as the kids might say. The two are alike in surprising ways that have everything to do with why there are SpongeBob ceiling fans at Target and a newly opened roller coaster called Terminator Salvation: The Ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California.
Although the two-dimensional characters share a host of traits -- ferocious dedication to work, extreme mood swings, a distinct fashion style and an ambiguous sexuality -- it is their mutual ability to emerge unbreakable from nearly all circumstances that helps explain their worldwide appeal to three-dimensional humans.
SpongeBob, who heartily soaks up the juice of life, feels everything. The Terminator (I'm talking strictly about the 800 Series, Model 101 here; subsequent portrayals are all mere commentary on the 1984 original) feels nothing. But whether it's a spotlight moment of acute social shame or a torrent of shotgun blasts, you can't bring this pair down, at least not for long.
Both mega-merchandised figures are marking notable cultural milestones this summer on television and at the movies. SpongeBob is a still vibrant 10 years old, a birthday Nickelodeon is celebrating with a weekend long marathon that begins Friday and culminates Sunday, the actual anniversary of the pilot episode's first airing.
Meanwhile, the Terminator franchise chalked up its fourth major motion picture in May, a few months before its official 25th anniversary in October. The film has performed well internationally but only lukewarm domestically, foreshadowing perhaps that the unit may be nearing the end of its life span. Still, no matter how the future may look for either one, they haven't done too badly for an invertebrate and a cyborg that looks a lot like California's governor.
SpongeBob and the Terminator are not cowed by the world's petty conventions. SpongeBob laughs at the tsunami of rigid societal rules, while the Terminator fills them full of blazing hot lead -- two coping techniques more than a few of us may have fantasized about.
Time and again, SpongeBob defies the established custom and instead of being punished is rewarded. In "Idiot Box," the Stephen Hillenburg creation and his dimwitted sidekick Patrick Star excitedly open a giant box, which contains a television. The two discard the device and hop into the big box, where they use their imaginations to create a new and more entertaining world of avalanche rescues and pirate adventures.
"We don't need television. Not as long as we have ... our imagination," explains SpongeBob, who summons a tiny rainbow in his hands. The message is clear -- revel in the power of your own mind. Like the person who dreamed up the SpongeBob ceiling fan.
Another classic episode is "The Bully," a theme frequently explored in Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob gets a new classmate, Flatts the Flounder, who is interested in only one thing -- pulverizing the sponge. SpongeBob runs, hides, even tries to form alliances, but all to no avail. Finally, SpongeBob surrenders to his fate, and Flatts pounds away.
Suddenly, SpongeBob realizes something amazing -- "I'm absorbing his blows like I was made of some kind of spongy material." It doesn't hurt, and eventually the bully is defeated by the rope-a-dope.
Even if your soul isn't ground to dust by the hectoring of the world, it's still hard not to get your feelings hurt along the way. Enter the Terminator, eyes cloaked by mirror sunglasses, with no feelings to get in the way of getting what he wants.
The James Cameron creation is the strong, silent type -- even when he gets dragged underneath a speeding 18-wheeler or set on fire in a tanker explosion.
Of course, he is still animated by his own decisive actions, which he directs more than a few times at the bureaucracy.
So we perversely love him because he's powerful and because we sympathize when he concentrates his rage at certain objects.
In the original film, the Terminator goes into a gun store, where he's told there's a waiting period for the handguns. He begins loading a weapon, and when the store clerk tells him he can't do that, blam! That's what the Terminator thinks about your stinking rules!
But the scene that made the Terminator an icon comes at a police station. He asks if he can see Sarah Connor, the woman we all know he wants to murder. The police officer tells him he'll just have to wait. And then he utters what is still his most famous catchphrase: "I'll be back."
Then he crashes his car through the station's front window and shoots up the entire police station. Sure, he takes a few dozen bullets to the chest, but that's a small price to pay for refusing to be dehumanized, a sentiment even an eternally optimistic sponge could applaud.