The goal of psychoanalysis is to figure out what repressed (and in Freud’s case, sexual and violent) desires reside within the depths of our unconscious. Similarly, the goal of literary analysis is to figure out what hidden meanings reside within the depths of a piece of literature. When the two are combined, and we assume that Freud was right about everyone having a repressed incestuous desire to be with their parents; episode 26a of the second season of SpongeBob SquarePants, “Grandma’s Kisses”, is really just a display of the Oedipus complex disguised as wholesome children’s entertainment.
In the episode, SpongeBob is spoiled by his grandmother and enjoys a morning at her house where she gives him cookies, treats him like a baby, and kisses him goodbye before dropping him off at work. SpongeBob loves this until it gets him laughed at by the older males in his life. Seeking guidance, he asks his seemingly more-developed male friend, Patrick, for advice. Patrick suggests that the two of them return to his grandmother’s house and act like men by wearing fake facial hair and denying any sort of affection from SpongeBob’s grandmother.
This plan backfires when Patrick reverts to childlike behavior and gets the treatment that SpongeBob originally received from his grandmother. SpongeBob then must choose between “acting like a man” and resisting her love, or being a “baby” again and getting kisses from her. The episode is resolved when he chooses the latter, and is finally happy again.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to admit that SpongeBob wants to sleep with his grandmother. I don’t even know if Freud would’ve analyzed that episode to come to the same conclusion that I did (I’m sure there are plenty of things Freud would’ve said about SpongeBob). But, given the amount of subliminal adult humor present in the show and because “psychoanalysis…[is] first and foremost an art of interpreting”, anything is possible (433).