In 2020, Nickelodeon dropped a colorful bomb with a single tweet that celebrated Pride Month.
The kid’s network marked the celebration of love with a Twitter post that stated, “Celebrating #Pride with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month.” The Tweet was accompanied by photos of Korra from Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Schwoz Schwartz from Henry Danger and Spongebob from Spongebob Squarepants — all of them colored in rainbow-tinted hues.
Canonically, Korra is a proud bisexual character in the world of Avatar. Fans know her for her explicit romance with Asami Sato, her best friend. However, Nickelodeon was unclear on who was the ally and “part of the community” when it came to Schwoz and Spongebob — with the latter’s sexuality gaining a lot of attention from the Twitter space.
Many asked, “Is Spongebob gay?”
The revelation that Spongebob could be gay caused a stir online. Many fans celebrated Nickelodeon’s “confirmation” that their favorite sponge was gay, which many considered “an open secret.” After all, there were many times in the show where Spongebob’s sexuality was portrayed to be queer. In fact, the most famous Spongebob meme is the Spongebob rainbow one.
So, when Nickelodeon tweeted, many were not surprised.
There’s Something Gay About Spongebob
Spongebob Squarepants, which first aired in 1999, is probably one of the biggest phenomena to intrigue gay viewers since Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby, decided to carry a purse.
An article from the Wall Street Journal discussed how Spongebob “whispered” to gay viewers. For example, Roger &David, a novelty shop based in New York, stocked Spongebob items next to Wizard of Oz coffee mugs, Wonder Woman figures and X-rated dolls — all of which were popular items amongst their gay customer base (the shop was also frequented by the gay community). Shop co-owner Roger Roth said that Spongebob is one of the most popular characters he carried in the shop. To prove a point, he pointed out to a Spongebob toy that said “Go Spongebob, go self!” whenever you squeeze its hand. Roth said that the toy was so popular that he had to restock countless times.
Another store in Atlanta that sold Spongebob items said that gay men were the top buyers of these items.
According to the article, gay fans of the character say they loved Spongebob’s peculiar humor, psychedelic nature and sunny optimism. For a male character, he wasn’t very masculine; he was very soft, which is something appreciated by most gay fans.
Other fans say that they easily relate to the way Spongebob’s sunny attitude causes resentment among his pals at Bikini Bottom. For example, his boss at the Krusty Krab, Mr. Krabs, is often hostile toward Spongebob. Some fans say that Mr. Krabs doesn’t like being around the sponge because he’s outgoing and flamboyant. This interaction reminds them of how some straight people aren’t comfortable being around the gay community.
The Discussion of Cartoons and Gender Identity
Spongebob isn’t the only character assumed to be gay. He and his friends are part of the long list of characters known for their campy resonance. Peppermint Patty, The Powerpuff Girls’ Buttercup, Scooby Doo’s Thelma and even Betty Boop — all of these characters have said innocent in-jokes that had gay undertones and weren’t noticed by the mainstream media.
Ernest and Bertram, an eight-minute film about a gay couple based on Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, was a huge hit at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. This led Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street, to send Peter Spears, the filmmaker behind Ernest and Bertram, a legal letter asking him to not show the film. He agreed.
Ellen Lewis, a spokesperson for Sesame Workshop, said that Bert and Ernie were not a gay couple and that the studio had no plans of revealing their identity in the future. They were merely puppets, not humans. However, 16 years later, former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed that Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, saying that their relationship was modeled after his relationship with his partner, Arnold Glassman.
With the speculations concerning Bert and Ernie’s relationship becoming true, it’s no wonder many people ask, “Are Spongebob and Patrick lovers?” After all, they have the same relationship dynamics as Bert and Ernie.
Unlike the Sesame Street muppets, Patrick and Spongebob don’t live together, but it’s natural to see them holding hands or dressing up as a couple. One time, Patrick even dressed up as “Patricia” and everyone in Bikini Bottom asked if “Patricia” was his girlfriend. It’s no wonder that many fans speculate that Patrick and Spongebob might end up like Bert and Ernie.
Is Spongebob Straight or Gay? His Creator Thinks Neither
Despite Nickelodeon’s Pride tweet that included the iconic sponge, some fans pointed out that Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg firmly confirmed that Spongebob is neither gay nor straight — aka asexual.
In a 2005 interview, Hillenburg was forced to address the issue after two conservative Christian activisit groups complained about the show, insisting that Spongebob and Patrick are being exploited to promote homosexuality. The showrunner scoffed at the idea and insisted that the allegations are “far-fetched.”
Hillenberg, who worked as a marine biologist teacher before creating the series, said that his agenda for the show doesn’t go beyond entertainment. He never intended for any of the characters to be gay and considered them to be “almost asexual.”
The series creator said that he just wanted to be funny and gender had nothing to do with the show. Although, he understood why many gay fans related to the show, saying that Spongebob Squarepants was a show about acceptance, if not tolerance. Every character in the show is different, and the show embraced it.
Even though the residents of Bikini Bottom were extremely different from each other, no one is shut out. Spongebob was “kind of weird, but he’s kind of special,” as Hillenburg described. Despite his oddball nature, Bikini Bottom accepted him for who he is.
The (Bikini) Bottom Line
So, is Spongebob gay?
Nickelodeon’s tweet didn’t really say who was the ally or the LGBTQ community member. And Hillenburg did say that Spongebob was asexual. Either way, Spongebob remains a character that embodies love and acceptance, which are important attitudes everyone should practice today. He remains a role model to everyone, whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community or not.