Why SpongeBob SquarePants is the king of memes
How did a little angular little sea-dweller from a quarter-century old cartoon became such a fount of unforgettable memes? Is SpongeBob this reality’s main character?
SpongeBob SquarePants stands astride the modern meme scene like a colossus. A mustard-coloured meme god. There are literally dozens of famous SpongeBob based templates, more probably than any other single character in the contemporary animated canon.
There’s buff SpongeBob, a ludicrous hunky mountain of muscle and rage. There’s ight imma head out SpongeBob, relatably ditching his friends when he feels like the vibes are off. Weary out-of-breath SpongeBob. Sarcastic ‘IMAGINATION’ SpongeBob. SpongeBob trying to read two pages of the same book, at the same time.
So many SpongeBob-related memes are created every day that there have sprung up loads of wholly separate, each totally gigantic, communities purely for creating and sharing the dankest SpongeBob content.
Why. Why, why, why?
SpongeBob SquarePants first aired in 1999. The show was created, would you believe it, by a former marine biologist called Stephen Hillenburg. This visionary fish-fancier pitched it to Nickelodeon in the most SpongeBob way imaginable.
What did he do? Hillenburg rocked up at Nickelodeon’s office, apparently, clutching a model aquarium, containing teeny tiny models of his soon-to-be iconic characters. He even made a point of blasting loud tropical music during the pitch.
Suffice it to say, Hillenburg nailed the secret formula.
Still, why of all the great animated shows did SpongeBob become lord of memes?
The Simpsons has a reasonable claim to be just as memed, and certainly just as memeable, with a widely known cast of characters that basically everybody is familiar with.
But… The Simpsons first aired a decade earlier, in 1989. It’s representing a well-off middle class nuclear family, with one breadwinner. It’s no longer as relatable as it used to be.
Also, obviously point, but they kept making it beyond the point where the setup is plausible.
SpongeBob came along at that sweet spot where the millennials were in their teens, and kept trucking when Gen Z were at school. It’s silly, in the right kind of way to appeal to both. The sheer surreal absurdity of it appeals more to the 21st century sense of humour.
Compared with The Simpsons, or even something like Bob’s Burgers, it can stretch the expressions and predicaments of the characters so much further. Which makes it a rich seam of memetic pay dirt.
But! It’s not just daft and surreal. SpongeBob watched as a kid is all pratfall and stupid jokes. But when you watch it again as an adult, you see the grown-up struggle.
SpongeBob trying to pass his driving test! Or marooned in a dead-end, menial career! With a gloomy neighbour, and an unscrupulous hyper-capitalist employer!
You get to enjoy the same show twice, from two totally different perspectives.
Unless he gets cancelled? After all, you could argue that mEmE wHeRe SpOnGeBoB tAlKs LiKe ThIS is kinda ableist, eh?
Ever wondered if you could GET RICH MAKING MEMES?
Are CLASSROOM MEMES actually good for teaching?
Also, while we’re here, IS STEALING MEMES ILLEGAL?