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‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ gets the academic treatment on Tumblr

Bikini Bottom goes book smart.


Gabe Bergado

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 6, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 5:24 am CDT

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea and will make you think critically about the societal issues that plague Bikini Bottom? SpongeBob SquarePants, star of SpongeBob SquarePants.

The long-running animated Nickelodeon show about a gregarious yellow sponge named SpongeBob and his undersea antics has worked its way into the very foundation of modern pop culture. SpongeBob is pretty much a household name, and his series has seen two movie adaptations. More recently, the absorbent patty-flipper and his besties have become part of a trend on Tumblr: deep, textual analysis. A discourse meme, if you will.

Some of the earliest examples call out the capitalist society that SpongeBob‘s characters live in, and the work conditions that SpongeBob faces at the Krusty Krab.  

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Furthermore, the SpongeBob discourse meme has tackled gender issues depicted in the hit children’s show. Text posts draw parallels between the experiences of characters like the Krusty Krab’s owner, Mr. Krabs, and SpongeBob’s scientist lady squirrel friend, Sandy Cheeks, and human civilization.

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While scholarly work on SpongeBob SquarePants already exists—a quick search on Google Scholar turns up over 2,000 results—the absurdity of these posts have made for a niche form of entertainment.  

Also, it’s fitting that this meme has popped up on Tumblr. The social network’s community members point out various problems with pop culture, such as Iggy Azalea‘s appropriation of blackness, or the lack of diversity in Marvel movies. This SJW (social justice warrior) surveillance is common on the platform. But the juxtaposition between the academic mindset and lighthearted cartoon is what makes the meme so hilarious. It’s almost like these posters are poking fun at the self-serious critical analysis that often dominates users’ dashboards.

There’s even a level of self-awareness to the posts:

And this isn’t the first time SpongeBob has been memeified. “No, this is Patrick” is one of the most well-loved memes on the Web, used everywhere from 4chan to Facebook.

So, have you got a hot take on something problematic in SpongeBob SquarePants? Brush up on the show and put on your thinking cap. You could very well be the Internet’s next SpongeBob academic. 

Screengrab via Movieclips Trailer/YouTube

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*First Published: Aug 6, 2015, 11:00 am CDT