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  • A common complaint about modern day episodes is the tendency to over-hype regular episodes as huge specials. This trend started back during seasons 2 and 3 of the show, which is often considered to be during the show's golden age, with episodes such as "Party Pooper Pants" (which would have been standard length were it not for the Patchy segments) and "Shanghaied" (whose gimmick only worked the very first time it aired). It wasn't until the first such "special" to air after The Movie, "Best Day Ever", that fans started complaining, as it took a 24 hour marathon (that continued throughout the entirety of Nick @ Nite) of the most beloved episodes of the series, as well as the movie, to advertise an 11 minute episode that quickly became divisive.
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  • The show's oft-criticized descent into innuendo and gross-out humor started as early as season 2, the former with the season’s very first episode "Your Shoe's Untied" opening with SpongeBob getting caught watching a sea anemone on TV, which is treated as if he were looking at porn, one of the most classic examples of adult jokes in children's TV, and the latter with "Something Smells" revolving entirely around the joke that SpongeBob's breath stinks and he doesn't realize it. Typically though, it would be limited to one or two Cutaway Gags per episode, whereas later seasons feature whole episodes centered around SpongeBob getting a splinter or contracting a fungal infection. Many have pointed out how the main problem stemmed from the writers attempting to emulate the style of episodes from Stephen Hillenburg's first tenure as show-runner without proper knowledge as to how he was able to make it work.
  • Several fans complain about characters undergoing Flanderization in the show's later years, but what many don't know is how several of their traits were there in its earlier years;
    • SpongeBob in later seasons is often criticized for being a Manchild. However, his immaturity has always been a part of his character from the beginning, his entire story arc in the first movie is centered around accepting that he acts like a kid. But it was only in later seasons that it began to overshadow his other traits, to the point where he was not only downright infantile but completely devoid of common sense.
    • Mr. Krabs in later seasons has become infamous for his tendency to do underhanded, immoral, or even illegal things if it means turning a quick buck. However, even in the first three seasons he was shown to use tactics like animal abuse and emotional manipulation, forcing his employees to use an old, diseased patty and then selling SpongeBob's soul for 62 cents, or even enslaving his employees. The difference, though, is that whenever he crossed a line in the first few seasons, he was generally punished for it or at least realized he was wrong and tried to make amends for what he did.note  Whereas in many later episodes, Krabs gets away with a slap on the wrist, if that. After many of his more controversial moments, most notoriously driving Plankton to attempted suicide in "One Coarse Meal", the show began to address this sin and give him comeuppance more often in later episodes.
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    • One of the biggest complaints people have with the modern series is the way they treat Squidward. This was in the Pre-Movie episodes, believe it or not. Thing is, Squidward was an arrogant jerk at best, and was someone the audience would Love to Hate. Whenever the episode was sympathetic, they usually brought in someone even worse, namely Squilliam. As such, the audience usually laughed at Squidward's misfortune and saw it as well-deserved karma. However, later episodes toned down Squidward's rudeness, so he started coming across less as a jerk being punished for his actions and more like a Cosmic Plaything who was being made miserable simply for wanting peace and quiet from SpongeBob and Patrick's antics, making his misfortune less funny.
    • Patrick is notorious for being a bad, selfish friend to SpongeBob in the post-movie seasons. It's often ignored by pre-movie fans that despite Patrick being a fellow troublemaker and like-minded individual, there are several moments where Patrick came off as a bit of a jerk. There are episodes where Patrick goes insane and tries to kidnap SpongeBob when he goes to live with the jellyfish ("Nature Pants"), tries to murder him and a bunch of strangers when he doesn't get anything for Valentines Day ("Valentines Day"), seems to enjoy convincing SpongeBob he's hideous way too much ("Something Smells"), abandons their plan to be 'grown-up' and leaves him hanging for some cookies ("Grandma's Kisses"), tries to sell SpongeBob out to the cops when he can't con him out of his last chocolate bar ("Life Of Crime"), rubs Gary choosing him over SpongeBob in SpongeBob's face ("Dumped"), abruptly stabs SpongeBob in the back so he can continue looking like the smart one to his 'parents' ("I'm With Stupid"), immediately tries to squeal on SpongeBob to Mr. Krabs for swearing ("Sailor Mouth") and neglects the baby scallop Junior, leaving SpongeBob with all the work raising it for months on end while he sits around in his house watching TV ("Rock-A-Bye Bivalve"). Patrick was still somewhat well-meaning due to the fact that episodes such as "Something Smells" make him come off as more Innocently Insensitive than outright malicious. Also, some of his deeds make it clear that he does not do this on purpose. note  The later seasons, however, did this far more often, and often made him out to be outright malicious, most notoriously an episode ("The Card") where he states that he's self-aware of his own stupidity and tries to mix it up at times, heavily implying he isn't as stupid as he seems. Like with Krabs above, Patrick eventually began to face the consequences of his actions in later episodes.
    • The pre-movie seasons actually had one of the more drastic cases of Took a Level in Jerkass that was actually toned down post-movie, with Sandy becoming much more arrogant and standoffish in Season Two. Since Sandy was an overwhelmingly positive character originally however, this usually only served to make her a more flawed but still reasonably likeable character that could contribute her own amount of humor, especially since, similar to the pre-movie Krabs examples, Sandy was usually brought back down to earth by the end of each story and still had glimpses of her original saner character in other episodes.
  • The show itself runs on Negative Continuity. This didn't hurt the show early on since the writing and characters were often so strong that any continuity errors could be ignored. note  Even with the weaker episodes, this wasn't usually a complaint. This was finally no longer an excuse with "Are You Happy Now?" where people have said, among other things, that the premise of Squidward trying to find a happy memory since he's never had a happy memory, is hard to swallow.
  • Something that is somewhat contested about the episodes following the second movie is the noticeable increase in Wild Take humor. Zany takes have been a staple of the show from the very beginning; some of the show's most famous memes from the first three seasons and the first movie are exaggerated reactions, even, such as the "DEEEAUGHHH" guy, SpongeBob's "too much sauce" face, and Patrick's surprised expression from the first movie. However, what made these particular jokes work was how sparingly used these faces were, which made them stand out more. The wild take humor became much more noticeable from Season 10 on due to the show hiring a lot of Ren & Stimpy alumni and bringing that show's penchant for over-the-top wild takes and looser, intentionally Off-Model animation along with them, resulting in these faces quickly becoming exhausting for old-school SpongeBob fans.
  • Many fans complain abut Mrs. Puff tending to get arrested in episodes from later seasons, viewing it as overused. But this was fairly common in the early seasons too: of the eight episodes in seasons 1 to 3 where she was a major character, three had her get arrested. On the other hand, one of these episodes ("Doing Time") was revealed to be All Just a Dream, while her other two arrests made sense: in one of them ("Hall Monitor"), she claimed SpongeBob was her responsibility and thereby unintentionally transferred the blame for what he did onto her; while in the other ("No Free Rides"), she attempted to steal SpongeBob's new boat and nearly committed vehicular manslaughter on two police officers. This tendency was much less forgivable in later episodes where the reasons for her arrests were much flimsier or even outright nonexistent, seemingly only doing it to keep up a trend rather than as a logical consequence of Mrs. Puff's actions. Not helping matters is that in some episodes where she does commit crimes (like in "Demolition Doofus"), she inexplicably doesn't end up being punished by the legal system.