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  • Acceptable Targets: Geeks, as seen with the comic collectors in "No Weenies Allowed", though slightly averted as they're friendly to SpongeBob and give him well-meaning, if flawed, advice. Given that SpongeBob and Patrick are also geeks who collect superhero comic books, this could be an example of self-deprecation for the writers, many of whom also have careers as comic artists/writers. Mocked by Squidward in "Mermaid Pants":
    Squidward: Lots of perfectly immature adults read comics.
  • Accidental Aesop:
    • "SpongeGuard On Duty": If someone is drowning, save diving into the water as a last resort. Otherwise, you'll risk drowning yourself.
    • SpongeBob is likely being paid minimum wage or less since he works in fast food, yet he still has a decorated two-story house with a giant library and a healthy snail, which has been interpreted to mean that SpongeBob works hard to earn his money and is frugal when he spends it so that he can afford nice things.
    • Squidward being a terrible musician (at least Depending on the Writer) but enjoying playing music anyways. A saying among many a music teacher is that as long as you enjoy playing, that's all that matters, not your skill or popularity.
  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • "Dude, put that thing away! There are, like, children here!" explanation: 
    • In "Artist Unknown", SpongeBob butchers Squidward's "If I'm lucky, some of Mr. Tentacles' talent will rub off on me" into "If I'm lucky, Mr. Talent will rub his tentacles on my art."
    • In "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler", the strangler asks SpongeBob to take him to a quiet and secluded location. SpongeBob's response would take a whole different meaning if taken out of context: "We could go to my house and turn off all the lights!"
    • In "A Friendly Game", SpongeBob and Patrick hit their golf balls out the window and can't find them. SpongeBob yells, "Oh, where did our balls go?!?"
    • Patrick infamously tells Squidward to "FIRMLY GRASP IT IN YOUR HAND" from Season 1's "Jellyfishing."
    • Everyone remembers the dancing anemone clip from "Your Shoe's Untied". They reused that exact footage for "Rise and Shine", with Patrick seeing it while watching a morning show of all things.
    • Patrick's "Don't touch me, I'm sterile!" in "Suds" comes across as this if you're familiar with the more common definition of sterile.
    • In "Upturn Girls", while wearing Lady Upturn's dress (which features a notably pronounced breast and butt), Narlene says it's "kinda constricting". There's also a store called "Upturn's Rack", with "rack" being a slang term for boobs.
    • In "Pat Hearts Squid", Patrick and Squidward pelvic thrust towards each other, with the former saying "He taught me everything I blow!" (referring to his new clarinet skills).
    • "SpongeBob, You're Fired" gets some mileage out of hot dog jokes: SpongeBob calls them "elongated sausage products" and, while observing a hot dog, comments "There's something not quite right about this food." Later, when he gets fired by a man in a pizza costume, he says "I hope his pepperoni falls off!" Consider what "pepperoni" is slang for...
  • Accidental Nightmare Fuel: The credits music is meant to be calming, yet zany at the same time, but read the comments of any YouTube upload of the song, and people will say that they find the song unnerving, and can never place their finger on why it feels so dissonant.
  • Adaptation Displacement: It's a little-known fact that the show, its setting, and the art style were largely based on an educational comic that Stephen Hillenburg used to write and draw called The Intertidal Zone. SpongeBob was shaped like an actual sea sponge and simply called "Bob the Sponge". This is forgivable, as the comic was mostly only distributed at the marine biology institute he used to teach at before becoming an animator, which is unviewable to the general public.
  • Adorkable:
    • SpongeBob is an endlessly cheerful, optimistic and kindhearted sea sponge with Innocent Blue Eyes.
    • His cousin, Stanley S. SquarePants, is a self-conscious Klutz who geeks out at the chance to take photos with some of the Krusty Krab's customers while working as a cashier, and is voiced by Christopher Guest to boot.
    • Patrick Star is a chubby, lovable but not very bright pink starfish who's just as childish and carefree as his best friend SpongeBob, if not more.
    • Norton, the timid and friendly mailman from "Squid Plus One"
  • Alternative Joke Interpretation:
    • In "Pickles", Squidward abruptly stops writing down Bubble Bass' order and tells him "we serve food here, sir". Was Squidward unable to continue following the Hash House Lingo Bubble Bass used, or was he being judgemental about his order (which if followed right would result in an absurdly unhealthy and generally absurd Dagwood Sandwich)?
    • In "What's Eating Patrick?", when Patrick wants to back out of the eating competition, Krabs threatens to make him pay for all the patties he ate during training, and pulls out a long bill. Is the joke that Patrick is a Big Eater, or that Krabs is cheap and charged a lot for each patty?
    • In "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V", after Barnacle Boy's turn to the good side, Mermaid Man says "Good to have you back, Kyle!" Is this implying that Kyle is Barnacle Boy's real name, or is it just Mermaid Man being senile? "Mermaid Man Begins" gives his name as Tim.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Canned bread, seen in "Squidville" and "Atlantis SquarePantis," really does exist.
    • In "Bubble Buddy", SpongeBob enthusiastically celebrates "Leif Erikson Day" ("hinga-dinga-dürgen!"), since, for him, every day must be a holiday. Presumably the writers were not aware, since the whole joke is that he had to make the holiday up, but Leif Erikson Day is in fact a real holiday. It's October 9.
    • "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" by Tiny Tim, which is played in the pilot when SpongeBob is making patties, did not originate from this show. It was released back in 1965. In fact, Tiny Tim died three years prior to SpongeBob's debut.
    • Some might be surprised to learn that "Sweet Victory" didn't originate from this show, either.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Nobody had faith in this show about a talking sea sponge, let alone knew it would be such a cultural phenomenon, when Stephen Hillenburg first pitched it. The executives dismissed it as too weird and gave it No Budget and only 6 episodes initially, Stephen Hillenburg was very uncertain it would go anywhere, and Bill Fagerbakke, Patrick's voice actor, even referred to it as "inane pulp for preschoolers" when he was first hired.
  • Anvilicious:
    • The educational short "The Endless Summer" (originally released during Season 4 as part of Earth to America).
    • It's not very hard to see "Bulletin Board" as an analogy of anonymous online bullying and how harmful it can be.
    • "Pizza Delivery" shows with brutal honesty that some people are very ungrateful, won't forgive others for mistakes, and will nitpick over the tiniest detail, especially when it involves fast-food.
    • "I'm Your Biggest Fanatic" shows, quite painfully and honestly, that your idols aren't always the great people you assume them to be, and, as Patrick points out at the end of the episode, hero worship is unhealthy.
  • Archive Panic: Having run for two decades, this series has over 200 episodes, 3 movies, several shorts, and no end in sight. Luckily, the show is more than well circulated.
  • Ass Pull:
    • In "Hooky", somehow Squidward was holding the hook that caught SpongeBob all along, even though there's absolutely no way he could have as the hook is coming from the surface and Squidward is inside the Krusty Krab at the same time.
    • The fact that in "Band Geeks" they all instantly become amazing at playing music offscreen when at first they were terrible at it can be considered this.
    • The Patty Vault in "Just One Bite". Though this is likely Played for Laughs.
    • The tugboat at the end of "Nautical Novice". Status Quo Is God, and God is being a troll.
    • Snellie and Gary falling in love in "The Great Snail Race" comes out of nowhere.
    • The ending of "Not Normal" outright relies on one Ass Pull after another, with Patrick's treatment to cure SpongeBob of his "normality" seeming to work at first... until he suddenly goes right back to "normal" just when it seems like he's in the final stages of reverting. Then Normal!Squidward drops by, and just looking at him ends up being what changes SpongeBob back, scaring the normal out of him.
  • Audience-Alienating Era: While every season following the first three and The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie is divisive to an extent, most fans tend to agree Seasons 6-8 are a low point for the series due to their overuse (and misuse) of Black Comedy, Nausea Fuel, extreme Flanderization, and overall lacking the goofy and surreal charm of the first three seasons.
  • Awesome Music: Has its own page.
  • Award Snub: The show has become infamous for doing this to other cartoons at the Kids' Choice Award, as ever since it was first nominated in 2003, the show has consistently managed to win the best cartoon award almost every year (The only exception being 2008, where ''Avatar: The Last Airbender', won), much to the annoyance of fans of the other nominated cartoons. Unsurprisingly, given that Nickelodeon is hosting the awards and SpongeBob SquarePants being their most popular show, this has led many animation fans (including fans of the show) to accuse Nick of being overly biased and of rigging the nomination just to ensure their Cash-Cow Franchise always wins, regardless of if it actually deserves it or not.
  • Badass Decay:
    • Plankton went from a menacing threat that always came close to getting the Krabby Patty formula (and actually succeeds in The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie) to an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in the later seasons. At least part of this, however, is Played for Laughs due to amping up the negative qualities of the "heroes", especially his Arch-Enemy Mr. Krabs, often conveying them as Eviler than Thou (or at least more insufferable) to the point Plankton himself seems placid and down to earth.
    • Sandy Cheeks, to a limited extent. In Seasons 1-3, she was the squirrel version of Chuck Norris, and did things such as lift buildings and throw them. Starting from Season 4, her Gadgeteer Genius side has been focused on more. Starting from Season 9, most episodes (such as "Squirrel Record" and "Surf N' Turf") involving Sandy include both aspects of her personality.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Patchy the Pirate. His appearances in two specials "Atlantis SquarePantis" and "Truth or Square" (which fans have found overhyped and subpar) have been criticized by many fans for being too long, too boring, and too out-of-place. However, these two episodes (both of which feature Patchy outside of his house) are really the main reason he is disliked; some fans enjoy the campy feel of his older appearances, particularly because of his nostalgic house discontinued. Others dislike the campiness altogether, even in the old specials.
    • Patrick Star gets a lot of hate due to his Flanderization into an insensitive Jerkass in Seasons 6-8. However, many Patrick fans still prefer to ignore the Patrick of these seasons and still think that pre-first movie Patrick is one of the funniest characters on the show. Other fans are willing to forgive his assholish moments for still being pretty funny at times.
    • SpongeBob, thanks to his exaggerated stupidity in Seasons 6-8 and his obsession with Squidward coming off as borderline stalking. While his negative traits have been considerably toned down by Season 9, there are still as many people who find him annoying as there are people who like and sympathize with him. In general—counting his personality in both the pre-movie and post-movie eras—SpongeBob is either found as a kindhearted, Adorkable little sea sponge whose optimism, pureness, naivete, and childishness makes him unique and stand out from most fictional characters his age, or nothing but a ceaseless, annoying Jerkass to the viewer, who wants him to suffer. It's no secret that SpongeBob is often regarded as one of Western Animation's most annoying protagonists; not helping is that he has a high-pitched, nasally voice and laugh that is emphasized on from time-to-time.
    • Squidward is either the show's voice of reason or a judgmental, selfish prick trying to sabotage SpongeBob and Patrick's fun in exchange for the world giving him attention.
    • Mr. Krabs is seen by supporters as a funny comedic relief for his cheapskate ways, and he is also seen as a good Parental Substitute towards SpongeBob and a caring father towards his daughter Pearl. Detractors see him as very unlikable due to his cheapskate ways considering that he never pays his employees, he has done many morally objectionable things because of his greed, and always ruins his daughter's birthdays. Fans are also divided on whether he was a good character before his Flanderization in Season 6, or he was already a bad character before Season 6.
    • Pearl can be relatable in that she has to put up with a greedy, neglectful, abusive dad who frequently embarrasses her in public, in addition to being ostracized by her peers and facing typical problems of a teenage girl. On the other hand, though, she is also seen as an annoying brat who complains about things not going her way and deserves all the bad luck she receives.
    • Some fans find Plankton an entertaining and likable villain whose schemes to obtain the formula are interesting and clever. In contrast, others wish that he would just drop his delusional obsession already and come to terms with his unpopularity. Luckily, Season 9 has catered to the latter side by giving him a pet amoeba to show that the secret formula isn't the only thing he cares about.
    • Bubble Bass, who went from a minor character in Season 1 to a recurring character by Season 9, has been fairly well-received due to his delivery of memorable, funny quotes, but at the same time, some fans loathe his obnoxious Jerkass personality and think that his appearances are getting old.
    • Is Mrs. Puff a teacher who tries her hardest to cope with SpongeBob, or an insane criminal? Episodes like "Bumper to Bumper", where Mrs. Puff acknowledges what SpongeBob struggles with and tries to conform the course to help him, support the former. On the other hand, Mrs. Puff also has her share of violent moments, such as harming students ("Teacher's Pests", "The Bully", "Demolition Doofus") and mocking them outside of school ("Girls' Night Out"). Do her Designated Monkey moments ("Don't Feed the Clowns", "Move It or Lose It", "Patrick-Man!") and the fact that she has been sent to jail many times justify her behavior towards SpongeBob?
    • Harold Bill Reginald Scott, a background character, is this to some extent, many fans love him because of his "BIG MEATY CLAWS" line in Band Geeks, but some fans hate him because he’s way too hostile to everyone.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The Davy Jones cameo in "SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One."
    • Subverted with Nosferatu. His appearance in "Graveyard Shift" indeed comes out of nowhere, but he plays a role in the plot of "The Night Patty," approving SpongeBob to be a replacement cook during the night shift.
    • The live-action "old folk from a soda commercial" gag seen in "Sun Bleached", done in a similar style to a Family Guy Cutaway Gag.
    • The werewolf scene from "The Great Patty Caper". Came out of nowhere? Check! Added nothing to the plot? Check! Was never mentioned again? Check!
    • In-universe (or meta) example from "I Had an Accident" that involves a gorilla with no real build up to the gorilla, and the fact the gorilla and some zebra were up to something made it more of a BLAM. The meta example comes in at the end where the family is sitting there dumbfounded and they turn off the TV, though at least it was Lampshaded.
    • The perfume department scene in "Shanghaied".
    • During a scene in "The Chaperone" in which the prom is dancing (and injuring themselves) trying to do "The Sponge", one of the fish gets chased by a giant apple. The apple was never shown before or after the scene in question, and was most likely included for Rule of Funny.
    • The face on the hot sauce drop in "Karate Choppers".
    • "All That Glitters": Once SpongeBob becomes naked to pay for a high-class spatula, he stays naked for the rest of the episode. Aside from some disturbed reactions from passersby, it's not commented on or resolved, even at the end where he reunites with his old spatula.
    • The mailman scene from "Boating Buddies".
    • In "Sponge-Cano!" some garbage creatures come out of the trash can and start singing with SpongeBob.
    • The air from SpongeBob's inflatable muscles just randomly moving to different parts of his body near the end of "MuscleBob BuffPants". While it does show off that SpongeBob's muscles were fake, the scene is never commented on or acknowledged afterward.
    • In "Squidferatu", when SpongeBob and Squidward are in Nosferatu's coffin room, five coffins come out of the ground and start dancing to jazz music. Vampires come out, say "Nosferatu two-step!", and then go back into the ground. The scene has no impact on the episode, wasn't foreshadowed, and comes out of nowhere.
  • Bile Fascination: Many of the show's worst episodes like "One Coarse Meal" and "A Pal For Gary" receive a lot of attention because of their bad reputation.
  • Bizarro Episode:
    • "Spongehenge" is an unusually eerie, almost solemn episode of the show where SpongeBob spends most of the episode on his own running away from jellyfish who are attracted by wind rushing through his pores and ends up going insane from lack of contact. It rather infamously ends on an unusually downbeat note where a crazed, bearded SpongeBob rushes back home only to find that he's apparently been gone for years and the Krusty Krab has been completely destroyed, before cutting to a bizarre Gainax Ending 3,000 years later where aliens tourists visit the stone structures he left behind. The fact that it's a Planet of the Apes (1968) reference does little to diminish how unnerving it is.
    • Even by SpongeBob's loose and wacky usual standards, the infamous "Squidward in Clarinetland" is just out there. In it, while looking for his lost clarinet, Squidward accidentally uncovers a pocket dimension inside SpongeBob's locker and travels through a series of increasingly larger cabinets that cannot possibly fit in there, passes through multiple bizarre landscapes in pursuit of SpongeBob and (among other things) gets swallowed alive by a giant eagle head. None of it is really even Played for Laughs, either. A good number of fans consider this to be one of the creepiest episodes in the whole series, it's positively Lynchian.
    • "No Pictures Please" has Patrick becoming a tour guide and showing a tourist around Bikini Bottom. While it's relatively normal for the show's standards at first, the citizens of Bikini Bottom form an angry mob and surround Patrick and the tourist. The tourist apologizes and reveals that he never even existed, vanishing into thin air as everyone backs away.
    • "Doing Time", mainly due to it turning out to be a dream within a dream, within another dream, within yet another dream, and so on.
    • "Cuddle E. Hugs" has SpongeBob eating a rotten Krabby Patty and befriending a giant hallucinatory hamster. Said hamster also wants to eat everyone in Bikini Bottom and is eventually defeated when SpongeBob feeds him a piece of the patty, causing him to wake up in the real world as a photorealistic hamster.
  • Broken Aesop: "The Abrasive Side" has SpongeBob get the titular side in order to change his personality, only for the side to reveal itself as a major JerkAss who attempts to take over completely; when SpongeBob goes to Sandy for help, she tells him that he doesn't need to change his personality because he's fine the way he is. This is a fairly common lesson in kid's shows, but a couple details from the episode ultimately break the lesson: first, the change SpongeBob was trying to make to his personality was learning how to be more assertive so people would stop taking advantage of his inability to say "no" to ask him for favors. Second, one of said people shown taking advantage of SpongeBob is Sandy herself, which in turn makes her saying that SpongeBob is fine the way he is come off as incredibly hollow.
  • Broken Base:
    • From the pre-movie era, is "I'm With Stupid" a solid episode on its own right, or is it too mean to SpongeBob to be funny?
    • Over whether post-movie episodes are even worth watching. Some people refuse to watch anything from Season 4 onwards, while others assure that there's a decent amount of good episodes in the post-movie seasons. Some will also include Season 4 (and even Season 5 sometimes) as one of the good seasons, but bash the ones after that. Some will also say that Season 9 is a return to form, and even that season has some of the show's most hated episodes ("Squid Baby", "Little Yellow Book", and "SpongeBob, You're Fired").
    • Season 5 is incredibly divisive among the fandom. Some see it as pretty good in its own right, others hold it on the same level as Seasons 6-8, and a third group of people find it to be So Okay, It's Average.
    • Although most fans will agree Seasons 6 and 7 are the worst, there's some debate over which of the two is worse: 6 for its excessive gross-out and shock humor, or 7 for its slower, lazier writing and more jerkish character moments?
    • Is Season 8 as bad as Seasons 6 and 7, or is it a step towards the renaissance period that would fully kick in with Season 9B?
    • Season 10 and 11 have received a much more divisive reception than Seasons 1-3 and 9. Depending on your stance on the show being "cartoony", it's either a breath of fresh air after nearly decades of the same techniques, or too bouncy, loud, more over-reliant on goofy facial expressions than telling decent stories or jokes. They also debate whether callbacks to old episodes are a good way to remember the old days of the show, or they're just pandering to nostalgic viewers (although they do throw in references from newer episodes as well).
    • Is the episode "Bubbletown" a fun take on a Bubble Buddy episode with creative visuals, or is it humorless and boring?
    • "House Fancy" is a divisive episode. Some people like it because Squidward wins, while others hate it because of the infamous scene where his toenail is gruesomely ripped off.
  • Cant Unhear It: Just try to watch any movie or show that has on-screen text denoting a passage of time ("Meanwhile...", "[Amount of time] later...") and not read it in Tom Kenny's Jacques Cousteau-esque narrator voice.
  • Cargo Ship: It's practically a Running Gag at this point.
    • Technically, Plankton and Karen could count as a canon example of this.
    • Mr. Krabs and his money, which eventually became the plot of "Married to Money".
    • Mama Krabs and Plankton's giant robot.
    • Squidward and a Krabby Patty (Played for Laughs).
    • SpongeBob and "Patty" (also Played for Laughs, but not as successful).
    • Squidward and his clarinet, arguably.
    • Squidward and a pickle, at least according to Patrick.
    • Patrick and the same pickle.
    • Patrick and a pole.
    • Thanks to the trailer for the second SpongeBob movie, there is now a Patrick/Neapolitan ice cream crack ship (lovingly dubbed "Patopolitan").
    • Then there's SpongeBob and his spatula in "All That Glitters" and, to some extent, "Evil Spatula". In the former episode, SpongeBob's even portrayed as a cheating husband for getting a new, apparently more efficient and glamorous spatula after his old one breaks. Also, the spatula is referred to with male pronouns.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Any moment where Squidward gets a victory that isn't snatched away from him at the last moment, it's incredibly satisfying. Especially when it's against Squilliam, which is a huge part of why "Band Geeks" is so enduringly popular. "Enchanted Tiki Dreams" has also become popular among fans, in which SpongeBob and Patrick build Squidward a tiki land where he can relax, full of things he likes to do. Even after the tiki land is destroyed, Squidward is still happy, as he gets to hit SpongeBob and Patrick with a swinging boat.
    • Given how awful he can be in later episodes, seeing Mr. Krabs occasionally get his comeuppance for his never-ending Greed can definitely be this.
    • SpongeBob finally snapping at Patrick and calling him out on his utter stupidity in "Stuck in the Wringer" was very satisfying for fans who hated Patrick's infamous Flanderization from a dimwitted yet kind-hearted friend into a selfish mean-spirited oaf.
  • Character Perception Evolution: Squidward Tentacles was conceived as an "entertaining jerk" character with his snotty personality and one-sided friendship with SpongeBob and Patrick (with Squidward being the non-reciprocating party), with this defining his perception during the show's first three seasons. However, several factors over the years would lead to his reputation growing more positive: later seasons featured a number of episodes that downplayed his jerkass qualities while increasing his sympathetic haplessness, other characters would be flanderized in the opposite direction, and most significantly, the show's initial child audience would grow up and enter the workforce. Consequently, Squidward is seen nowadays as more relatable than the show's own title character, being regarded as an accurate depiction of modern adult ennui.
  • Character Rerailment: Season 9 did a lot of this. SpongeBob is a Nice Guy again, Patrick's stupidity is less destructive and more genuine, Squidward suffers a lot less (and when he does, he usually brings it upon himself), and Mr. Krabs is a good guy despite his greed.
  • Creator Worship: Stephen Hillenburg is highly respected and beloved by not just fans of the show, but by other show creators due to how he was able to lead the show into being one of the most endearing cartoons of the generation simply because of its child-like but endearing protagonist, the well-done humor, and especially the aquatic setting that's a reference to Hillenburg's history of knowing sea biology. And to say people were devastated by his passing to ALS is an understatement.
  • Designated Monkey:
    • Squidward's Butt-Monkey role was justified more in the first few seasons of the show due to his Jerkass persona and treatment of others, his abuse during Seasons 6-8 lean more towards Comedic Sociopathy and Kafka Komedy, with a lot of the cast (and inanimate objects) just bearing an instant hatred towards him. The people who do like him aren't much help either.
    • Plankton, to some extent.
    • Mrs. Puff wants to be left alone by SpongeBob, and even compared to Squidward and Plankton, only a handful of circumstances does she take unscrupulous measures on him. Unlike the previous two, this was not a result of Flanderization either, as she was an undeserved victim of SpongeBob's inability to drive from her first appearance.
  • Designated Villain:
    • Squidward and Mrs. Puff, Depending on the Writer.
      • Squidward just wants to be left alone when he's off work and when he does tell SpongeBob that he's not interested in spending the day with him, SpongeBob can't and won't take no for an answer. There are times where SpongeBob won't respect his personal space as he breaks into Squidward's house to hang out with him.
      • Mrs. Puff, on the other hand, is exhausted by SpongeBob's antics as he doesn't seem to be learning anything from her lessons. When SpongeBob doesn't ask for help or listen to her then he causes property damage or harm to Mrs. Puff through his driving.
    • Plankton used to be an ordinary and fairly competent villain. Still, after Mr. Krabs was flanderized into a Jerkass and Plankton suffered Villain Decay before their Character Rerailment, one couldn't help but side with Plankton. A good example is in "Chum Fricassee". Taking Krabs' employee can be mean or underhanded, but Squidward did leave out of his own free will. The only bad thing he did in this episode is that he maybe should have resisted more or outright refused when Squidward told him to undercook the chum, but it was still ultimately Squidward's idea in the first place.
    • The mob led later by Squidward in "Bubble Buddy". But the Fridge Horror of this means that Bubble Buddy really did let Scooter drown and hold up the bathroom for two hours. Granted, screwing over Mr. Krabs might not be too damning, but the crowd still had plenty of legitimate reasons to be mad.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: All three members of the show's main trio are commonly headcanoned as autistic. The title character is a Manchild who is utterly obsessed with working at the Krusty Krab (one episode has him going crazy when he's forced to take a vacation) and has encyclopedic interests in other niche fields such as jellyfishing and bubble-blowing, and despite having the knowledge necessary to drive, he can't do it because he gets too nervous when he's behind the wheel, a fear that many autistic people can relate to. Patrick shares SpongeBob's youthful demeanor and interests in jellyfishing and bubble-blowing. Squidward meanwhile expresses a deep interest in fine art, makes particular gestures in particular emotional settings that autistic fans commonly interpret as stims, and personality-wise stands in the opposite extreme from SpongeBob and Patrick, exemplifying the "professorial" archetype of autism.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Some fans have noted that, the older they get, the more Squidward's grumpy disposition seems to resonate with them.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Plankton. It has been established that he's evil as he continued to try to take Krabs' secret formula in myriad ways. One episode even had him as a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk with him saying "Being evil is just too much fun!" He's also been shown to be a big Jerkass with all his screaming and being angry. In the first movie, he even managed to enslave Bikini Bottom. However, due to Flanderization and Took a Level in Jerkass on the parts of the main characters and Plankton becoming more a harmless Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, most fans side with Plankton.
    • Squidward does have redeeming qualities... at times, but he mentally and sometimes physically abuses SpongeBob because it amuses him. His absolute worst behavior was "Can You Spare a Dime?" where he takes advantage of SpongeBob's generosity and gets no comeuppance for it. However, people who (understandably) feel sorry for him due to his endless abuse and Butt-Monkey status tend to ignore his Jerkass traits and think he's just an innocent martyr.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    "What are they sellin'?"
    • There's an entire TV Tropes page for The Ugly Barnacle.
    • Charlton from "The Sewers of Bikini Bottom" is well liked for his Large Ham and Crazy-Prepared character and calling out Mr. Krabs for cutting corners on the plumbing.
    • The Shalmon from "Sandy's Nutmare" has gained some popularity for his sage wisdom while still being comedic in a way fitting of the show.
    • Spot, Plankton's pet amoeba. He is a recurring character in Season 11, and gets another day in the limelight in Season 12's "Gary & Spot".
    • Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are beloved for being a Fountain of Memes and being an Affectionate Parody of both Aquaman and Batman and Robin. They even have their own Wikipedia page over Gary.
      • Their Rogues Gallery, such as Man Ray and the Dirty Bubble, aren't too far behind either.
    • Harold is a background character who gets an occasional appearance, and he's known for a handful of memetic lines, including "BIG! MEATY! CLAWS!" and "How many times do we have to teach you this lesson, OLD MAN?!"
    • PlanKrab, the clone made from Plankton and Mr. Krabs' DNA in "The Krusty Bucket", has been well received among the fanbase for his voice, his Speech Impediment, him using handshakes to brainwash SpongeBob and Squidward, among everything else making him one of the funniest characters in the post-Sponge Out of Water era.
    • Despite only making one appearance in "Love That Squid" and being written out shortly afterward, Squilvia is a fan-favorite for being a possible love interest to Squidward and throwing him a bone for the episode.
    • Incidental 70, the pot-bellied fish who says "Hey, SpongeBob's back!" in "Pickles". Although he hasn't appeared since Season 2, he's very popular with fans, especially after he became the mascot of the page "Every SpongeBob Frame in Order". Due to his popularity, he's even been confirmed to be returning in a future episode.
  • Evil Is Cool: On his better days (especially in the earlier episodes and the first movie), Plankton can be this. Although he's almost completely useless physically, he's a genius Mad Scientist who can create almost anything in his attempts to obtain the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, and he's come very close to succeeding a few times.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • Bizarrely enough, a few fans actually find Plankton to be this. Obviously not appearance-wise, but for his rather deep-sounding voice, courtesy of Mr. Lawrence.
    • Some people also find Man Ray to be strangely attractive, mostly thanks to his muscular build, tight fitting outfit and some... interesting shots and poses.

    F-P 
  • Fair for Its Day: While "Squirrel Jokes" provided a much-needed commentary about how racist jokes create harmful, contagious stereotypes, the message of the ending where SpongeBob decides to make jokes about every race present in the comedy club, including his own is more likely to come across as "making racist jokes is okay as long as you're an Equal-Opportunity Offender" in recent times.
  • Fan-Preferred Cut Content: This short, "Moldy Sponge", plays out more like a scene from an unreleased episode than a short, to the point where some fans actually mistook it for an episode promo. This has lead many to wish this could have been the basis for an entire episode.
  • Fandom Rivalry: There are two different rivalries towards the show:
    • With almost every other Nicktoon from 2005 onwards. Most of those shows got screwed by Nickelodeon, to which fans will usually hate/blame on SpongeBob for not giving them a chance to shine. It doesn't help matters that, for a time, Nick had a policy to cancel any show that didn't immediately pull in the same ratings as the Sponge. However, this is a mostly one-sided rivalry, as plenty of SpongeBob fans are fans of other Nicktoons.
    • Almost all the shows that compete with SpongeBob for the Kid's Choice Awards (especially Phineas and Ferb, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and The Loud House), accusing Nickelodeon for rigging this category. It has been the winner for every year since 2002, except 2008 when it lost to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Most of these have cooled down now that all of them (sans The Loud House) have ended.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: After the death of Ernest Borgnine in 2012, stories about Mermaid Man dying and SpongeBob learning to deal with it became very popular.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • For many fans, the seasons between the movie and its sequel (except for 4 and 5 for more than a few, after they finished airing) don't exist. As for individual episodes, "A Pal for Gary" and "One Coarse Meal" get this the most.
    • Given Plankton's audience sympathy has steadily increased over the years, some ignore the Word of God that the movie is chronologically the Grand Finale given it ends with him arrested after crossing the Moral Event Horizon. The sequel taking its place as the final story can nicely fix this given it's far more sympathetic to him, even if he's back to his old ways by the end.
  • First Installment Wins: Despite recovering from Seasonal Rot starting in Season 9, the first three seasons will always be regarded as the best, as well as representing one of the greatest moments in Nickelodeon history.
  • Fountain of Memes:
    • Patrick is the best example here.
    • Squidward is also a huge source of memorable lines.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • With fellow Nickelodeon hit, The Loud House. Many people have compared both Lincoln and Luan to SpongeBob, Lori to Squidward, both Leni and Lana to Patrick, and both Lynn and Lisa to Sandy. Unless it's the Kids Choice Awards, where Fandom Rivalry applies.
    • The Splatoon playerbase has a strong rapport with the SpongeBob community, in part due to the shared sealife theme, and in part due to the similarities in the setting (Splatoon is post-apocalyptic after an unspecified nuclear-powered Fifth World War, while SpongeBob takes place in Bikini Atoll post-nuclear testing). Their friendliness got stronger after the first game got a SpongeBob Splatfest event, which the Squid Research Lab blog confirmed was not an April Fools joke.
    • Despite having different target audiences, fans of SpongeBob tend to enjoy South Park. Series have different approach to humour- SpongeBob gently pokes fun at everyday life with featuring mild slpastick, while South Park harshly pokes fun at forbidden themes, like religion, politics, death and celebrities. Both series are owned by Viacom and both have one of the longest runs in history and active fandoms even to this day.
    • Fans of SpongeBob and Pokémon get along pretty well, considering both franchises are very firmly rooted in the childhoods of kids from The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium.
    • In the 2000s, many SpongeBob SquarePants and Family Guy fans liked both shows and were very friendly with each other because both started in the same year, were cancelled around the same time and revived for a fourth season in May 2005, had similar jokes, an absurd tone, and characterization and both suffered through a heavy dose of Seasonal Rot around the same time for similar reasons. Not to mention they both replaced established franchises as flagship shows for their respective networks (Rugrats and The Simpsons).
  • Genius Bonus:
    • SpongeBob is asexual and can reproduce by budding... because he's a sponge. Stephen Hillenburg did not waste his marine biology degree with this show.
    • SpongeBob lives in a pineapple, which seems bizarre and out of place for an underwater setting until one realizes that there's a type of sponge known as the pineapple sponge.
    • In "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", when Squidward is deciding where he wants his "throne" to be laid down, he complains that some spots are "too hot", "too wet", and "Toulouse-Lautrec", and then cuts to a painting of his re-done with fish.
    • Count Orlock appearing at the end of "Graveyard Shift". A kids' cartoon made a reference to a silent horror movie that even many film buffs and horror movie buffs are unfamiliar with.
    • In "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy III", those familiar with psychology can recognize Man-Ray's "goodness lessons" as an example of operant conditioning, which is to apply an adverse stimulus (tickling) when the subject exhibits undesirable behavior (being bad).
    • In "Hooky", Mr. Krabs vows to find SpongeBob using his nose, which can "smell laziness up to 10,000 leagues". Real crabs do have a well-developed sense of smell which they use to find prey.
    • "Shell of a Man" has a character by the name of Iron Eye. It turns out his "iron eye" was really made of formica. Quite an obscure thing to slip into a kids' show.
    • In "The Bully", SpongeBob is on the constant threat of being beat up by Flatts the Flounder. In the ocean, adolescent flounder fish will prey on sponges.
    • Plankton are already rare in fiction, but Sheldon J. Plankton is of a particular kin of plankton. Known as copepods, they are tiny crustaceans sporting a single eye at the center of their heads. This is lampshaded in "Lame and Fortune," where Plankton wears a shirt reading "KISS ME I'M A COPEPOD." Likewise, Plankton's cousins seem to be based on other types of plankton, including crab larvae.
      • On a similar note, a sizable amount of copepod species are parasitic... which explains why a big part of Plankton's business strategy involves constantly trying to steal from another, more successful restaurateur.
    • In "The Algae's Always Greener", it is revealed that Plankton eats holographic meatloaf (and possibly other holographic food) that Karen "cooks" for him by using light to generate the hologram. Many kinds of real-life plankton use photosynthesis, the chemical process of turning light energy into chemical energy (sugar), to gain energy as food.
    • The Krusty Krab is in the shape of a crab trap.
    • The buildings in Bikini Bottom are car mufflers that fell into the ocean, contributing to the ocean’s pollution. This is confirmed in "High Sea Diving".
    • In "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV", Squidward, while donning the Captain Magma costume, unleashes a magma attack from his head by shouting "Krakatoa!" Not many young kids will know what this means unless they have knowledge in history, geography, geology, or volcanology above their age level.
    • The giant worm that SpongeBob calls an "Alaskan Bull Worm" is likely a polychaete.
    • Many viewers have chalked Goo Lagoon, which SpongeBob could drown in, as Rule of Funny given it's a lagoon underwater. As explained in one of Nickelodeon's "Bikini Bottom Mysteries" videos, this actually has a basis in real life. There are places underwater where high salt concentration makes the water have a higher density than regular water, and fish can drown in it. Other such "undersea rivers" also exist in real life, typically being either places where freshwater somehow emerges into the saltwater, or where the tide carries sediment to create a river-like mass of sludge that erodes its own pathway beneath the water, with its comparatively darker color making it look like "water" of a different hue.
    • In "Library Cards", Gary reads a book titled "Cooking Without Salt". Gary is a snail, and salt causes snails to shrivel up.
    • Scallops serving as Fantastic Fauna Counterpart of birds looks very strange until you see how a real scallop swims.
    • In "Captain Pipsqueak", one of the villains is a sea slug named Notodoris. While this just sounds like a Punny Name on "notorious" and "Doris", it's actually a real genus of sea slug, which the character even resembles.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: As this documentary has shown, the series has done very well in 175 different markets with 25 different languages.
  • Growing the Beard:
    • Season 2 is when people really started paying attention to the series, since the animation switched from cel to computer. The main characters' personality quirks had been expanded upon (e.g. SpongeBob's kookiness and hyperactivity, Patrick's stupidity) along with memorable gags and one-liners.
      • Alternatively the second "chunk" of Season 1 episodes, starting with "SB-129", where the animation improved, the characters got more developed, and more people were brought on to work for the series.
    • Season 3 improved on this even further bringing funnier and more consistent plots and showing character developments. Nowadays, it's considered the show's best season. Some have even suggested that, while some seasons like 6-8 definitely fell victim to Seasonal Rot, certain post-movie seasons like 4 and 5 get unfairly lumped in with them just because season 3 was such a Tough Act to Follow.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • "Rock-a-Bye Bivalve" was one of the most controversial episodes of the series due to (apparently) depicting SpongeBob and Patrick as gay parents. Over a decade later, it's become a lot less controversial thanks to society becoming far more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.
    • At the end of the first movie, Mr. Krabs hugs SpongeBob and says "I'm sorry I ever doubted you." This may be a callback to "Help Wanted", the first episode of the show, in which Mr. Krabs is hesitant about hiring SpongeBob in the first place and even makes fun of him behind his back. Really shows how much closer they've become over the series.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • This was the show that put Tom Kenny on the map as a, more-or-less, seriously regarded and acclaimed voice actor. Not only is his vocal range awe-inspiring (high-pitched and giggly one minute, low and suave the next, impeccable French accent the minute after that) but unlike a lot of voice actors, Tom Kenny can actually cry very convincingly. Any scene that involves SpongeBob crying is heartbreaking because of Tom Kenny's poignant voice acting. Kudos to him! The beloved Season 10 episode "Mimic Madness", in particular, even veers into The Cast Showoff by having him do all of SpongeBob's sometimes-uncanny impressions and show off his vocal range. It even earned him both an Annie and Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Television.
    • A little credit should be given to Mr. Lawrence, too! The voice actor of Plankton was actually a writer and storyboard artist on the show before landing the role of Plankton - and what an impressive voice it is!
    • Like Tom Kenny, Rodger Bumpass displays superb emotional range when he lends his voice to the character Squidward. His voice acting in episodes like "Dying for Pie" really pack an emotional punch.
    • Anytime that Patrick gets extremely emotional over the idea of losing SpongeBob, Bill Fagerbakke does an excellent job at really selling his immense heartbreak.
  • I Am Not Shazam:
    • The villain in the episode "Frankendoodle" is named DoodleBob, not Frankendoodle.
    • The neighborhood Squidward moves to in "Squidville" is never referred to by that name. It's called "Tentacle Acres".
    • The episode featuring Pretty Patties is called "Patty Hype", not "Pretty Patties".
    • The eponymous vampire seen in "Graveyard Shift" and "The Night Patty" is actually known as Count Orlock, not Nosferatu; the name of his movie.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
  • Jerks Are Worse Than Villains: Mr. Krabs, the resident greedy Jerkass, is much more hated than Plankton—the villain and Mr. Krabs's rival. Both of them have done many nasty things, but Plankton gets the sympathetic Not Evil, Just Misunderstood treatment from fans because he's usually a Harmless Villain, while Mr. Krabs is considered a Designated Hero.
  • Memetic Psychopath:
    • Bubble Buddy is usually regarded by the fanbase as a psychopathic murderer and sadist who takes great joy in the suffering of innocent people. (Given that he was fully sentient the whole time, meaning that he just stood by and watched Scooter drown, it's definitely a rather convincing argument.)
    • A common fan theory is that SpongeBob and Patrick are actually psychopaths who use a childish/idiot facade as an excuse to get away with annoying and torturing people. Both are also prone to having breakdowns over minor things.
    • Sandy as well, especially with how berserk she went when SpongeBob and Patrick made fun of her home state of Texas. When Hurricane Sandy hit, many people joked online that someone in New Orleans must have made fun of Texas.
    • Mr. Krabs' Money Fetish is often exaggerated to make him a bloodthirsty psychopath who'll attack anything and anyone for the hell of it; his threatening to tear a man's arm off over a dime in "Born Again Krabs", elbow-dropping a baby (who was actually Plankton in disguise) in "Plankton's Pet, and an edited meme comic of him killing Pearl's mother to adopt her as his own are all iconic examples.
    • Incidental 6 (also known as Tom) arguably trumps them all in this department. While the other examples are all to certain extents joking, Tom is actually believed by most to be a real sociopath with his many insane outbursts and violent episodes.
  • Mis-blamed:
    • Many fans pin the blame of SpongeBob's UnCancellation in 2005 to the financial success of The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie, which was originally intended to be the Series Finale. In actuality, Nickelodeon was fighting tooth and nail to revive the series between 2002-2004. Seeing how high the ratings and sales from the show's merchandise was getting in the first years, Nickelodeon was doing everything they could to revive production on the series from convincing creator Stephen Hillenburg to eventually getting writer Paul Tibbitt as showrunner. Eventually, they revived production the same year as the movie's release, and the first revival episodes started airing in 2005.
    • Paul Tibbitt was showrunner from seasons 4-9, and thus fans often blamed him for whatever problems they had with the post-movie episodes. Writers Casey Alexander and Zeus Cervas (who wrote many infamous episodes within the fandom) would also receive this to a slightly lesser extent.
  • Moe:
    • SpongeBob frequently thanks to his big, sparkly blue eyes, long girly eyelashes, and adorable, fun-loving personality.
    • Patrick lapses into this sometimes, though not to the extent of Sponge.
    • Sponge and Pat as babies. ANY of the cast as babies from the episode "Goo Goo Gas". That episode was made to be as cute as possible.
  • Mandela Effect: In "I Was a Teenage Gary", people often misremember that there was a scene where Squidward transforms into a snail and there was a rumor that it was deleted after the first airing. Actually, that scene was never shown in the initial airing, and the transformation has always been offscreen.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The comics give us the Big Bad of the Untidaled arc, an unnamed kraken, who is arguably the darkest villain in the comics. Why? Well, not only is he responsible for the draining of the water that kick started the arc in the first place, we later learn HE EATS FISH! That's right, the darkest villain ever in the comic series eats Bikini Bottomites, and he tries to force Mr. Krabs to make him a giant Krabby Patty that will attract MANY unfortunate citizens into his jaws.
  • Movement Mascot: The eponymous SpongeBob became an unofficial mascot for youth protesters in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.
  • Narm:
    • "This Grill is Not a Home" from the episode "Welcome to the Chum Bucket" is actually a sorrowful song, but some viewers will get unintentional giggles from Mr. Krabs' bizarre Louis Armstrong singing voice.
    • In "The Krabby Kronicle", there's the scene near the end where Mr. Krabs is exposed for making fake stories for his newspaper. Considering how Krabs was acting throughout most of the episode, this scene should provide some satisfaction... except it's easy to get distracted by one female fish whose voice actress is delivering her lines in an extremely over-the-top manner.
      Female Fish: "HOW CAN YOU DO THAT TO SUCH AN INNOCENT CHILD?! IT IS SICK AND INHUMANE!!!"
    • If not handled tactfully, SpongeBob's crying tends to turn into this. Perhaps for this reason, it's Played for Laughs more often than not.
    • As detailed below in Unintentionally Sympathetic, near the end of "Ditchin'," Sandy's badminton partner Dale is accused of cannibalism and subsequently arrested by a group of cops because he had a package of gummy fish in his pocket.
  • Narm Charm: Arguably, the entire show runs on Narm Charm. It's an extremely silly World of Ham populated by a cast of funny-looking characters with goofy voices, all topped off with an extremely quirky sense of humor. But the characters are written with such sincerity and charm that, when the show tries to carry itself in more heartwarming or serious moments, somehow it just works.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Mr. Krabs selling SpongeBob's soul for 62 cents, despite it being more out of desperation and thoughtlessness than malice, and Krabs is guilt ridden after Squidward calls him out on it. It's commonly brought up in YouTube comments even when it's irrelevant to the video. Likewise, his nearly driving Plankton to suicide forever tainted his character in the eyes of the fans, who will never let go of the events.
    • SpongeBob might never live down the fact that he mistreated Gary for "bothering" Puffy Fluffy in "A Pal for Gary", even though it was Puffy Fluffy who tormented Gary and was at that moment actively and obviously trying to eat Gary. He also gets a lot of flack for causing Squidward problems in episodes like "Good Neighbors" and "House Fancy", even though he meant well and only caused said problems out of stupidity.
    • Patrick in general is constantly demonized for his Jerkass Ball moments, even though there are just as many episodes where he's his usual idiotic but well-meaning self. In particular, he gets flack for torturing Gary in "Pet Sitter Pat", stealing SpongeBob's Krabby Patty toy in "Yours, Mine, and Mine", and gluing SpongeBob in a wringer in "Stuck in the Wringer". He also gets a lot of heat for "The Card" over a throwaway line that implies that he's Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • Mrs. Puff's vilest act happens in the episode "Demolition Doofus", when she sends SpongeBob into a monster truck demolition derby to get him killed, even going as far as to join the derby by herself to kill him. Despite returning to her normal characterization afterward and never doing something like that again, the horribleness of her actions in the episode forever casted her in a negative light.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games:
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: James Dobson's accusations of SpongeBob "promoting the gay agenda" actually made the show more popular, especially among actual queer audiences. It helps that the writers of the show never confirmed or denied it (save for Stephen Hillenburg saying that SpongeBob was asexual). However, they later put a positive spin on Dobson's accusation by saying how wonderful it was that the show was reaching so many different groups.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • The "DEEEUUAGH" fish, who shows up for about five seconds in "Something Smells", has spawned a meme.
    • Probably one of the only shows to feature this for a location; Rock Bottom has only been visited in two episodes ("Rock Bottom" and "Out of the Picture"), but a level based on it appears in almost every video game based on the series and has a roller coaster themed around it in the Mall of America.
    • The Jerkass fish who falsely insisted that he had ordered a drink with his pizza in "Pizza Delivery" (who closely resembles recurring background character Tom) is very remembered for making SpongeBob cry and causing Squidward to shove the thing in his face. One of the most unpleasant people in the series, and only one major appearance.
    • The Drill Sergeant Nasty Threatening Shark tries to teach SpongeBob in "Mrs. Puff, You're Fired".
    • The nameless eel lady in "Your Shoe's Untied" because of her single line and being a very adorable Woobie.
    • Bubble Bass was originally this, as he only appeared as a major character in a single episode before dropping off the map entirely for years. Nevertheless, he's still one of the most iconic minor characters the show has ever had, and eventually grew out of this trope as the show began to employ him in a much more frequent capacity thanks to the fandom's love for him.
    • Rodger Bumpass's cameo in "Goons on the Moon" is greatly considered a highlight of the episode.
    • Red Mist Squidward from "SpongeBob in RandomLand", for being an unexpected nod to the infamous Squidward's Suicide creepypasta.
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: Season 4 and beyond (mainly Season 6-8) were done without the same level of input from creator Stephen Hillenburg as the preceding 3 seasons, and this was the general online reaction, hence the cheers from the fanbase when Stephen Hillenburg was announced to be returning for the second SpongeBob SquarePants movie, and the series after that. However, following Hillenburg's death in 2018, it remains to be seen if the current seasons will end up garnering this reaction in the long run.
  • Pandering to the Base: Episodes with fan-favorite characters in them like "Moving Bubble Bass" (Bubble Bass) and "My Leg!" (Fred, AKA the guy that always shouts "My leg!") are obviously made to appeal to said fans. However, these two episodes were done tastefully and had good plots. The same can be said for "Bottle Burglars", which references a bunch of previous episodes.
  • Parody Displacement: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are much more well-known now than the 1960s Filmation Aquaman shorts they were an Affectionate Parody of.
  • Periphery Demographic:
    • College students, due to the teens/adults who grew up watching the show as kids. This led to SpongeBob and friends becoming prime memetic material, possibly becoming the biggest media source of memes out there (even more than Pokémon, another Millennial/Gen Z favorite).
    • Some overlap with the above, but the show is beloved by left-wing political and social justice activists because of its Values Resonance; for instance, Squidward is portrayed as a miserable victim of the capitalist system, Mr. Krabs being the epitome of greedy Corrupt Corporate Executives, and scenes such as this one lampoon real-world issues that many young adults are very concerned about.
  • Pop Culture Holiday: When SpongeBob asks Squidward if he knows what today is and Squidward snarks if it's "Annoy Squidward Day," SpongeBob tells him that that's on the 15th and shows a calendar with the date marked. Fans deduced that "Annoy Squidward Day" took place on February 15th and began celebrating it as such, with even the official Twitter account joining in the fun. On a more morbid note, March 14 is often referred to as "the day Krabs fries", as it is the date where Neptune is set to execute him in The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie falsely.
  • Popular with Furries: Sandy is a trendy character in the furry fandom, especially when she's in her bikini.

    Q-W 
  • Refrain from Assuming: Nobody ever refers "Gary's Song" as that, the likelihood is they're calling it "Gary Come Home".
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Before becoming a film director, Tim Hill worked as a writer for SpongeBob up until 2006.
    • Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire was a writer and storyboard artist for SpongeBob in its first three seasons. "The Campfire Song Song" was also written by him.
  • Ron the Death Eater:
    • SpongeBob gets this sometimes. Although numerous post-season 3 episodes portray him as an annoying, obnoxious man-child, he can still be a nice guy, depending on the episode. Yet, some fans demonize him even when he doesn't cause trouble. He also gets this from some leftist/anti-capitalist fans who relate to Squidward due to his unconditional adoration of Mr. Krabs and his minimum-wage job at the Krusty Krab while being completely oblivious to Squidward's plight and to the class struggle, which causes them to paint him as a "perfect little capitalist minion".note 
    • Squidward gets this and the Draco in Leather Pants treatment (even though he isn't a villain without any redeeming qualities). Some fans hate Squidward because of how he treats SpongeBob and Patrick, ignoring the fact that SpongeBob and Patrick annoys him to no end and won't let him have any breathing space, when all Squidward wants to do is relax. Plus, some of them think that he deserves his Butt-Monkey status simply because he doesn't like SpongeBob and Patrick. Other fans treat him like a saint because he is a Butt-Monkey and gets endless abuse, forgetting that he acts like a jerk sometimes and does indeed deserve at least some of the abuse handed to him, depending on the episode.
    • Patrick is also prone to this treatment, particularly due to later episodes. While he does have his share of Jerkass moments, he's still a well-meaning Kindhearted Simpleton most of the time. However, fans often make him out to be a complete sociopath due to some of his actions often going beyond simple ditziness and bordering on Lethally Stupid, as well as throwaway lines in a few episodes that imply he's Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • While Mr. Krabs has had his fair share of jerkass and antagonistic moments Depending on the Writer, the early seasons often portrayed him as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a Reasonable Authority Figure to SpongeBob. On the other hand, fan works and interpretations almost always have him as the Big Bad and remove any redeeming qualities he had in canon.
  • Rooting for the Empire:
    • More fans would sympathize with Plankton because of Mr. Krabs' constant bullying towards his failures, and actively trying to make Plankton as miserable as possible ("Plankton's Regular").
    • To a more varied scenario, fans would root for Squidward ever since he's become more prone to Kafka Komedy especially with SpongeBob and Patrick making his life a living hell, mostly unintentionally.
    • A few viewers started rooting for Mrs. Puff trying to kill SpongeBob in "Demolition Doofus".
  • Sacred Cow: The first three seasons of SpongeBob have a legendary status among cartoon fans. While fans will accept any harsh criticism of succeeding seasons, no one dares say anything bad about the first three seasons. Even the more polarizing episodes of those seasons like "I'm With Stupid" and "The Great Snail Race" still have very loyal fans and defenders.
  • The Scrappy: Sam, Patrick's sister from "Big Sister Sam", has little redeeming qualities and is even stupider and meaner than her brother. Another thing worth noting is that her existence contradicts Patrick's claim of not having a sister in "Something Smells". But if "Rule of Dumb" and "I'm With Stupid" are anything to go by, Patrick probably has a hard time remembering his family members.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • The series never was the same from Season 4 onwards.note  Once it started back up, the show became much more grotesque compared to the earlier seasons — the post-movie seasons have Vulgar Humor, massive flanderization of various cast members (with some being flanderized into ditzes and designated heroes), occasional dark humor, creepy Nausea Fuel, and overall less charm.
    • The consensus is that Season 4 was when the rot kicked in (although that season has since been Vindicated by History to fans), and Seasons 6 and 7 were the peak of the rot.note  Seasons 5 and 8 are... "mixed" among fans. The good episodes in them are generally better-received than the ones from Season 6 and 7, but the bad episodes include some of the most reviled episodes of the show.note  The first half of Season 9 was similarly divisive. The good episodes are better-received than the ones from Season 5-8 note , but the worst episodes of the first half are some of the most reviled episodes of the show.note 
    • Many fans agree that the second half of Season 9 was a major improvement from Season 8 and the first half of Season 9 due to Hillenburg's return during that season. Seasons 10 and 11 likewise continue to be pretty well-regarded by the fanbase as well and has many new fan favorite episodes such as "Mustard O' Mine", "Bottle Burglars", and "Mimic Madness", the latter being considered by fans a contender for best episode of the entire series, although the shift to a more Denser and Wackier style of animation and humor is somewhat divisive among viewers. There are still the occasional stinkers (such as the infamous "Ink Lemonade").
    • Fans often cite Seasons 12 onward to be another major, though much smaller, dip in quality for the show. This is somewhat understandble as this appears to be the era where the writers were starting to experiment with the franchise a lot more than before. As a result of this, the overall reception on this era is mixed among fans. Some fans believe that this era is worse than the first post-movie era, often citing the frequent, sloppy use of references to older episodes and memes, the frequent use of slapstick for its humor, episode plots being incredibly similar to those from previous seaons, and the promotions of spin-off shows such as Kamp Koral or the Patrick Show in Season 13 as common complaints. On the other hand, some fans see this as the show Growing the Beard, and are keen on many of the show's more recent experimentation with its animation and characters, underutilized characters and settings being explored and developed more, as well as the franchise as a whole expanding its boundaries, and opening itself to newer ideas.
  • Self-Fanservice: The main male cast is normally transformed into attractive Bishounen guys in both shipping (usually Spandy/Squidbob, most people are oddly okay with non-humanized Patbob) and non-shippy fanart. Sandy herself is usually made much more curvaceous or feminine by the Furry Fandom.
  • Shipping Goggles: The SpongeBobxSandy shippers are quite prone to this, treating almost any instance of one character showing fondness or concern for the other as Ship Tease moments. While there was some genuine Ship Tease between them early on in season one (namely in “Tea at the Treedome” and “Ripped Pants”), that was quickly dropped in favor of them being Like Brother and Sister with very little indication of romantic interest from either party. Even the infamous wedding scene in “Truth or Square” becomes null and void when viewed in its proper context (it was a play), and if anything, comes across like a Ship Sinking from the writers.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Spandy (SpongeBob and Sandy) fans and all of the SpongeBob slash-fans seem to constantly be at each other's throats whenever people start to discuss the pairings that they like and don't like (or at least the very militant ones are). The slash fans tend to ignore that Word of God said at one point that SpongeBob had a chaste crush on Sandy, the Spandy fans often ignore all of the Ho Yay, and everybody seems to ignore the fact that Word of God has also stated that SpongeBob's asexual.
  • Signature Scene: Many iconic ones to choose from, but the climactic performance in "Band Geeks" is arguably the series' most beloved moment.
  • Song Association: You're about as likely to find the Holy Grail in your backyard as you are to find a comment on a YouTube upload of David Glen Eisley's song "Sweet Victory" that doesn't in some way reference or mention SpongeBob. Some people weren't even aware it was a real song and thought it was created by the composers of SpongeBob's OST.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The Japanese version of the "Ripped Pants" song.
  • Special Effect Failure: The Amazon Prime HD remasters of the classic episodes make the handful of low grade CGI shots in them stick out even more, due in part to their shallow resolution textures (you can literally count the pixels on them) becoming painfully obvious once the veil of the old standard def VHS masters was lifted ("Big Pink Loser" and "The Algaes Always Greener" has the most notable instances of this).
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The post-sequel episodes, primarily the ones starting from Season 10 onwards, can easily be seen as a modern revival of The Ren & Stimpy Show, having much more Deranged Animation that utilizes squash-and-stretch and grotesque imagery more often, as well as amplifying the sense of Surreal Humor found within the writing. The fact that Bob Camp, who became the showrunner for Ren & Stimpy following John Kricfalusi's departure, became a head storyboard artist for the show starting with Sponge Out of Water only adds to the adaptiveness.
  • Stock Parody Jokes:
    • The sea creatures became anthropomorphic from nuclear radiation due to Bikini Bottom being named after Bikini Atoll, which was the site of many nuclear tests.
    • SpongeBob is Camp Gay. Alternatively, Squidward is Camp Gay.
    • Suicidal and depressed Squidward.
    • Krabby Patties being made from a sapient species such as fish or crabs.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
    • The techno song from "Jellyfish Jam" is very similar to the NBA song "Get Ready For This". Here's a comparison of the two. However in actuality it is a song called "Stadium Rave."
    • The opening song from "Krusty Krab Training Video" is a near ringer for "Eye of the Tiger".
    • The "Ripped Pants" song is similar to "Be True to Your School" by The Beach Boys. In particular, the lyric "When big Larry came round just to put him down" is almost identical to the opening lyric "When some loud braggart tries to put me down".
    • Lampshaded in "Spy Buddies" by one Krusty Krab customer, who, upon hearing a Suspiciously Similar Song says, "I hated the REAL version of this song".
    • Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episodes make extensive use of "The Lineman", which greatly resembles the original Batman theme.
    • The depressing song, Daytime Drama in the episode "Dumped" is in comparison with this more upbeat counterpart.
    • The song that Sandy sings in the episode "Texas" is very similar to the classic "Lovesick Blues".
    • The title card for "Hall Monitor" has similarities to the theme for the late '60s/early '70s action show The Mod Squad.
    • The chorus sections of "Best Day Ever" resemble Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".
    • The music that plays in the first episode when hungry anchovies attack the Krusty Krab is similar to the theme of the Simpsons.
    • In the movie, there's "Goofy Goober Rock," a cover/Song Parody of Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock".
    • Squiddy G sounds suspiciously like Brickell's "Good Times, Bad Times".
    • Even the melody of the main theme song sounds suspiciously similar to another song. In this case, it sounds like it's based on the old sea shanty "Blow The Man Down". Said shanty's actual inclusion in a few episodes just makes it crazier.
  • Tainted by the Preview: The preview commercials before the show came out made it look foolish. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: In "Truth of Square", Patchy is dissed by Triumph, the Insult Dog.
    Patchy: This is Patchy the Pirate, President of The SpongeBob SquarePants fanclub!
    Triumph: Ooooh, your mother must be so proud! Maybe you should consider wearing two eyepatches. That way, you wouldn't be able to see what's become of your life!
    Patchy: What?!
  • Tear Jerker: Got its own page.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Many fans did not take kindly towards the shift towards Kafka Comedy in Seasons 6-8, with many complaining that it was too mean-spirited and tasteless, further compounded by the mass Flanderization the characters underwent. Many feel they're trying too hard to capture the charm of the first three seasons without understanding why they worked.
    • An in-universe example occurs in "Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture", where SpongeBob boycotts the Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy movie for not casting the elderly stars from the TV show he loves for the main roles.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Bubble Bass could've been a good Arch-Enemy to SpongeBob, but he only appeared in the first season in "F.U.N." and "Pickles". He did have a minor appearance in "Plankton's Good Eye" seven seasons later.
    • Kevin. He could have been an interesting Evil Counterpart to SpongeBob, but he only appeared once.
    • Squilvia has an interesting concept of being Squidward's love interest and one of the few people to truly make him happy by dint of their matching interests. Despite them actually getting into a relationship at the end of "Love That Squid", Squilvia has yet to return in any capacity.
    • One scene in "Stanley S. SquarePants" introduces several relatives for the main characters such as a Scottish cousin of Sandy, a cynical teenage cousin of Squidward, and Mr. Krabs' triplet nephews who solve mysteries. However, none of them have appeared since their debut despite the fun personalities they displayed in their one scene, and Sandy and Squidward's cousins don't even interact with Sandy and Squidward themselves.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Parodied loads of times.
    "Now, you must acquire a taste for free-form jazz!" ("Pressure Point" plays)
  • Tough Act to Follow: Described by RebelTaxi as "the SpongeBob Syndrome", the show has become such a financial and pop-culture behemoth that any Nicktoon that succeeds it and isn't immediately as successful as SpongeBob currently is will be canceled before its widespread appeal even has a chance to grow. Butch Hartman revealed that The Fairly OddParents got canceled and renewed by the network four times just because it was only the second most popular show on the network.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • Baby Squidward in "Goo Goo Gas", amongst many other things. His far-apart eyes make him look like a hei-tiki pendant.
    • Squidward, full stop. While he's not marketably cute like the rest of the cast, he has more range in facial expression than any other character on the show and a hugely appealing design. And being a Perpetual Frowner, When He Smiles, it helps.
    • Plankton. He's so small!
  • Unfortunate Character Design: One background character is an anchovy with a protruding belly button that sort of resembles a penis. In fact, many viewers assumed it was a penis for a while, leading to an urban legend that this was a deliberate attempt at sneaking nudity past the censors.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • The first three seasons tend to get hit with this harder than the rest of the series, thanks to its greater grounding in the atmosphere of western society in 1999-2004. Most of this is visible in the technology present throughout the show, including pre-smartphone "shell phones" and landline phones being ubiquitous, computer monitors and television sets being boxy units with 4:3 displays, and the Internet never showing up or even being alluded to.
    • The episode "Idiot Box" is kicked off when SpongeBob buys a brand-new television set so that he and Patrick can play in the box it came in. Before the late 1990s, the average TV screen would not exceed 24 inches in diameter (except for costly rear-projection sets), while flat LCD and LED sets would take over in The New '10s. Thus, it was only in The Aughts when most TVs were both large and bulky enough for someone (children at least) to fit inside their packaging.
    • A couple cases also occur for "The Sponge Who Could Fly", where a joke was made about SpongeBob gearing up to get some complimentary peanuts; due to greater attention towards peanut allergies in recent years, most airlines now give pretzels to customers instead. The live-action framing scenes also date themselves by videotapes still being commonplace, with the joke at the end about Patchy's tape of the episode getting chewed up being something that could've only worked without an explanation as late as its 2003 airdate, by which point DVD players were already rapidly supplanting VCRs— the last official SpongeBob VHS release was the "Lost in Time" package just three years later.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Plankton is meant to be the villain of the series, but many fans find him more likable than Mr. Krabs and easy to sympathize with due to always suffering humiliating defeats. This is moreso in later episodes where Plankton became more harmless while Mr. Krabs became a Jerkass, but even in earlier ones you can't help but feel bad for him sometimes.
    • Squidward Tentacles' role is usually to be the jerk who actively does everything he can to make things go sour for SpongeBob and Patrick, but often suffers mishaps when he doesn't deserve it. Like Plankton, this is more prevalent in later seasons as Squidward's suffering started to feel much more disproportionate compared to his Jerkass moments. Also like Plankton, it could still occur in earlier episodes.
    • In "Ditchin'," Sandy's badminton partner, Dale, is revealed to be a criminal whose problems apparently started when he began ditching class, which convinces an already guilty SpongeBob to return to boating school. However, the way this is revealed is that Dale is suddenly surrounded by cops, the cops declare that they "know [Dale]'s violated his parole somehow," and proceed to arrest Dale because he has a bag of gummy fish in his pocket, basically accusing him of cannibalism. It's apparently supposed to be a G-Rated Drug, but the scene instead comes off as the cops just looking for any excuse they can to harass Dale.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Patrick is meant to be an adorkable ditz who acts as one of SpongeBob's best friends. However, his Jerkass acts to SpongeBob and the other citizens, and his selfishness makes fans wonder why they are best friends, especially in seasons 6-7. This was far less prevalent in early seasons and more recent ones have actively tried to avoid this trope due to enough complaining about it. Still, as shown here, it could happen in the golden era:
      • In "I'm With Stupid", after SpongeBob volunteers to act dumb to impress Patrick's parents, Patrick forgets the plan and makes many hurtful comments aimed at him. It goes to the point where — failing to explain his true intelligence — SpongeBob leaves in a huffing rage, Patrick's "parents" turn out to be total strangers, and Patrick gets away with his actions.
    • In "The Clash of Triton", King Neptune is supposed to be viewed as sympathetic due to his depression about his exiled son Triton. But then we find out that he gets enjoyment from terrorizing normal citizens with his powers just because, and he imprisoned Triton in the first place because his son aspired to help normal citizens instead of bullying them. Not only does nobody call Neptune out on the fact that he's directly responsible for causing major Sanity Slippage to his own son, but he doesn't even accept Triton back until he sees how Triton trashed Bikini Bottom during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. And to top it all off, Neptune also inadvertently sics an angry mob on SpongeBob and Patrick by declaring everything that happened that day was "all because of [SpongeBob]."
    • In "Accidents Will Happen", Mr. Krabs is supposed to be seen as sympathetic as it's revealed that Squidward lied about getting hurt on the job so he could force Krabs into giving him special treatment. However, considering that there are numerous instances of Krabs not only mistreating his employees, but participating in illegal activities for his own benefit in multiple episodes (and even in this episode), it instead comes off as Squidward getting some much-deserved comeuppance.
  • Unpopular Popular Character:
    • Squidward is often berated, loathed, and disrespected by most of the characters in the series, but many fans sympathize with his misfortunes and appreciate his Deadpan Snarker moments.
    • Plankton. He may be the most hated creature in Bikini Bottom, but many fans like him more than Krabs (especially in seasons 6-8).
    • To a lesser extent, even SpongeBob and Patrick. They tend to drive everyone mad with their annoying tendencies, to the point where there are holidays dedicated to getting away from them. Yet, many fans love SpongeBob for his loving, innocent and sweet nature, saccharinely adorable design and high spirits, and Patrick for his hilarious lines, charming stupidity and Fountain of Memes status.
  • Values Resonance:
    • As very well put by this video, the moral of "Ripped Pants" rings very true in the era of meme culture of The New '10s. It teaches us that it is not a good idea to associate yourself with a single joke for the sake of attention, unless you want your fame to disappear quickly.
    • Similarly in "Fools in April", it shows the fine divide between good, harmless pranks like SpongeBob's and nasty, hurtful ones like Squidward's. As such, pranking videos (which moreso lean towards the latter's pranks) are notoriously seen as annoying, unpopular and even dangerous as people have been injured and killed for doing "harmless" pranks. Furthermore in-universe, whereas the customers find Sponge's pranks to be in good fun, they are so disgusted with Squidward's prank that they all leave the restaurant and call him out on it.
    • The episode "Squirrel Jokes" especially rings true in the late 2010s and the 2020s, with the debate over politically incorrect humor becoming more prominent and the idea of singling out a specific demographic as the butt of all one's jokes being increasingly criticized.
  • Vindicated by History:
    • Most fans have warmed up to Season 4 and 5, with some going as far as to put Season 4 as part of the show's Golden Age.
    • In general, the show's style of humor is much more highly regarded by animation fans than when it started. While most older viewers initially dismissed it as "just another kids' show", many people now see its unique brand of Surreal Humor as rather ahead of its time, anticipating the style of humor that would come to dominate pop culture (and animation in particular) in the following decade. Case in point: many jokes in its earliest episodes wouldn't seem out-of-place in an episode of Adventure Time.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The episode "Mooncation" has animation on par with that of The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Where do we start? Not only is there a huge amount of gross violence and Nightmare Fuel, but there are all kinds of dirty references ("Patrick, your genius is showing!" "Where?"), and the show treats Suicide as Comedy. The show's idea of physical humor wouldn't be out of place on an Adult Swim cartoon, with plenty of graphic injuries and characters frequently getting flayed with extremely detailed muscular frames shown.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?:
    • Squidward's nightmare sequence "Squidward in Clarinetland" is bizarre and disturbing.
    • The White Void Room scene in "SB-129".
    • "Welcome to Squidward's Tiki Land..."
    • The Fly of Despair from "Shanghaied".
    • The show itself is about a sponge living in a pineapple under the sea.
    • From season 10 onwards, the background music is sometimes sourced from the works of Synth-Pop pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey, and the chosen tracks are appropriately spacey and weird for the episodes they're used in.
  • What The Hell, Casting Agency?:
    • SpongeBob's Norwegian actor, Tommy Karlsen (the same guy who played Ickis from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and Meowth in Pokémon), recognized for his typecasting with hyperactive characters, was for reasons unknown replaced by Trond Teigen (famous for his role as Aladdin, among other action roles). Teigen's attempts at imitating Karlsen's performance come across as forced and shoehorned.
    • Lord Royal Highness in "Atlantis SquarePantis". Many people point out that the character voiced by David Bowie is the one character never to get a song in a Musical Episode.
  • Win Back the Crowd: Stephen Hillenburg returned to the show starting in 2015 all the way up until he died in 2018, and fans definitely felt his presence. Fan reception to the second movie was quite positive, and many of the problems from previous seasons are addressed in the latter half of Season 9: The characters generally act like their old selves, and the Black Comedy has been greatly toned down. Even after his death, the show's current crew has stuck to this direction and avoided falling into the traps of seasons 6-8.
  • Woolseyism:
    • In the German dub of "Born Again Krabs", the fake name Mr. Krabs gives the Flying Dutchman is changed from "Harold Flowers" to "Benjamin Blümchen"; not only does this still fit the Line-of-Sight Name nature of the English version's name (as "Blümchen" means "blossom" in German), but it also doubles as an Actor Allusion, as Jürgen Kluckert, who voiced Mr. Krabs in the German dub, was also the second voice of Benjamin.
    • In the German dub, when SpongeBob speaks authentic German to Squidward who disguises himself as a German immigrant and excuses not speaking German as wanting to practice English, Squidward instead disguised himself as a Bavarian immigrant and SpongeBob speaks to him in Bavarian. Squidward instead dumbfoundedly answers "Yodel?", referencing the stereotype about yodeling Bavarians.

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