In tragic news, Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob Squarepants, passed away Tuesday at the age of 57 due to ALS. Hillenburg was responsible for creating Nickelodeon’s longest-running animated show, which has proliferated over 250 episodes, and a bottomless pit of viral memes.
Hillenburg’s heartbreaking death forced me to look back on SpongeBob, which was my favorite animated show as a kid. I thought about how iconic each character is, and how each underwater archetype has been permanently lodged in our culture and vernacular.
I also thought about how each character is a little gay.
When I was a child, I saw the wonderful and unique players in SpongeBob Squarepants through innocent eyes. Now, as an adult, I’d like to honor Hillenburg’s indelible legacy by reexamining each character and how queer they are. Here is every (major) character in SpongeBob Squarepants, ranked by queerness.
Dude, fuck Mr. Krabs. He’s the most garbage heterosexual on this show. Mr. Krabs upheld patriarchal systems by treating his daughter Pearl like an untouchable, virginal goddess, instead of like a person — sorry, a whale — who deserves love and affection and whale dick as much as the rest of us. He is every cheap, greedy, sleazy business owner who stands outside his storefront with his arms crossed, waiting for someone to park in one of the two designated spots for his business, so he can berate you for trying to go to the laundromat next door when the spot is clearly marked “The Krusty Krab.” He wears dumb fucking straight men shirts and even dumber straight men pants, and if he had feet, you best believe he’d be flaunting Crocs.
Also straight as fuck. Pearl was boy crazy in ways that were totally nauseating to me as a child. If anything, I could totally see Pearl being the kind of “straight” girl who makes out with her friends at sleepovers, but maintains that they’re “just practicing for the real thing,” then calls her friend who catches feelings a “dyke” for thinking it meant something. Pearl is problematic.
Aww, bless his soul, but Patrick is too pure to be queer. Queer people have usually seen some shit. Patrick has not. Patrick needs to be protected at all costs.
If the Flying Dutchman were a woman, I’d put her at the top of the list: He’s vengeful and petty, gleefully haunting residents of Bikini Bottom, scaring innocent people just for the hell of it, taking souls at his leisure. I mean, if that doesn’t sound like a queer woman, I don’t know what does. But, alas, the Flying Dutchman is male, and therefore just seems like a spectral alt-right troll who died with unfinished business, and is returning to the physical world to harass more people.
Mrs. Puff gets arrested all the time, and definitely runs some sort of fish-lesbian prison ring. She’s kind of a mess, but we’re rooting for her. Mrs. Puff is the character who draws a “yas biiitch” every time she’s on screen.
Gary seems queer as fuck. First off, he’s basically an underwater cat, and cats are exclusively owned by queer people. He’s petty as all hell, and even ran away from home because his owner SpongeBob forgot to feed him. Gary will hold a grudge and judge you when you deserve to be judged. He’s whip-smart and he’s always watching, waiting for you to fail. But Gary’s also sweet and loving and loyal, and will always be there for you, sometimes to his own detriment. I’m literally describing a queer woman.
Plankton is like, textbook Evil Gay. He fits perfectly into the trope of gay male villains in cartoons, like Scar in The Lion King or Jafar from Aladdin. He’s so repressed and bogged down by the weight of homosexual stigma that it’s turned him evil. He wants revenge on the cruel world that refuses to accept him for who he is. Plankton is married to his computer, Karen, which is extremely “I have a girlfriend. You don’t know her, she goes to another school.” If you’re that gay, that repressed, and feel like there’s no world in which you can live your truth, the best option for you is probably to marry a gendered computer — no intimacy, no problem. God, this is dark. One more thing: Plankton is extraordinarily bad at being evil, which is gay. Queer people can be vindictive, but we all know there’s no evil like that of a straight man.
Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy
…were in a relationship. Together. Sexually. This was a gay couple. Barnacle Boy is always sporting a fashionable neck scarf and Mermaid Man a literal bra. They’re two old, washed up former hotties who probably vacation together in Palm Springs. What a beautiful life these two have built together.
Tea: The reason Squidward vehemently rejects SpongeBob is because they have sexual tension and Squidward doesn’t want to admit to himself that he could be attracted to someone like SpongeBob. Don’t @ me. SpongeBob is so full of sunshine and rainbows and is just so genuinely gleeful that it’s hard not to speculate. But SpongeBob seems gay in the theater-kid-who-homophobic-jocks-called-gay-because-he-expresses-emotion type of way, and not in an authentic way, which is like, snarky, aggrieved, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Which brings me to…
I’ve always felt as though Squidward is canonically gay, or at least has been widely accepted as such. No one will put up a fight if you claim Squidward is gay. He is a straightforward parody of a Manhattan art gay, one of those bitter, lonely, middle aged gay men who retires to his contemporary pad to live a life of solitude with his hobbies, his art, his flute, and his resentments. He’s a pretentious curmudgeon who thinks he’s better than his neighbors, he rejects displays of basic happiness, and is a very particular man. Squidward doesn’t find joy in doing straight bullshit, like going to the Krusty Krab with a bunch of aquatic flops. No, what makes Squidward happy is being alone, and that is the queerest and most relatable trait of all.
Where do I even begin? First of all, Sandy is a take-off on Sally Ride, the queer first American woman in space who was closeted the entire time she was alive. Let’s just do a speed round of Sandy’s lesbian traits, because there’s so many.
Sandy is a know-it-all: gay. Sandy loves being right: gay. Sandy is hyper-intelligent and braggadocious: gay. Sandy hibernates: gay. If you wake Sandy while she’s hibernating, she turns into an intractable, growling monster: gay. Sandy loves karate and science—not one, but both: gay. Sandy is easily angered: gay. Sandy is athletic, extremely buff, enjoys extreme sports, and won the Goo Lagoon Anchor Toss competition: lesbian. Sandy is competitive and antagonistic: gay. Sandy is emotional, volatile, and undergoes extreme hormonal stress during Prehibernation week: Fucking. Gay. If you told me Sandy Cheeks had a Gal Gadot stan account on Twitter, I’d believe you. And I’d follow her.