In the wild, sea sponges aren’t known to have sexual preferences, but according to a tweet by children’s programming network, Nickelodeon, at least one cartoon sponge might practice an alternative lifestyle.
In a missive marking the beginning of Pride Month, Nickelodeon introduced a rainbow-colored version of their hit cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, showing the anthropomorphic yellow sea creature dressed in his typical outfit of a white shirt and brown pants, but with the addition of a tie printed with the LGBTQ “pride” flag.
“Celebrating #Pride with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month,” the network said in the tweet.
Although the tweet doesn’t explicitly say SpongeBob is gay, the two other “rainbow” character treatments, released alongside SpongeBob, are of queer characters, according to the New York Post: “Korra from ‘The Legend of Korra,’ who is bisexual, and the transgender actor Michael D. Cohen [who plays Schwoz] from ‘Henry Danger.'”
‘Fans have known for a while Korra was gay/bisexual — as it was revealed in the show itself and actually written into the script. Again, not so much with words…but just action,” entertainment news outlet TMZ added. “As for Schwoz, the actor who plays him — Michael D. Cohen — is a transgender man in real life … something that wasn’t revealed until recently. He transitioned decades ago. Now, when it comes to the Krusty Krab fry cook … well, let’s just say folks had their suspicions for a long time now. If you know, you know … we won’t break it down for boomers.”
News of SpongeBob’s sexual orientation is, of course, not exactly news. “Fans of the nautical cartoon, which began airing in 1999, have long-suspected Spongebob to be gay. In one 2002 episode called ‘Rock-a-Bye Bivalve,’ Spongebob and his best friend Patrick parent an abandoned scallop like a married couple,” the New York Post said.
Social media fans of SpongeBob were also quick to point out that the sea sponge is a “queer icon,” especially after an extended run on Broadway.
Of course, SpongeBob’s sexual orientation would be a surprise to his creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who called the cartoon sponge “asexual” in an interview with People Magazine back in the early 2000s, seemingly chastizing viewers for ascribing any type of orientation to a perpetually childlike cartoon character.
“We never intended them to be gay,” Hillenburg said, referring to SpongeBob and his best friend, sea star Patrick. “I consider them to be almost asexual. We’re just trying to be funny and this has got nothing to do with the show.” Nickelodeon, which aired SpongeBob SquarePants, reportedly agreed with Hillenburg’s assessment of his characters.
Hillenburg, though, gave the interview in a less woke time. He passed away in 2018 of ALS, leaving the character open to interpretation.
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