For years, SpongeBob SquarePants fans have pondered the sexuality of their leading sponge. Over the weekend, they received a bit of sweet confirmation from Nickelodeon.
“Celebrating #Pride with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month,” Nickelodeon tweeted alongside photos of known bisexual character Korra, from the Avatar: The Last Airbender spinoff The Legend of Korra, and Schwoz Schwartz, from Henry Danger. (Michael D. Cohen, the actor who plays Schwartz, is a trans man.)
The third (and largest) photo: an exuberant SpongeBob bathed in neon rainbow light. Is SpongeBob actually gay?
This isn’t the first time SpongeBob’s sexuality has been addressed by the show. In 2002, series creator Stephen Hillenburg told the Wall Street Journal, “I always think of [the characters] as being somewhat asexual,” providing much-needed representation for the ace community.
But other fans believe SpongeBob is far from the only bottom in Bikini Bottom. If our sponge hero is a baby gay — loud and always flaunting his holes — then his neighbor Squidward Tentacles is a wise queer figure.
“Squidward is your classic old queen,” Lee says. All Squidward wants to do is play his clarinet, take dance classes and — most of all — berate his hyperactive twink of a neighbor. This is classic gay-elder energy.
Since SpongeBob debuted in 1999, Squidward has exemplified his fair share of queerness, like sunbathing in a speedo, falling in love with Patrick Star in drag and wanting nothing more than to be alone. Also, getting a new hot face is pretty fucking gay.
These are all clichés, of course. Still, one of the most forthright signifiers comes from Season Three: Squidward, intimidated by his rival Squilliam Fancyson, tries to imagine Squilliam in his underwear. He conjures an image of Squilliam with a chiseled torso and wearing red polka-dot boxers. “Oh no, he’s hot!” Squidward blurts. That, folks, is called gay yearning.
Squidward has also fallen for Bikini Bottom’s hottest bachelorettes. In Season Seven, he wines and dines fellow octopus Squilvia at the Krusty Krab. Squilvia, who looks like she could be Squidward’s sister, wears a pink dress, matching purse, purple eyeshadow and black bangs. They have a passionate one-off romance, and Squilvia is never seen again. If nothing else, Squidward has a fetish for partners that look like him, and that’s deeply queer.
For bisexual fans of the show, Squidward is coded queer representation. “Squidward is a very overlooked character. He’s designed to be tormented by SpongeBob,” says Sarah, a 20-year-old fan who asked to remain semi-anonymous because she’s not out as bisexual to her family.
After coming out as bisexual, Sarah gained more respect for Squidward, she says. “Oh, he’s bi,” she realized. “It made me like Squidward because he’s constantly tormented.”
It’s a common belief among SpongeBob SquarePants fans that most of Bikini Bottom may be queer. Patrick Star in booty shorts, fishnets and patent leather boots is a circuit-party gay; Sandy Cheeks is a power STEM lesbian.
Still, there’s something about Squidward that makes him a standout. Twitter shitposter @Skoog deduced last year that Squidward is the ultimate millennial icon. He’s overeducated with a dead-end job, he works for a boomer obsessed with money and he’s canonically depressed.
Yes, he’s also probably bisexual. “Squidward just sort of fits that quirky alt subset that would probably tweet about being bi if he was an eBoy,” Skoog tells me.