In the carefree sense of the word, SpongeBob Squarepants is extremely gay. You don’t spend an entire episode playing with a gum wrapper if you’re not in a preternaturally good mood, after all. But #SpongeBobIsGay didn’t trend on Twitter because of SpongeBob’s gaiety which, after 262 episodes and three movies, isn’t exactly news.
No, the hashtag trended because whoever is running the Nickelodeon Twitter account included a picture of the anthropomorphic sea sponge alongside transgender actor Michael D. Cohen, a regular on Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, and Avatar Korra, a bisexual character from the network’s The Legend of Korra.
Along with his proximity to these other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the text of the tweet — “Celebrating #Pride with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month” — could imply that SpongeBob is gay.
But let’s pause for a moment. First of all, the tweet could easily be implying that SpongeBob is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Alternately, he could be a member of that community but not be gay. It’s theoretically possible that SpongeBob is bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning, after all.
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) June 13, 2020
But the biggest reason to doubt that SpongeBob is gay is that the guy who created him says he isn’t.
Asked about the matter in 2005 — SpongeBob’s sexuality has been a matter of speculation for a long time — Hillenburg told Reuters “It doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re trying to do.”
“We never intended them to be gay. I consider them to be almost asexual,” he continued. “We’re just trying to be funny and this has got nothing to do with the show.”
Those words didn’t stop the speculation, using SpongeBob’s closeness to Patrick and lack of romantic interest in Sandy as evidence. But Hillenburg said that he wrote Sandy to be “a strong female character that could be a friend to SpongeBob but not a love interest.” He never veered from that course.
So why the tweet? Well, Hillenburg sadly died in 2018 after battling ALS for a year, and since then Nickelodeon has not been shy about contradicting his express wishes, namely by planning a spin-off series after Hillenburg said explicitly more than once that he did not want to spin-off Spongebob.
Turning SpongeBob into a gay icon 21 years after his debut similarly disregards Hillenburg’s wishes. So while people might think that Nickelodeon tweeting it makes SpongeBob gay, the guy who dreamed him up clearly disagreed.
And after all, you don’t have to be gay to enjoy drag.