SpongeBob SquarePants: What Tom Kenny Thinks About All The Memes

"SpongeBob SquarePants" may have premiered on Nickelodeon several years before the creation of Twitter and other social media platforms, but everyone's favorite fry cook is all over feeds as a staple of meme culture. From the "mocking SpongeBob" meme (usually accompanied by a caption with alternating capital letters) to the "tired SpongeBob" meme, social media users often utilize the character and his Bikini Bottom friends to express their thoughts and feelings. But how does Tom Kenny, the iconic voice behind SpongeBob, feel about the situation?

In an interview with Esquire, Kenny pointed out that many SpongeBob memes are used by original viewers, who are now adults, to convey feelings of losing control with a sense of humor. This could be regarding politics, the job market or skyrocketing rent prices. He said, "SpongeBob has been taken into the social media age by [fans] and repurposed to kind of embody a lot of their feelings, like existential fears." Kenny added, "There is something in the fabric of now and in the lives of these people who grew up with SpongeBob that, you know, SpongeBob allows them to label these feelings of existential dread and horror and the world letting you down..."

But why, exactly, do social media users gravitate toward SpongeBob memes over other popular shows?

SpongeBob's lack of subtlety allows him to be the perfect meme

Given SpongeBob SquarePant's over-the-top facial expressions and actions, the meme options are endless. In fact, as of September 2019, Know Your Meme boasted over 4,600 images of the jellyfishing fanatic. "The Simpsons" — the longest-running show on television — only had a little over 1,100. 

Matt Schimkowitz, a senior editor at Know Your Meme, told TIME of this phenomenon: "There's no real subtlety in terms of when SpongeBob is happy, or when he is sad, or when he is angry. He just is those things, which makes it easier for people online to use them essentially as emojis and share them to express how they're feeling about a particular subject."

Plus, it helps that SpongeBob is, overall, a beloved staple in pop culture. Aside from a few controversies over the years, such as the inappropriate "panty raid" moment in Season 3, Episode 15 ("Mid-Life Crustacean"), few will react negatively if a SpongeBob meme pops up on their feed — a feat that can't be said about every show.