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The SpongeBob SquarePants Details That Are Darker Than You Think

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Sneaking adult content into work made for kids is a tradition that dates back to the invention of child entertainment. From the red-hot iron shoes that used to end "Snow White," to the topless photo snuck into "The Rescuers," creators looking to blow off steam love to sneak weird stuff into their allegedly family-friendly material. And Nickelodeon juggernaut "SpongeBob SquarePants" is no exception.

"SpongeBob SquarePants," the creation of former marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, began as yet another Nicktoon in 1999. Few could have known then that it would become Nickelodeon's longest-running show, outliving its own creator, who died of ALS in 2018. A show that runs for as long as "SpongeBob" has tends to scrape the sides of its writers' and animators' creative jam jars, trying to get anything new on the plate after literally hundreds of episodes. As a result, some pretty dark stuff has wiggled its way out of Bikini Bottom. And speaking of that name...

Bikini Bottom's explosive past

Bikini Bottom isn't just a slightly raunchy pun about swimsuits; it also refers to Bikini Atoll. Canonically, Bikini Bottom is believed to be under the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. In real life, the Bikini Atoll was one of America's many midcentury nuclear testing sites. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Bikini Atoll was the unwilling host to 23 nuclear bomb explosions, "including one 1954 test of the largest nuclear device the U.S. ever exploded." The native inhabitants of the Marshall Islands can never return to the islands America used for their atom bomb experiments because they are horribly irradiated.

The radiation at Bikini Atoll has given way to a very popular fan theory about "SpongeBob," namely that the creatures of Bikini Bottom are the result of nuclear bomb-spurred mutations. Tom Kenney, who voices SpongeBob, shot down this theory in HuffPo, saying "I don't think SpongeBob and his friends are mutations. I think Bikini Bottom is like its own world ... When the camera drops below the water and you go to Bikini Bottom, it's almost like it's another planet."

SpongeBob's deadly sins

Another fan theory that has gotten at least partial confirmation is that the main cast of "SpongeBob" represent the seven deadly sins. This theory was acknowledged and supported by the writers on the DVD commentary track for Season 1's episode titled "Plankton." They don't specify which characters represent which sin, but some are obvious. Mr. Krabs is Greed, Plankton is Envy. Patrick is Sloth. Gary is Gluttony because his snail food seems to be the only thing that motivates him.

Mental Floss attributes Wrath to Squidward because he hates everyone, and Pride to Sandy because she takes great pleasure out of all her scientific accomplishments. But Squidward's anger comes from his pretentious nature. If he wasn't prideful, would he even get annoyed? And who briefly gets addicted to karate? Sandy "Don't Mess with Texas" Cheeks.

That leaves SpongeBob, who is usually assigned Lust. That's a weird sin to give a character who the creator asserted is asexual. But Biblical Lust isn't just sexual desire. St. Augustine defined all sin as "disordered love," and how else would you describe SpongeBob's affection for his dead-end job, his friends, and especially Squidward?

Is Mr. Krabs pulling a Soylent Green?

Just what is in that secret Krabby Patty formula? "SpongeBob" producer Vincent Waller told Cinemablend, "The one thing I can tell you that Steve Hillenburg has let slip is there is absolutely no meat in the Krabby Patty. There is no animal product in there."

You could interpret that as the Krabby Patty being 100% plant-based. But does that really jive with what we know about life under the sea? Crabs are not herbivores; they are omnivorous scavengers and have been known to fight, kill, and even eat each other. That's one reason why some Redditors think that Mr. Krabs is killing his own kind and serving them up as quick service fare. Well, that and the time he took a bite of one of his burgers and said "So that's what I taste like." Also, the Krusty Krab looks like a crab trap.

Nickelodeon refuted this theory on Instagram, saying "We can 100% confirm that Krabby Patties are not made from crabs," but they also released a Krabby Patty recipe that was mainly comprised of imitation crab meat. Sounds like a certain corporation needs to get their story straight.

What happened to Mr. Puff?

In the episode "Krusty Love," we get a depressing glimpse at the backstory of Mrs. Puff. In the episode, Mr. Krabs falls for the beleaguered driving instructor and is initially dejected that she's a Mrs. and not a Miss. But SpongeBob explains that Mr. Puff is out of the picture. What happened to him? The show briefly cuts away to the surface, where a human hand turns on a pufferfish lamp, as popularized in the Tiki craze of the '50s and '60s.

So Mr. Puff was caught, killed, and turned into a lamp, Ed Gein-style. Cool kids show. Perhaps this explains why Mrs. Puff is always on edge. It's not just SpongeBob's terrible driving skills, she is still processing some serious trauma.

This tragic backstory would also help explain the episode where Mrs. Puff goes completely insane. After taking the fall for the carnage from yet another one of SpongeBob's failed driving tests, Mrs. Puff is arrested. She enjoys the quiet of life inside, but SpongeBob and Patrick keep trying to bust her out. Her guards never see them, however, just her ranting and screaming about people trying to get her. So Mrs. Puff is committed and put in solitary confinement, where she begins hallucinating, as many people actually do when confined for extended periods of time without social contact (via Wired). You don't expect a kids' show to bring up arguments for prison abolition, yet here we are.

Ye Olde Suicidal Employee

It's not just Mrs. Puff; a lot of people suffer from prolonged exposure to SpongeBob. The episode "Dunces and Dragons" sees SpongeBob and Patrick visit a Medieval Times-esque restaurant. When the greeter isn't sufficiently old-timey in his manner of speech, SpongeBob corrects him, saying "Excuse me, my good man, I believe thou meant to say, 'Righteth this wayeth.'" The greeter's reaction is a tad ... extra. He almost stabs himself in the face with his poleaxe, before sighing and saying "Someday, but not today."

"Someday, but not today." became a popular "SpongeBob" meme, despite its questionable subject matter. And it's not even the most important character to express suicidal ideation on the show. In the controversial Season 7 episode "One Coarse Meal," Mr. Krabs tortured Plankton over his generational trauma. Plankton's family was eaten by whales, and Mr. Krabs exploits his phobia by subjecting Plankton to whale after whale after whale. Things come to a head when Plankton lies in the middle of the road waiting for oncoming traffic to do what the whales couldn't: end his bloodline.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).