10 Controversial Episodes of Spongebob Squarepants

SpongeBob SquarePants aired its first episode in 1999, and has since become one of the most transcendent TV shows of all time. The sense of nostalgia attached to this show across demographics, from Millennials to Gen Alpha is unique. After all of these years, the jokes are still funny, the characters are just as lovable, and the incredibly inventive plots continue to grow.

That being said, SpongeBob has had its fair share of controversial episodes over the years, ever since we all took our first trip to Bikini Bottom. Here is a list of 10 SpongeBob SquarePants episodes that raised some eyebrows and even outraged some audiences.

10 “Mid-Life Crustacean” (Season 3, Episode 15)

SpongeBob, Patrick, and Mr. Krabs during the Panty Raid in Spongebob (1)

“Mid-Life Crustacean” is the SpongeBob SquarePants episode that first comes to mind when someone mentions controversy. This episode centers around Mr. Krabs as he suffers from depression — you can say he has hit rock bottom. Desperate, Mr. Krabs goes to SpongeBob and Patrick for help, and they decide to relive the crab’s glory days.

What Makes It Controversial

Two words: panty raid. The episode itself is innocent enough in that SpongeBob and Patrick are entertaining Mr. Krab’s youthful whims and taking him out to reignite the excitement of his youth. However, the one scene that made this episode so controversial is the infamous Panty Raid. While out in the late hours of the night, Mr. Krabs drags SpongeBob and Patrick into someone’s home to steal their underwear. This immature invasion of privacy fell flat in the joke category and left many audiences uncomfortable with the entire thing.

9 “SpongeBob, You’re Fired” (Season 9, Episode 9)

SpongeBob is sad with Squidward in

The season 9 episode “SpongeBob, You’re Fired” has Mr. Krabs once again trying to pinch pennies. In order to save a tiny bit of money, he decides to fire SpongeBob. Throughout the episode, SpongeBob falls into a state of depression as he goes from job to job trying to find something that sticks. All the while, he struggles to stay afloat as he longs for his job at the Krusty Krab.

What Makes It Controversial

“SpongeBob, You’re Fired” is controversial because of its perceived message about the unemployed community. Other than the fact that SpongeBob just acts uncharacteristic to himself, there are some damaging representations of unemployed people. There are certain insinuations about social services and unemployment that rubbed people the wrong way when the episode first came out. The controversy was even brought up on some news channels.

8 “Ink Lemonade” (Season 11, Episode 16)

Squidward looking at Patrick's lemonade stand in

A classic lemonade stand episode is normal for a kid’s TV show. “Ink Lemonade” is a SpongeBob SquarePants episode that came out in the show’s 11th season. The episode follows Patrick as he starts a lemonade stand. Business is not doing so hot, so, to drive in more traffic, Patrick turns to Squidward for a very important special ingredient.

What Makes It Controversial

The part of this episode that people did not like is how Partick uses Squidward. He torments him in order to extract his ink against his will. There is also criticism of the episode for not meeting the show’s typical comedy and quality standards. Between its impropriety and its lackluster narrative quality, this is one that can be left out of a watch party.

Related: The 10 Shows That Have Spawned the Most Memes

7 “One Coarse Meal” (Season 7, Episode 11)

Mr. Krabs as Pearl chasing Plankton in One Coarse Meal

This one is a dark SpongeBob SquarePants episode. Plankton is Mr. Krab’s nemesis and the show’s consistent villain as he tries to steal the secret Krabby Patty Formula. However, in the episode, “One Coarse Meal,” Mr. Krabs is determined to knock Plankton down. Throughout the episode, the Krusty Krab owner torments the little guy over and over again. He is relentless in his pursuit to make Plankton crumble and, eventually, he loses it.

What Makes It Controversial

Mr. Krabs seems to have no limits on how he tries to break Plankton down brick by brick. The constant scaring drives Plankton to a breaking point. Audiences found this episode distasteful and inappropriate. The plot reflects how people are constantly targeted over and over again until they want to end their lives. In the episode, Plankton even tries to end his own life, and Mr. Krabs just laughs even more.

Related: Top 15 Animated TV Shows of the 2000s

6 “The Great Snail Race”

SpongeBob and Gary training for the Great Snail Race

Sports are not always the main focus in Bikini Bottom. However, in “The Great Snail Race,” SpongeBob decides to put Gary into a competitive snail race. However, Gary’s main opponent is a purebred snail that belongs to SpongeBob’s cranky neighbor, Squidward. Obsessed with the need to win, SpongeBob puts Gary through some rigorous training to help him prepare. However, he ends up breaking down the poor snail instead.

What Makes It Controversial

The controversy in “The Great Snail Race” surrounds SpongeBob’s mistreatment of Gary in their pursuit of a win in a snail race. He pushes Gary to his absolute limit and audiences did not enjoy how SpongeBob neglects Gary. Basically, this episode depicted animal abuse.

5 “Sailor Mouth” (Season 2, Episode 18)

SpongeBob at a dumpster in Sailor Mouth spongebob episode (1)

In “Sailor Mouth,” SpongeBob is just about ready to close up The Krusty Krab, when Mr. Krabs tells him to take out the trash. Both SpongeBob and Patrick survey some writing and learn a bad word written on the dumpster. However, the word itself is censored with some dolphin noises. Not knowing what the word means, SpongeBob and Patrick go about their day-to-day lives with the word now an active part in their vocabulary.

What Makes It Controversial

Cursing, even censored cursing, will never be favorable to parents, even though this episode falls on the lighter end of the controversy spectrum. Here, even the insinuation of swearing was just a little too much for parents of the show’s intended audience. Although no bad words were said in the episode, this episode did not sit well with older audiences, who deemed it a bad influence — the opposite a parent would want in an educational kids show.

4 “Rock-a-Bye Bivalve” (Season 3, Episode 49)

SpongeBob literally stretched thin as he does chores and Patrick looking depressed in Rock-a-bye Bivalve

SpongeBob and Patrick do not seem like parent material in other episodes of the show. However, the two decide to put the survival of an abandoned baby clam in their hands in the SpongeBob episode, “Rock-a-Bye Bivalve.” In the episode, the two fall into their roles, with SpongeBob being the stay-at-home mother and Patrick being the working father.

What Makes It Controversial

First off, this episode is wonderful. It offers a new, fun, and quirky dynamic between SpongeBob and Patrick, and a fantastic change of pace for the characters. The controversy for this episode is about the fact that SpongeBob and Patrick are actively participating in a domestic relationship with one another to raise their scallop child.

Although SpongeBob’s gender identity is not specified and is constantly up for debate, this episode was seen as controversial since it shows SpongeBob and Patrick as a gay couple. Despite the unnecessary scrutiny, this episode depicts the hard work that goes into raising a child and has a very exaggerated and interesting take on the dynamics of a working father and a stay-at-home mother.

3 “Ripped Pants” (Season 1, Episode 2) & “Nature Pants” (Season 1, Episode 9)

SpongeBob ripping his pants

“Ripped Pants” and “Nature Pants” are here for the same reason. “Ripped Pants” is a SpongeBob episode that follows our favorite sponge as he tries to fit in with his athletic friends. Both Sandy and Larry the Lobster (an underrated SpongeBob character) have a passion for lifting weights. Wanting to be a part of their circle, he ends up ripping his pants in front of everyone. Meanwhile, “Nature Pants” follows SpongeBob as he gets tired of his day-to-day life. He strips everything back and leaves his life behind to live minimally with the jellyfish.

What Makes It Controversial

On the surface, these episodes might not raise any alarm bells. However, to some, they did. Essnetially, these are the episodes that show SpongeBob in the nude, which many folks found inappropriate for a kids show. Yes, SpongeBob is not an actual human — he is an inanimate object that is animated on a TV show — but, this “controversy” made enough noise to point it out.

2 “Squirrel Jokes” (Season 2, Episode 31)

SpongeBob and sad Sandy in Squirrel Jokes episode

The SpongeBob episode “Squirrel Jokes” aired during the second season of the popular animated show. In the episode, SpongeBob has found himself getting into stand-up comedy. In an attempt to win over the crowd, he starts making jokes about squirrels, an off-handed attack on his friend, Sandy. The aftermath of this decision led the residents of Bikini Bottom to make fun of and isolate Sandy.

What Makes It Controversial

A children’s TV show episode that plays on the idea of rumors and bullying is not unheard of. There are some great lessons there for young people to be exposed to. However, “Squirrel Jokes” bled into a deeper context. A lot of older audiences drew parallels to the mistreatment of racialized folks in society and the perpetuation of stereotypes. The comments that were made to Sandy by the rest of Bikini Bottom eerily mirrored real-life hate speech and hate crimes that can still be seen in society today. Although some people find this too much of a controversial topic for a kid’s show, the conversation is a must-have for all demographics.

1 “Just One Bite” (Season 3, Episode 3)

Spongebob and Squidward in front of a krabby patty vault

“Just One Bite” is the kind of SpongeBob episode that sticks in your mind and changes meanings when you get older. In the episode, SpongeBob finds out that Squidward has never tried a Krabby Patty. Squidward denies that he enjoys eating the thing, and throws it away. SpongeBob is saddened by the revelation, but lets the whole thing go. Squidward then digs up the Krabby Patty and scarfs it down, beginning his Krabby Patty addiction.

What Makes It Controversial

On the surface, this episode just shows a different side of Squidward’s character. Especially with a younger audience, this episode does not raise that many alarm bells. However, from the perspective of adult audiences, “Just One Bite” is a dark and twisted depiction of drug addiction and mental illness. The idea that Squidward can stop eating Krabby Patties after just one more bite is eerily similar to an addict’s thoughts of getting just one more hit or one more sip. Even SpongeBob’s peer pressuring of Squidward is difficult to watch in the new context.

Stream SpongeBob SquarePants on Paramount+

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