Top 10 Times SpongeBob SquarePants Tackled Serious Issues

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Joey Turner
It's mostly silly, but sometimes "SpongeBob" tackled serious issues. Our countdown includes anxiety, toxic masculinity, depression, and more!

Top 10 Times SpongeBob Tackled Serious Issues

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 times that “SpongeBob” tackled serious issues.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the moments where our favorite Little Square Dude dealt with surprisingly hard-hitting issues and controversies you wouldn’t expect this show to cover. Word of warning, some topics might hit harder than others, and spoilers for the episodes featured.

Think we missed a sensitive topic? Let us know in the comments.

#10: Anxiety

SpongeBob has a gift for cooking Krabby Patties. But one day, his whole world comes crashing down when he supposedly forgot to add pickles to the patty. This one little mistake destroys the poor fry cook’s confidence. He worries so much that he can’t remember how to make a patty, sleep properly, or even how to use a door. Sadly, this can sometimes be the case for people dealing with anxiety. Feelings of panic and uncertainty can almost completely shut people down. Thankfully, Mr. Krabs shows us that a little patience and support can help someone slowly regain the confidence to succeed.

#9: Runaway Pets
“Have You Seen This Snail?”

When SpongeBob becomes preoccupied with a game, he neglects to feed Gary. Feeling dejected, Gary decides to run away from home. Once SpongeBob finds out, he goes out of his way to try and find his beloved snail and is completely heartbroken when he can’t find him. The sad reality is that this is a recurring problem for humanity. We can become so preoccupied with insignificant distractions like games that we forget to appreciate the important things in life. Our friends and family and, in this case, pets, can feel neglected. And by the time we realize what we’ve lost, it may already be too late. Thankfully, SpongeBob gets a second chance to show how much he loves Gary after a heartwarming reunion.

#8: Sensationalism & Misinformation
“The Krabby Kronicle”

After starting a newspaper, Mr. Krabs finds that he can make big bucks with juicy, shocking stories. He eventually makes SpongeBob write up some outrageous stories about their friends. No real harm done if they’re fake, right? You’d like to think so, but no. No matter how bizarre the stories are, readers keep eating them up. The victims of the lies are left discredited and humiliated in the eyes of the community. It’s a sobering reminder to be careful what you read online. Without all the right facts, you may be consuming meaningless shock value content that can seriously damage an innocent person’s reputation if too many readers buy into it. Unfortunately for Mr. Krabs by the end of the episode, turnabout is fair play.

#7: Hoarding
“Sentimental Sponge”

Sometimes, even the smallest keepsake has sentimental value. SpongeBob takes that sentiment to extreme measures when he stops throwing away trash. He starts collecting every little insignificant object because he doesn’t want to lose any “precious memories”. His hoarding gets so bad that trash piles up in his yard and around Squidward’s house. The entire time, he’s blissfully unaware of how harmful his habit is getting. We get that it’s hard to part with certain items. But if you let hoarding grow this much, it could become a health hazard to you and those around you. But, by taking steps to declutter and throw out what you don’t need, you’re that much closer to kicking the habit.

#6: Harassment From Classmates

Although SpongeBob tries to be everyone’s friend, not everyone returns the gesture. Flats the Flounder is a perfect example. When the fish was the new kid in SpongeBob’s Boating School Class, he decided to kick the Little Yellow Dude’s butt… for no real reason. Nothing Mr. Squarepants tries seems to work. After using reason, talking to his teacher Mrs. Puffs, and saving Flats’ life, the aggressive fish is still bent on pounding the poor sponge into a pulp. You probably think that SpongeBob’s too old to be dealing with this problem, right? Sadly, harassment isn’t just a schoolyard issue. It’s a problem for anyone at any age –especially in the age of internet trolls. Fortunately, even Flat’s toughest punches are no match for SpongeBob’s absorbency.

#5: Addictive Behavior
“Just One Bite”

After some prodding from SpongeBob, Squidward finally tries his very first Krabby Patty. Not only does he like them… he becomes HOOKED on them. He’s instantly desperate to get his tentacles on another patty. Squidward tries to sneakily order a patty, he fantasizes about falling in love with a giant patty and even goes so far as to try and eat one out of the trash. It’s a disturbingly real look at how someone might go through a cycle of addictive behavior. Squidward is so desperate to achieve the sustenance they crave that he’ll do anything to satisfy his obsession. Unfortunately, Squidward’s story ends in a disaster that goes straight to his thighs before blowing up in his face.

#4: Toxic Masculinity
“MuscleBob BuffPants”

It’s a stereotype as old as time – if you’re not some muscle-bound Adonis, you’re not considered a real man. That toxic mindset has pressured a lot of poor guys to go to extreme lengths to try to appear “manly” and fit in with the crowd. Unfortunately, SpongeBob ends up feeling inadequate compared to other dudes on the beach. The little square dude is so desperate to feel accepted that he went so far as to buy fake, inflatable muscles just to look cool. Naturally, his charade comes back to bite him. But he wouldn’t have HAD to try it if he was allowed to just be himself and not feel pressured to be the guy others expected him to be.

#3: Depression
“Are You Happy Now?”

Once Squidward fails to find his happiest memory, he falls into a clinical depression, and… it is severely uncomfortable to watch. He loses the motivation to go outside or even take care of himself. Squidward also lacks the energy to give off any emotion at all. His behavior demonstrates a big misconception about depression. It’s not just about being sad― poor Squidward feels completely empty and hopeless. There are also two slightly tasteless visual gags that make Squidward look like he might take his own life. Even though Squidward is able to snap out of it in the end, depression isn’t something that can go away so quickly. But maybe destroying a bunch of Papier-mâché sculptures like Squidward did could be therapeutic.

#2: Racism
“Squirrel Jokes”

SpongeBob’s stand-up act becomes a smash hit after he makes jokes about how “smelly” and “dumb” squirrels are. Unsurprisingly, Sandy doesn’t appreciate the jokes. But SpongeBob assures her that it’s just harmless fun… or so he thinks. The rest of the townsfolk start taking the jokes literally and treat Sandy like an idiotic animal. Ironically, Sandy’s ten times smarter than most of them. But they still think it’s funny to single her out and stereotype her just because she’s a squirrel. We can’t blame SpongeBob for the townsfolk’s idiocy, but he still needed a taste of karma for starting the jokes in the first place. He eventually comes to his senses and makes amends. If only racism was this easy to erase in real life.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Can You Spare a Dime?”

The Dangers of Self-Medication

“Fear of a Krabby Patty”

#1: Pandemics
“Fungus Among Us”

Although a person might overlook how risky it can be to walk around with a contagious illness, our number one spot perfectly highlights the hazards of a sudden outbreak. It all starts when SpongeBob gets in contact with an itchy fungus. Slowly but surely, it completely covers his body, and he’s forced into quarantine. But by then, it’s already too late – the disgusting growth has already attached itself to Squidward before it moves onto the customers. The entire Krusty Krab is eventually infected with the fungus. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. If a sick person isn’t careful, they can inadvertently spread an illness around until it’s impossible to control. It’s a sobering reminder to be mindful of those around you when you’re feeling sick.