Nickelodeon has pulled two SpongeBob SquarePants episodes from its streaming rotation due to concerns over inappropriate storylines. Created by marine biology educator Stephen Hillenburg, the beloved children’s show originally premiered in 1999 and has continued to air for more than twenty years. A wildly popular series, SpongeBob SquarePants follows the titular protagonist, an affable sea sponge, as he resides in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom with his co-workers and friends.
Throughout its run, SpongeBob SquarePants has received widespread praise for its wit and bizarre humor. It initially garnered broad viewership on its Saturday morning television spot, toppling Pokémon as the highest-rated children’s series at that time. Although marketed and made for kids, the show eventually acquired a large adult audience, particularly within the demographic of those aged 18 to 34. Once Nickelodeon moved SpongeBob SquarePants to weeknights, the series transformed into an even greater pop culture sensation, spawning a film franchise, books, and merchandise. Although viewership has decreased over the years, it remains one of the longest-running shows on television.
According to IGN, Nickelodeon removed two installments of SpongeBob Squarepants, including “Mid-Life Crustacean” and “Kwarantined Krab” from its catalogue. Both episodes are no longer available to stream on Paramount+ or on Amazon Prime. A Nickelodeon representative explained, “‘Mid-Life Crustacean’ has been out of rotation since 2018, following a standards review in which we determined some story elements were not kid-appropriate.” In a statement, the channel also revealed its reasons for pulling “Kwarantined Krab,” saying that it “centers on a virus storyline, so we have decided to not air it due to sensitivities surrounding the global, real-world pandemic.”
While Nickelodeon did not confirm which story elements of “Mid-Life Crustacean” were inappropriate, it appears that the problematic scene may have involved a “panty raid.” During this incident, SpongeBob, Patrick, and Mr. Krab break into a woman’s house to steal her underwear, only to discover that they have unwittingly entered the abode of Mr. Krab’s mother. She punishes her son by sending him to his childhood room. In “Kwarantined Krab,” a health inspector discovers “Clam Flu” at the Krusty Krab and issues a restaurant quarantine. The confined patrons and employees soon turn on each other, imprisoning those suspected of having the virus in the walk-in freezer.
Considering the fact that SpongeBob SquarePants is specifically geared toward children, it is understandable that Nickelodeon would be hesitant to keep these episodes in their digital rotation. At the same time, the show exists in a compelling televisual spectrum, one that balances between the consumption of children and adults. To this day, the series maintains a passionate older fanbase, including those who grew up with the series and now tune in as fully-fledged grown-ups. On social media, gifs, memes, and clips re-share moments from kids’ cartoons of the nineties, including SpongeBob SquarePants, that appear to depict tongue-in-cheek adult humor and double-entendres. While “Mid-Life Crustacean” and “Kwarantined Krab” had to go, they are certainly not the only episodes that raise the intriguing question of what, exactly, represents age-appropriate humor.