SpongeBob's age: a case study

DadMom AngryPants

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This started out as a regular answer to the "How old do you think each character is?" topic but evolved into an essay I've been planning on writing for a long time and never got around to.

I put it in a new thread because it's kind of long.


SpongeBob Non-Age-SpecificPants
By DadMom AngryPants

Introduction
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants have been attempting to pin an age on him since the show's inception. Since his exact age has never been explicitly mentioned or confirmed, and is highly unlikely to be, it remains a prime topic for debate. There have been numerous allusions to SpongeBob's age throughout the series, as well as certain assumptions we can make, which in theory should help us to at least pinpoint a vague age range. In practice, however, these hints are wildly contradictory and serve only to increase confusion.

Assumptions
SpongeBob no longer lives with his parents. He has his own home, a job and attends a driving school. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that he is legally an adult. The problem with this assumption is that it is prone to contradiction, as will be explained later. It is also based on another assumption – that Bikini Bottom laws about driving age, employment and home ownership are comparable to those of a typical American community.

This Is An Adult Program … Right?
At Mrs. Puff's Boating School, SpongeBob's classmates seem to vary in age depending on the episode. Sometimes they resemble child characters; other times they look and sound like teenagers or young adults. In “The Bully”, the fact that the driving course is an adult program is referenced several times. During a speech, SpongeBob addresses his “fellow adult classmates”. In “Nautical Novice”, however, Mrs. Puff refers to her students as “kids”, and in “Oral Report” SpongeBob evades arrest for dangerous driving because he is, apparently, a minor (a person under the age of full legal responsibility).

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=y7JfMCXaHQmDz6v%2BOtBmIo94O1toU1wE2yy5xWRmiAo%3D​

Mrs. Puff runs the course like a grade school, with Good Noodle stickers, field trips, picture days, hall monitors and detention. Still, we know that SpongeBob has completed his formal education as he refers to his junior prom (“The Chaperone”) and time in high school (“Frankendoodle”). In “The Bully”, Patrick says that Flatts is a community college buddy, and since Patrick and SpongeBob are the same age (we see them as babies together multiple times) that would make SpongeBob old enough to have been to college, too. In “Party Pooper Pants”, SpongeBob's class Kindergarten picture is shown, and his classmate is portrayed as a now middle-aged man. Similarly, in “The Sponge Who Could Fly”, an old man tells SpongeBob that they went to elementary school together.

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=lNN2t2e%2BorsyliPavg87%2F23QY%2BahXBcl1LFuYj2yiRs%3D​

Some Actual Numbers and Stuff
There are a few instances where specific numbers referenced make it possible to do some simple calculations and arrive at SpongeBob's possible age, but even these numbers are not clear cut and allow plenty of room for interpretation, so ultimately can't be used to deduce an official age.

The first and most prominent example is SpongeBob's driver's license. The first two times it was shown (“Sleepy Time” and “No Free Rides”) a birth date of 1986 could be seen. Given that the characters do not age and the series premiered in 1999, this would make SpongeBob 13 years old. When his license is shown in future episodes, however, the birth date is missing. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that SpongeBob's supposed birth date was omitted, or perhaps the show's crew intentionally removed it in order to avoid specifying SpongeBob's age.

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=6A%2BkH4zYKUdnqFbQoK6X%2Bf1HjxUgFBpTIWsL%2FSv9bWM%3D http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=a4dNYWBXr6NTGGfyx5AsT9FrJwF5EXtcTBlPQOGfSjY%3D​

In “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”, SpongeBob says that he has 374 consecutive Employee of the Month awards. This amounts to just over 31 years. Since he didn't start working at the Krusty Krab when he was a baby, accepting this as fact would place him well into middle-age. It is possible that this improbably large number was used for comedic effect and not meant to be taken literally, since a middle-aged SpongeBob would be somewhat contradictory with the movie's main message, which is that SpongeBob is just a kid and he's OK with that.

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=jocDKG9ZWATcsJggSBbpj8KiIg3RuBcSPcAXDY3FT0A%3D​

In “Buried in Time”, when SpongeBob reads the label of an old tartar sauce canister, he remarks: "This can has been here for 50 years. That's longer than me!"

I Guess You're Right, Plankton: I Am Just A Kid
The way in which SpongeBob is addressed and treated by other characters tells us that he is either quite young or is often seen to be a child whether he actually is one or not. To strangers he can be anything from “little boy” to “sir” depending on the situation. Father figure Mr. Krabs typically addresses his employee as “boy”, “kid”, “son” etc. In “The Krabby Kronicle”, Spongebob writes that he is an underage reporter; in the same episode, a customer berates Mr. Krabs for taking advantage of an innocent child.

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=9PloSYZy1WvhVisCOLL74wGb2W0xDcTcw%2FV97SfQecI%3D​

As mentioned previously, a core theme of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” is SpongeBob's acceptance of his immaturity. While at first he is stung by accusations that he is just a kid, by the end of the movie he learns to embrace it.

50 in Sponge Years
When questioned about SpongeBob's age for a trivia book, Hillenburg jokingly gave this answer before explaining that SpongeBob has no specific age. Although he was only kidding about sponge years, it is true that sea creatures don't have the same life spans as humans. The life span of a sea sponge varies greatly, from several years to several hundred years. We don't know exactly what species SpongeBob is (made more difficult by the fact that he resembles a synthetic sponge) but if his total life span was hundreds of years it would be possible for him to be 50 and still be considered a child.

Of course, given that the characters in the show all appear to adhere to a human life span, the realistic life spans of various sea creatures is not really relevant to this discussion, but it's interesting to think about nonetheless.

An Inconclusive Conclusion
While SpongeBob certainly acts like a child, he lives an adult life. He vacillates between childhood and adulthood, dipping into both as and when the plot requires. He's not quite a boy and not quite a man. But it is this agelessness and fluidity that arguably makes SpongeBob such a timeless and widely appealing character. Adults relate to the grown-up world SpongeBob lives in and children relate to the way he sees it. To anchor this character with a specific age would be needlessly restrictive.

http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=4XMvnCnFXfIyrC%2FJsEmi21CX15NTwrdj5AC8T9Fn02E%3D http://www.sbmania.net/pictures.php?img=hBfFmo%2BNZH3th0YLexLB1vpMJRbBSspY58YQCACM3Lk%3D​

The Short Answer
So, how old is SpongeBob? Nobody really knows, and it doesn't really matter, but here is how Stephen Hillenburg described his creation in a TV Guide interview for the show's 10th anniversary: “He's an adult man-boy in arrested development.”
 

hfjs

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This pretty much proves my point that I never put thought into anything. :P
 

SpongeyKid

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Wow, that was very interesting to read! ^_^

I love all the points you stated and all of them are correct. You basically categorized all the possibilities and such to explain that he has no specific age.

I thought this was excellent and fun to read. Great job :thumb1:
 

Rihanna

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I thought SpongeBob was born in 1986 or something but after reading this it makes me wonder how is SpongeBob really?!
 
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Well considering sponges live for a long time, keep in mind that while 24 is older for us, it's pretty damn young for a sea sponge.

PhilipB said:
How long do sea sponges live for?
 

Supmandude

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DadMom AngryPants said:
In “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”, SpongeBob says that he has 374 consecutive Employee of the Month awards. This amounts to just over 31 years. Since he didn't start working at the Krusty Krab when he was a baby, accepting this as fact would place him well into middle-age. It is possible that this improbably large number was used for comedic effect and not meant to be taken literally, since a middle-aged SpongeBob would be somewhat contradictory with the movie's main message, which is that SpongeBob is just a kid and he's OK with that.
The movie wasn't saying he was literally a child, just that he's immature and childish or kid-like.

"SpongeBob is an adult character that acts like a child and he has a child's perspective..." - Stephen Hillenburg (The Absorbing Tale Behind The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie)

Edit: Also, this is my 100th post. :D
 

spongie33

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Supmandude said:
The movie wasn't saying he was literally a child, just that he's immature and childish or kid-like.

"Spongebob is an adult character that acts like a child and he has a child's perspective..." - Stephen Hillenburg (The Absorbing Tale Behind The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie)

Edit: Also, this is my 100th post. :D
I just realized that Stephen misspelled SpongeBob by Spongebob
 

Supmandude

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spongie33 said:
I just realized that Stephen misspelled SpongeBob by Spongebob
It was actually a spoken quote that I wrote out, the typo was mine. Fix'd. :p
 

jeffrey

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I can't imagine SpongeBob having an actual birthdate. That's just weird, right. It's like saying Winnie the Pooh was born in '85 or something...:o
 

Cha

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I just figure that the majority of the time SB is around adult classmates and what not. SpongeBob has called himself an adult and a kid (mostly the movie for the kid one). What if he was 18? That would be the perfect age because he could be legal to have a home and etc. If, again that is if BB's laws are like ours in the real world. 18 sounds perfect because everyone usually still feels and acts like they're still a teenager, or kid if you will. So maybe SpongeBob's just a very young adult? I've always pictured him to be 20-23, or now 18. And maybe Mr. Krabs gave him extra Employee of the Month awards so he would feel special or work extra overtime? :p I don't know, a middle aged SB sounds a bit creepy.

And when people call him underaged or a minor, it's possible that they just think he's younger than he really is. That can happen when you're so bubbly and cute looking. :p

But really the mystery that we do NOT know what age he is makes the show better. He appeals to all because SpongeBob is all. Anyone can put themselves in his black penny loafers and become him because once again, he appeals to all with no age and no romantic relationships. So in a sense we are all SpongeBob, in a way.
 

BubbleBud

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The reason why he has no age is because the show has no stable canon-timeline. It's so scattered. There is the proof, one episode, he is a kid and then other episodes, he is a adult. No timeline (or least a very unstable one) and that's a shame for any show. The writers simply don't care about that stuff...

The writers don't care about connection, they don't sit there and think, ''Oh hold up, that doesn't connect to the information given in this episode or that episode..'', etc. They don't follow a timeline or a canon guideline. They just think episode by episode, more often now. I think it's just due to lack of creative thought. If the show had a better canon timeline, more people could buy into it and it will be very effective when the show ends due to fans making more thought out fan-fics, comics, and other things to fit in a stable canon timeline. A lot of things don't match up within this show, sadly. More sadly, I think it's gonna harm the show down the road, in the long run. They need to take points from Hey Arnold!... yeah, it had it's points (all shows do, but not as bad as SB) but it still had a canon timeline and it still had good episodes that had nothing to do with the previous episodes without ruining any previous episodes.
 

TropicalNards112233

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BubbleBud said:
The reason why he has no age is because the show has no stable canon-timeline. It's so scattered. There is the proof, one episode, he is a kid and then other episodes, he is a adult. No timeline (or least a very unstable one) and that's a shame for any show. The writers simply don't care about that stuff...

The writers don't care about connection, they don't sit there and think, ''Oh hold up, that doesn't connect to the information given in this episode or that episode..'', etc. They don't follow a timeline or a canon guideline. They just think episode by episode, more often now. I think it's just due to lack of creative thought. If the show had a better canon timeline, more people could buy into it and it will be very effective when the show ends due to fans making more thought out fan-fics, comics, and other things to fit in a stable canon timeline. A lot of things don't match up within this show, sadly. More sadly, I think it's gonna harm the show down the road, in the long run. They need to take points from Hey Arnold!... yeah, it had it's points (all shows do, but not as bad as SB) but it still had a canon timeline and it still had good episodes that had nothing to do with the previous episodes without ruining any previous episodes.
I disagree, and here's why. First of all, the show has NEVER had a timeline, so to say it happens more often now is just wrong. If anything, there's more continuity post-movie than pre (Bubble Buddy Returns, Whelk Attack "I've had the suds before", Driven to Tears "Don't forget to feed Gary. Sometimes you forget to feed him"). Second of ly, SpongeBob isn't the type of show that would, or SHOULD, have a strict canon timeline. Sure, maybe a reference or two to a previous episode would be nice, but in all honesty, it isn't something that needs to be there. In a show like Hey Arnold, with it's brilliant writing, of course you have to develop the characters and make some kind of timeline. But in a SB type show, each episode can be different - and that's ok. It's what makes it good! SpongeBob is more of a Ren and Stimpy -esque show, in which you can put the characters in different situations regardless of the past (obviously not to the same extremes as R&S, but you get the idea).
 

DadMom AngryPants

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BubbleBud said:
The reason why he has no age is because the show has no stable canon-timeline. It's so scattered. There is the proof, one episode, he is a kid and then other episodes, he is a adult. No timeline (or least a very unstable one) and that's a shame for any show. The writers simply don't care about that stuff...

The writers don't care about connection, they don't sit there and think, ''Oh hold up, that doesn't connect to the information given in this episode or that episode..'', etc. They don't follow a timeline or a canon guideline. They just think episode by episode, more often now. I think it's just due to lack of creative thought. If the show had a better canon timeline, more people could buy into it and it will be very effective when the show ends due to fans making more thought out fan-fics, comics, and other things to fit in a stable canon timeline. A lot of things don't match up within this show, sadly. More sadly, I think it's gonna harm the show down the road, in the long run. They need to take points from Hey Arnold!... yeah, it had it's points (all shows do, but not as bad as SB) but it still had a canon timeline and it still had good episodes that had nothing to do with the previous episodes without ruining any previous episodes.
I disagree. The show not having a timeline or connections between episodes is because that's how it was intended to be, not because the writers don't care or lack creative thought. SpongeBob is the type of show that not only doesn't need a stable timeline but would be creatively hindered by the burden of one, in my opinion. If things not matching up or making complete sense was going to harm the show, it would have happened already. I mean, SpongeBob's age is hardly the only inconsistency.
 
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