The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
Run Time: 87 minutes
Directed by: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne
Overall, this film does not largely challenge different aspects of cultural identities but does an excellent job of expanding the rigid definition of traditional masculinity.
After King Neptune’s prized crown is stolen, SpongeBob and Patrick must embark on a dangerous adventure to acquire the crown and save Bikini Bottom.
- Demeaning language/name-calling- “jackass,” “dork,” “goofball,” dingaling,” wingnut,” “twit,” “stupid,” “great big jerk,” “fool,” “dumb kids,” “spongeboob,” “hideous,” “disgusting”
- No gore
- Frequent fighting – slapping, punching, strangulation, smashing into buildings/objects, group fights
- Weapons-flaming trident, knife, crowbar, whip
- Outdoor stage destroyed and on fire
- Piles of skulls and bones
- Plankton is stepped-on and smashed into the ground
- Mr. Krabs is on fire, frozen, and splattered on the wall
- Lips are ripped off of characters’ faces
- Many characters express emotion by having their eyes pop out of their heads
- The main villain in the film says to SpongeBob, “You got guts kid—too bad I gotta rip them out of ya.”
- SpongeBob and Patrick are desiccated as a result of a bright light; SpongeBob’s arms snap off as a result
- Mind control
- Minimal sexual content
- Sexual innuendos
- Shirtless male
- Visible cartoon buttocks
- Bar scene-characters are implied to be drinking
- SpongeBob and Patrick appear to get “drunk” off of ice cream; both act drunk and are hung over in the morning
- SpongeBob and Patrick challenge traditional gender roles regarding masculinity both as separate characters (bodies, mannerisms, likes/dislikes) and as a result of their interactions together (caring and emotionally expressive). For example, SpongeBob loves participating in “girly” and childlike activities (blows bubbles, has a rainbows and hearts calendar, has a pink bathroom) and regularly expresses emotions (cries puddles of tears and screams when scared). Both SpongeBob and Patrick enjoy singing and dancing and express their love and appreciation for one another regularly (hug, hold hands, cry together). In addition, when SpongeBob and Patrick are in a fatal situation, they each shed a tears that combine and morph into a heart that ultimately saves the day. This is important because expressing emotions saved their lives (in contrast to male stoicism that is a requirement of traditional masculinity). By the end of the film, SpongeBob is depicted as brave and proud of his identity as a “goofy goober” even though he does not fit the male hero trope as a result of his “failed” masculinity.
- David Hasselhoff is representative of traditional masculinity in the film, and this is mocked throughout SpongeBob and Patrick’s interactions with him. For example, Hasselhoff uses his muscular pecks (in a grotesque fashion) to launch SpongeBob and Patrick back down to Bikini Bottom.
- Throughout the film, hair is used as a signifier of traditional masculinity. For example, SpongeBob and Patrick feel more “manly” when they wear their seaweed mustaches and King Neptune feels less manly when his bald spot is revealed on his head. However, the film challenges these requirements of traditional masculinity as their fixation with hair as a maker of masculinity is depicted as irrational.
- In addition, at the end of the film, a group of pirates are sitting in a movie theater crying as a result of SpongeBob and Patrick almost dying. This is important because the scene challenges notions of traditional masculinity and also the stereotype of the pirate.
- Princess Mindy challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity by regularly defying her father’s, King Neptune’s, authority. For example, Princess Mindy often acts as the voice of reason for her father (who always wants to act on impulse and execute the people of Bikini Bottom for minor infractions). Also, the King usually takes his daughter’s advice after she intervenes in various situations.
- Different races are present in the film as minor/crowd characters.
- A mariachi band is briefly present in the film.
Sexual Orientation: N/A
- The pirates with visible disabilities (eye patch, prosthetic leg) are depicted as sensitive. For example, the group of pirates cry near the end of the film.
- Many different body types are present in the film.
- There is only one main female character in the film, Mindy, and she is a princess.
- One scene implies that Wendy, Plankton’s robot, was forced to be Plankton’s wife. This is suggesting that Wendy was forced to give up her agency and be with Plankton.
- There are no major characters of color in the film.
- There are no variations of sexual orientation.
- There are no representations of major characters with disabilities in the film.
- While many different body types are present in the film, Princess Mindy adheres to ideal body types and is sexualized by other characters. For example, Patrick salivates at the sight of Mindy tells her that she is “hot” and asks her if she wants to see his underwear.
- Patrick is depicted as grotesque throughout the entire film. For example, Patrick is fat-bodied, regularly salivates/drools, and loves to eat food. Further, Patrick adheres to the fat body character as comedic relief trope as he is depicted as unaware and unintelligent. For example, Patrick is unaware that he is naked at times and eats rocks at one point in the film.
- Conjoined twins are briefly present in the film and are at the bar with the other rugged characters. The twins cause a huge bar fight because they failed to adhere to traditional masculinity.
- The individuals in the bar are depicted as tough, mean, and masculine as a result of their bodies. For example, many of the characters in the bar are very muscular, have missing teeth, and are wearing spiked jewelry and bandanas. Thus, this implies that personal appearance is indicative of moral character.
- Dennis, one of the villains in the film, is also depicted as tough, mean, and masculine as a result of his appearance. For example, Dennis wears black boots, a skull belt, sun glasses, a red bandana, a black hat, and has a scar on his face. Further, Dennis is muscular.
- One old body, a woman, is depicted in the film. However, the audience finds that while the character appears to be a kind old woman handing out ice cream, she is actually the tongue of a sea monster used to lure in prey.
Suggested talking points
- Krabs loves money; he has dollar signs in his eyes at one point in the film. Mr. Krabs’ focus on profit (even at the expense of cheating his customers) aligns with capitalistic ideology.
- In order to give SpongeBob and Patrick confidence so that they continue on their adventure, Princess Mindy gives them seaweed mustaches so that they appear more “manly” and thus more courageous. This is an attempt of performing traditional masculinity so that they can continue their dangerous journey.
- Near the end of the film, SpongeBob dawns a purple wizard outfit and a pink guitar and puts on an 80s rock performance about being a “goofy goober.” In one scene, the audience only sees toned pink legs in fishnets and high-heeled leather boots in which the male gaze is present. The camera pans out, and the audience finds that the toned pink legs belong to Patrick Star. Then, he dances to the song, twirling and finishing with a split. While this scene may seem like comedic relief associated with cross-dressing, it seems more along the lines of fun gender play.
- It is important to note that the men as the gas station are depicted in a stereotypical manner (“country bumpkins”). For example, the men have a regional accent, regularly slap their knees, and are unintelligent.
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