Are ya ready, kids? No! I can’t heeeeaar yoouuuuuu~No!!. . maybe now? I SAID NO! (Several Bad Puns Later)p retty please? NO! OOOOH—kay then, lets just start the episode. *film theory boss intro music*Hello internet!
Welcome to Film Theory. The show that may not be absorbent or yellow, but is definitely full of holes. Now, as much as I love the exposing dark, sinister side of innocent cartoons, SpongeBob doesn’t seem like it’s hiding that many skeletons in its closet. I mean, SpongeBob is a hard working employee,who makes enough to provide for himself with the career that he enjoys. And unlike all those orphaned Disney characters, has two loving parents. Wait, those are his parents? Yeah, THOSE are his parents. . . And no, he isn’t the son of two cookies. Unlike the bright, yellow, and rectangular SpongeBob, Harold and Margret Squarepants had their appearance designed after real life sea sponges. Given that the show’s creator Stephen Hillenburg is a marine biologist, it’s a cool nod to the real life science of undersea creatures, BUUUUUUUUT having SpongeBob look SO different from his parents presents this world with some REAL PROBLEMS. Specifically, whether we can be sure that SpongeBob’s parents are actually his parents. In other words, the question we’re answering today. . . Was SpongeBob actually adopted?
Now, I already here some of you down in the comment section, click-clacking away, saying,”Matpat, of course he can’t be adopted. “In episode “Truth or Square”,we clearly see SpongeBob in Margaret Squarepants’s womb eating Krabby Patties, to which I respond,are you even listening to yourself?! Seriously! If you watch that episode,it’s clear that this flashback scene is something that’s takes place inside SpongeBob’s head! The idea that SpongeBob would have actual memories dating back to before he was born is just as ridiculous as the idea that he would be chomping on Krabby Patties inside his mother’s womb, which is even less ridiculous than the fact that he is inside his mother’s womb at all! Mainly because sponges don’t have wombs! Sponge larvae grow and develop outside and apart from their mothers after attaching to an underwater surface, like a rock! So this is not a flashback at all! This is SpongeBob’s imagination hard at work. Cue that SpongeBob. . . meme. . . thing. . . SpongeBob: “Imagination!” This is like. . . what, number 5 and we’re still on page 1? HEE HEE! Good thing I front-loaded these things. Which means that the only way we’re gonna prove SpongeBob’s lineage for sure is to look at his family genetics.
Now, it probably goes without saying that sea sponges are in no way related to the bright yellow kitchen sponges that form the basis of SpongeBob’s design. Those things are just a bunch of cut and formed plastic polymers. So, in real life there’s no way that two sea sponges lookin’ like this, would produce something lookin’ like Spongebob. BUT. we can still use the principles of genetics and apply them to the rules established within the Bikini-Bottom-verse, to determine the probability of SpongeBob being adopted. So let’s do like Maury Povich and answer the question, “ARE YOU THE FATHER!? “And mother. . . equal opportunity parent. . . proving. Getting into basics of sponge reproduction, we need to start by asking,”Do sponges even have fathers and mothers?” The answer is yes, sort of. . . You see, sponges are just like plants, humans, and most other animals, they reproduce sexually, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna be traumatized by watching two brown blobs rolling around together down in the sea bed. Get it? Sea bed? *awkward laugh* Hiiii heyooo! That’s a “very-safe-for-advertisers” joke.
The only requirement of sexual reproduction is that offspring be formed by the fusion of two different reproductive cells called gametes. One coming from the female, the egg and one coming from the male, the sperm. Sponges actually reproduce the same way plants do. Plants will release pollen, the male gametes, into the air in the hope that they’ll just land on the pistil of the compatible plant nearby and fertilize it. So if you have seasonal allergies, just know that what’s making you sneeze is plant sperm. Kinda gross when you actually think about it that way. *clear fake sneezes from the clip art* Sea sponges function in a similar way. One sponge releases sperm cells into the water, which are the absorbed by another sponge to fertilize its egg. Except, there’s a catch. Sponges don’t come in male and female varieties. Any sea sponge has the ability to produce both types of gametes. So while each sponge does have 2 parents, a mother sponge and a father sponge, it’s absolutely possible for a single sponge to be both a father to some baby sponges, and a mother to other baby sponges. Which means it’s gonna be one awkward birds and bees talk with our porous friend Spongebob over here. *In mother voice* “Well, Spongebob, sometimes a mommy sponge just wants to be a daddy sponge too. ” But in all seriousness,this “flexible parenting,” for lack of a better term, makes SpongeBob adopting the mother role of the episode, ‘Rock-A-Bye Bivalve’ actually make a lot more sense.
So yeah! Sponges do have a father and a mother. Each of which contribute genetically to their offspring! So we’d expect that the offspring DNA would show the same traits as their parents. Much in the same way that humans tend to resemble their parents when it comes to things like. . hair color, eye color, and face shape. But then genetically, is it possible that THESE produced THIS? Well, let’s put our 6th grade science skills to the test! Let’s see here; the mitochondria is the power house of the cell. Eh, that’s the wrong chapter. Mendelian reproduction, peapods. Ah, yeah there we go. Our features are determined by genes, sequences of DNA that encode for specific traits and each gene comes in variants called alleles. So, for instance, in the Bikini Bottom universe, you could say that sponges have two different alleles for body shape. One allele for “Square-Pantsness,” and one allele for “Round-Pantsness. “The same could apply to sponge color, one allele would be for “Brown Seaspongy color,” and another allele would be for “Bright Yellow. ” But, in order to explain how two round, brown parents could have a square, yellow child like Spongebob, we have to look at the relative strength of those alleles. Again, think back to 6th grade. Certain alleles are dominant,and others are recessive. Unfortunately, a lot of the examples in humans that you were taught in sixth grade, like whether you’re right handed or left handed or whether you can roll your tongue or not, have been disproven. They are now lies. They’re not just simple dominant-recessive relationships anymore. So that kinda left me with a Pickle Rick about what example I would use to briefly explain this concept, until I stumbled across. . . this new piece of research.
You know what human trait has been discovered to be dominant,having six fingers. Heh-yah, old sixer from Gravity Falls is in the dominant category of dactylness. That’s how many fingers you have. Yeah, six fingers is dominant over five, I like, quadruple checked it, and apparently it is a thing, so let’s map out these alleles the old fashioned way, using a Punnett square. Capital letters for dominant traits ,and lowercase for recessive. So, taking the finger example, a gene represented by ‘FF’ would have inherited the dominant allele from both parents,and would show six fingers. A gene represented by ‘ff’ would have inherited the recessive allele from both parents,and would only have five fingers. And a gene represented by ‘Ff’ would have inherited the dominant trait from one parent and the recessive trait from the other parent, which would still express the dominant trait of six fingers, but would carry the potential to have kids who have five fingers. And if you’re ignoring all of this and still wondering how six-fingerness is dominant and how more humans don’t have all those extra digits – well, I’ll just leave that one for you to debate in the comments. . . or research yourself. Anyway, enough about large-handed humans. The only way for Spongebob’s round, brown parents to have a yellow square son would be for roundness and browness to be the dominant traits of sponges in bikini bottom. That would allow them to carry the recessive alleles for both yellowness and squareness, but still express something different.
So, let’s map out Squarepantsness in a Punnett square,with “R” being roundness and “r” being squareness. By doing that,we see that there are actually 4 possibilities here:RR, Rr, rR and rr. RR and Rr/rR would both show up as the dominant trait of roundness, meaning that Spongebob has to be a rr, which is only one of the four possibilities, so a one in four chance of that happening. And that’s just for him being square! Spongebob would have to have two recessive alleles to be yellow as well. That is the only way Spongebob wouldn’t be adopted in the scenario. So it’s definitely possible, bu tare these genetic gymnastics really what’s going on here? To double check, we need to see Spongebobs parents and grandparents. Unfortunately we can only look at his father’s side, because his mother’s half of the family, the Bubble Bottoms, have been surprisingly ignored across the 11 seasons of the show. On Harold’s side though, we see Grandma Squarepants as another round brown sponge, which makes sense,and Grandpa Squarepants as a yellow square. Recessive recessive, just like his grandson. So running those two through a Punnett square, you get a 50/50 split on the kids. Half will be round, carrying both a dominant and recessive allele,while the other half are totally recessive square. Also, half will be brown, again, carrying the dominant-recessive allele and the other 50% will be yellow, totally recessive. And that is exactly what we see play out in the family tree. Spongebob’s uncles show the exact same mix, Sherm is a yellow square, and Blue is a round brown blob. So, everything seems to be lining up in our genetic analysis.
The science shows that Spongebob isn’t adopted. But there is one last problem here -the actual odds of all this happening. For parents expressing two dominant traits like Harold and Margaret,to have a child expressing two recessive traits like Spongebob, the odds are incredibly low. It’s actually 1 in 16, which isn’t a whole lot. Probability would suggest that Harold and Margaret being Spongebob’s parents, while, yes, plausible, is actually highly unlikely to happen. However, when you look across the Spongeverse, there’s one final genetic quirk playing out in Spongebob’s favor. Sponge color and sponge shape seem to be inherited together. Looking across the Spongebob family tree, you never see a round yellow sponge on the show. NEVER. You also never see a square brown sponge, dating all the way back to prehistoric times with Primitive Sponge and Spongegar. What that tells me is that the traits are genetically linked, that the genes dictating these two individual traits are close enough on the chromosome that getting one most often results in you getting the other.
Now, there’s an entire field of study dedicated to this called “genetic mapping”, but the TLDR of all of this is that it would make the odds of Harold and Margaret having a child like Spongebob much closer to that 25% the Punnett square revealed, which means that it’s much more likely in the realm of believable possibilities. SPONGEBOB ISN’T ADOPTED. At the beginning of the episode, I gave the series creator Stephen Hillenberga lot of credit for bringing the marine biologist’s expertise into the world of this goofy kids show, but maybe I didn’t give him enough credit. Because in the end, Spongebob might look nothing like his parents, but it doesn’t change the fact that when you actually examine the genetics of the Spongebob family tree, all of it holds up. As improbable this chain might look at first glance, basic genetic science says that our buddy Spongebob shares a genetic link to everyone in it, even if his parents do look like two cookies. BUT HEY, THAT’S JUST A THEORY -A FILM THEORY. AAAAANNNND CUT. I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready, to subscribe to the film theorists!