Think Pieces

The Influence of SpongeBob in Black Culture

Beginning in the early 2000’s, Spongebob Squarepants became a staple cartoon in all households.Wether you were a child or an adult, the hilarious cartoon show left a smile on millions of faces. What was unexpected however, was the influence that the yellow sponge would have on Black culture.

Around 2005, we began to see Spongebob in a different light in Black Communities. The term Hood Spongebob became very common. This term was used when recreating the character in a different environment, the complete opposite of Bikini Bottom.

The yellow sea creature was often seen in various sketches wearing baggy clothes, gold jewlery, flaunting money, and sometimes even selling weed. These sketches quickly went from the internet to T-Shirts as local entrepreneurs used screen printing and airbrush techniques to create various clothing items for their own community.

From the outside looking in, it looks like the Black community was, in a sense, idolizing the gangster lifestyle. But from the inside, that’s not the message. During that time, television shows were played through many households, but they didn’t reflect the lives of the people at all.

When we look at shows like Spongebob Squarepants, everything has a happy go lucky tone. In fact, the most depressing times in the show was when Spongebob continuously failed his drivers test or the very popular episode when Spongebob lost his pet snail, Gary.

The events throughout the show didn’t reflect anything happening within the Black community, but was a staple show within Black households. This is where Hood Spongebob began. Black graphic designers recreated the character in ways that reflected the community around them. Dressing the sponge in baggy clothes, gold chains and even holding weapons. This is what we seen when we went outside. This is the way we survived within our own community.

Spongebob Squarepants is a children’s show, so there was never any animosity from the Black community to the television series because it was made for children from all backgrounds. It was a way, for many, to find joy and laughter no matter what the circumstances outside were.

With the influx of different variations of Spongebob surfacing all over the internet, the community took one step further and placed these images on T-Shirts. A lot of Black creators experienced entrepreneurship for the first time by selling custom made Hood Spongebob apparel. Over time, we slowly began to see more and more custom airbrush apparel stands in malls and even some self standing stores as well.

Though Spongebob was the starting point, he wasn’t the only character to be recreated. Even Sesame Street, Tweety Bird, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse were starting to become apart of this trend.

The Black community has started lots of trends that we don’t get enough credit for. These airbrush stands are still seen today in the mall with the recreation of newer characters like Rick & Morty. What once started as a cultural theme has now spread across the country.

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