We've Lost Stephen Hillenburg, But SpongeBob SquarePants Memes Will Live Forever

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Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, died yesterday at the age of 57, after a battle with ALS. Fans have been honoring and mourning him on social media all morning, which feels appropriate in more ways than one. After all, SpongeBob, Patrick and the residents of Bikini Bottom have become some of the most memed characters in the history of the internet.

The more surrealist elements of the show, along with Hillenburg's hyper-expressive characters, perfectly lend themselves to internet reactions for literally all occasions. Even with the most cursory of Google searches, you can find SpongeBob memes that run the gamut from emotional to political to bizarrely sexual.

This image alone—somehow the greatest visual encapsulation of sarcasm ever—is so popular, someone built it an easy-to-use meme generator all of its own. Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving:


And that's not the only time SpongeBob's been used to express sarcastic disdain:

One of the major keys to the popularity of SpongeBob memes is in their endless ability to be totally relatable. If social media is a sea of volatility, these memes are the brightly colored inflatable dinghies that bring us together in our universal experience.

Not even our most beloved pop stars are immune to the SpongeBob meme:

Most remarkably, by reflecting back on whatever is going on in pop culture, SpongeBob memes have become pop culture itself. Without the genius of Stephen Hillenburg (an ex-biology teacher!), we'd have none of it. We may have lost Hillenburg this week, but SpongeBob, and all of the memes that come with him, will live on forever.