Photo courtesy of Harry van Dijk on Flickr.
Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the beloved children’s animated series ‘Spongebob Squarepants,’ passed away from ALS on November 26. His contributions to children’s television and popular culture have been celebrated amongst fans all around the world.

With today’s fast-paced way of consuming media, there are few things that capture people’s attention for an extended period of time, but “SpongeBob SquarePants” has been an exception to that trend. In the wake of creator Stephen Hillenburg’s passing, fans have been reflecting on the impact that the world of Bikini Bottom has had on their childhoods.

Premiering on Nickelodeon in May 1999 and continuing today, the show has been recognized as the highest-rated series to ever air on the network. The phenomenon also expanded its television platform with two movies — 2004’s “The Spongebob SquarePants Movie” and 2015’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”— as well as a Broadway musical.

All accolades aside, the incredibly unique characters are what gives the show its true magic. Inspired by his interest in marine life, Hillenburg fashioned the world of Bikini Bottom into an array of humor and imagination. Viewers fell in love with the enthusiasm of Spongebob, the stupidity of Patrick Star, the grumpiness of Squidward and plenty more of these adored characters and their endless adventures.

Part of the reason the show has remained relevant is due to the emergence of today’s internet language. Kids who grew up watching this series are now creating memes from the show no one can get away from. More than any other franchise, there are plethoras of reaction memes ranging from the winded Spongebob to the evil Patrick picture that have been proven as comedy gold.

Talk to anyone who is a fan of “SpongeBob” and it is almost guaranteed they can recite parts of their favorite episodes by heart. The episode where SpongeBob and Patrick sell chocolate, Spongebob proclaiming, “I’m ugly and I’m proud,” DoodleBob, the entire “Campfire Song Song” and hundreds of others are moments that will be forever ingrained into our brains.

Among all of Hillenburg’s generation of defining moments, fans can agree that the episode entitled “Band Geeks” encompasses all of what makes SpongeBob so infectious. The episode combines unforgettable lines with musical moments that have become a staple into the show’s programming. In the episode, Squidward put together a band of Bikini Bottom citizens to perform at the Bubble Bowl halftime show in order to impress his rival, Squilliam Fancyson. There are so many problems during rehearsal that cause Squidward to eventually quit, thus making SpongeBob the leader. The band ends up giving a riveting performance to the rock ballad “Sweet Victory,” which has turned into one of the most iconic scenes in the show’s history.

As a tribute to Hillenburg’s groundbreaking work, fans of the show have created a Change.org petition in order to have “Sweet Victory” played at the Super Bowl. Considering that SpongeBob and the band performed this at the Bubble Bowl, it sounds like the ultimate opportunity to honor the show and Hillenburg’s legacy. The petition currently has over 200,000 signatures and is still gaining more attention from the internet.

“SpongeBob SquarePants” has meant so much more to fans than a reaction gif and a Twitter memes. As silly as the show is, it has represented a nostalgia that is unparalleled and will live on forever. Like a lot of realms of entertainment, the show has been an oasis of escape for those who have enjoyed it and has surely brightened many days. What sets this show apart from others is not only its longevity, but its cleverness and the oddly incredible universe it has provided all of us with.

On behalf of those who have fell in love with the masterpiece that is “SpongeBob SquarePants,” we all want to thank Stephen Hillenburg for the smiles and laughs he gave and continues to give to millions of children and adults around the world.