MovieBob - Intermission
Why Tina of Bob's Burgers Can't Be Ignored

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 24 Mar 2014 21:50
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The key to this is subtle but vital: Tina is the show's "awkward" character, and also a teenaged girl navigating sexuality, but the usual relationship between the two has been inverted: She's awkward because her affect, mannerisms and outlook make her so - and probably would even if she were proportioned like Jessica Rabbit. Her hormone-driven teenage-ness the show generally posits as not just a "given," but perfectly normal and even healthy.

In one early episode, she climbs into the ceiling above a boys' locker room - gender-inverting an entire epoch of teen sex comedy - and while the show invites laughs at the absurdity of the scenario, the staging of the sequence clearly invites the audience to root for her success: "You go, Tina! Steal a glimpse at... whatever it is you think you're trying to see." Her character is defined, more than anything, by a sex drive that lacks a clearly-understood destination. She channels her intense but incompletely-formed desires into volume upon volume of her "Erotic Friend-Fiction." This is essentially naughty fanfics starring her classmates begun in earnest when she apparently exhausted every other conceivable pairing of mythological and fictional figure that crossed her fancy. This is also an important but unremarked-upon subtext of the series is that the Belchers are a family of creatives stuck in a class/culture that's not built to recognize or encourage any of them.

None of this should be particularly revolutionary, but it is. If she were a male character, we'd perhaps be expected to chortle and call her "a horndog." She's written like a full-fledged human, experiencing her growth in a realistic fashion - which, on TV, means she's written like a boy. As if to drive the point home: In the (justly) celebrated "Food Truck" episode, a B-story involves Tina's attempt to reinvent herself to new acquaintances as "Dina," with her thought process in choosing a new identity visualized as an extended reference to Mark Wahlberg rechristening himself "Dirk Diggler" in Boogie Nights.

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