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

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 24 Mar 2014 21:50
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Consider another early episode, where she matter-of-factly notes frustration that her nightmares (about zombies) are intruding onto her nicer dreams (about boys.) Later on, we see one of these dreams, where she tries to "play it cool" (Mintz's deadpan monotone can make any line-reading funny) as a pair of undead paramours approach her bedside. Then things get weird(er) when "suggestive" sounds coming from another room (her grandparents, specifically) intrude on the proceedings further.

It's a funny scene, but think about the context here. The sympathetic "joke" is that outside forces have spoiled her fantasy, but that fantasy was... "making out" (Tina has only aged from 12 to 13 in the timeline of the series, and it's not entirely clear that she's 100% aware of the actual mechanics of sex beyond abstraction) with two guys? Together? Teenaged boys in movies/TV are allowed (and cheered-on for) such thoughts regularly, but for girls its almost always used as a signal that something is wrong with them: In True Detective, Woody Harrelson's violently-inclined cop puts a brutal beating on two boys caught in a (consensual) threesome with his (older) teenaged daughter, behavior which is implied to be further evidence of unrevealed psychological trauma on her part. But here, with Tina, it's a given: of course she thinks about such things (as opposed to doing them, a vital distinction) such things - don't you remember being a teenager? It doesn't even occur to Bobs Burgers to condemn or shame her. And why should it?

To be sure, there's a lot more to Tina than simply being TV animation's answer to Melissa McCarthy. She's the quiet side of the series' overriding "Be yourself!" ethos, and the continuing plot-thread of her being the person in the family most similar to Bob places the two of them in a unique father/daughter paradigm. And I love that her shyness and introversion are largely presented as simply traits, as opposed to flaws in need of correction: She's (apart from her libido and its effects on her imagination) quiet and guarded by nature, she probably always will be, and that's just fine.

But her nervous, unpredictable plunge into puberty is what puts her on another level. Her... "unique" interpretation of an ascent to adulthood is awkward and offbeat, but she comes from an entire family of awkward and offbeat. By simply existing, in and of herself, her presence declares to a generation of young women (also to the young men around them) that whatever their version of zombie dreams, "Boyz 4 Now" and Erotic Friend-Fiction are that it's normal, healthy and nothing to be embarrassed about.

The world should be different. This shouldn't be impressive. Growing girls shouldn't "need" Tina Belcher to tell them to be okay with themselves. But the world is what it is, and we have her. So I'm grateful.

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