It’s the lovable and hilarious animated family we love to watch. But “Bob’s Burgers” is also a special kind of comedy that celebrates the loving family dynamic in the Belcher family. From the ever-exasperated Bob, to the diabolical Louise, “Bob’s Burgers” has some of the best characters in comedy.
Each character contributes to the genuine depiction of a family that is not the best at communicating, or the richest, or the most “normal.” It shows realistic characters who are silly and exaggerated like any cartoon would be while still portraying a realistic and loving family. What other sitcoms about families actually show real, functional family dynamics?
Let’s take a look at how each member of the zany Belcher clan is able to work together to make one of the funniest shows on TV.
First, she is voiced by a man who has hilarious youtube videos, but she is also very real. She is not perfectly skinny and enjoys wine at all hours (who doesn’t). In season 3 episode 8, she laments about having a muffin top and Bob responds perfectly, “You know who doesn’t have a muffin top? People who go to the gym all the time and who don’t have kids.” She is a mom, who is not perfect and overreacts sometimes, also known as a normal human being. Then, in season 5 episode 17, Linda gets an armpit rash and is humorous about the whole thing. She talks about it openly as she should because it is a normal bodily issue that people have now and again.
Bob is a normal looking guy in cartoon world. He’s got a mustache and a bit of a beer belly. He is the typical father who makes mistakes but always loves his kids. When he mistakenly focuses his time and energy on a garden and refers to his plants as his “babies” in season 5 episode 10, he realizes this mistake. He apologizes to his kids and solves the problem. Also, in season 4 episode 5, he sleepwalks and yells about dinner, again like a typical parental figure. And who hasn’t walked in their sleep? I have! He does not portray the perfect father, but he does show the loving and imperfect father, which is a great image for the audience to see.
Tina is every girl going through her pre-teen years. She looks like a typical person with a curvy body shape and glasses. She struggles through middle school like all of us did at one point. She suffers like everyone at that age too. Sometimes she doesn’t get invited to bat mitzvahs, and sometimes she doesn’t get the right valentine card from Jimmy Junior. But that’s what makes her normal.
When you are in middle school, it can feel like everyone got invited to that one party except you or that everyone is friends with that one popular person without you. Tina represents the group of kids who feel less popular than others. This, again, is a good image for the audience to see. TV shows usually depict the extremes: the super popular person (Rachel Green), or the incredibly unpopular nerd (Steve Urkel). Here we have a healthy mix of the two, which is more realistic.
The family respects Louise’s odd and somewhat interesting habits without questioning or judging her. They do not ask her to take off her bunny ears, and they don’t ask how she learned how to pick locks. The family understands her and loves her, even when she gets a little maniacal. Sometimes she’ll even find a way to show she loves them back. It is only through miscommunication that there are issues, which happens in every real family. She also sticks the trio of kids together, like when Gene or Tina need help she comes up with a clever way to get them out. At only nine years old Louise is a force to be reckoned with, and this is important to show kids they do not have to wait until they are older to be strong.
Gene is an oddball, but the family accepts him for who he is. They allow him creative outlets like with his keyboard, and when his band falls apart in season 5 episode 17, Tina and Louise rise to the occasion and help him out. He is a typical kid because he gets himself into situations that he doesn’t understand, which everyone can relate to, like when he dates Courtney by accident. He also is a good example of a boy growing up because he admits when he is scared and does not care about being judged. He clearly states that he is afraid of snakes in season 3 episode 18 and does not feel emasculated when his sisters venture into the forest without him. His family accepts him when he befriends a toilet as well. Gene is himself, and that is always a great message to send to everyone.
This family also struggles with money and has one car, which is close to reality for most people. Unlike shows like “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers” is full of legitimate family disputes, rather than an episode where Stewie develops a machine to make himself pregnant with Brian’s babies.
“Bob’s Burgers” normalizes the typical American household, give or take a few kids or parents, and that is a good thing. Not everyone looks like a supermodel (Linda), and not everyone is good at math (Tina) or as good at people skills like others are (Bob). It is important to recognize “Bob’s Burgers” as a show that is not degrading to women or men and is not idealizing their family either. They are just a family that hangs out and goes through issues just like any other family, and even though it is a cartoon, it is important to recognize the elevation of this kind of familial dynamic.