Alriiiight, let’s talk about sitcom wives. The general role they’ve had all the way back since The Honeymooners was to be the voice of reason to balance out the craziness their husbands bring each week. The husband does something impulsive, the wife tells him how stupid it is to have done that. The husband wants to do something fun and irresponsible, the wife is always there to stop him. This is how it is, and it made sense for a while. Long ago, women were always seen as less intelligent and less capable than men, so in order to subvert that sitcom writers decided it’d be cool to to portray women as the smart and responsible ones married to men who are less intelligent and immature. Unfortunately this stuck long after people needed to be reminded that women are just as intelligent and capable as men, and what we have now is so much worse as a result. Leading women in comedy these days are worse than idiots, worse than flighty numbskulls, and worse than any diva brat the misogynist writers of old could possibly cook up. Women in comedy today are buzz kills. They’re here to tell their family to not do this or that, and to act like some lame authority figure that must be reported to or else they’ll nag. How many times do we see Homer desperately trying to appease Marge for disobeying her wishes to not do whatever dumb and irresponsible thing he did that week? How many times did we hear sitcom dads use the phrase “If my wife finds out, she’s going to kill me”? The answer to both those questions is “far too many times”. Recently however, there has been a shift. To balance out their nagginess, writers have taken to giving sitcom wives “crazy” quirks or weaknesses where they act out of character to show that they can be funny too. Unfortunately it just comes off as a hollow attempt to invigorate the most boring character on their show. Linda Belcher of Bob’s Burgers however is different. She can be “crazy”, and fun, and be a loving mom and still stay true to her character. It’s an impressive feat, but it’s also a trick only this show can pull off.
What Bob’s Burgers does with its stars is it makes every member of the Belcher family insane in their own unique way. Bob, the patriarch of the family, is the closest thing on the show to a comedic straight man, but his obsessive personality and paranoia makes occurrences where he completely loses it commonplace. His wife Linda is way too loving, way too enthusiastic about everything, and a little bit insane. Their oldest daughter Tina is an awkward tween that got hit with puberty in the worst way (and often spends her time writing erotic “friend fiction”), their son Gene is a loud and obnoxious glutton (who is constantly spouting one-liners), and their youngest child Louise is pretty much a sadist (that is voiced by the adorably distinct sounding Kristen Schaal). All of these characters are interesting, fun, and effortlessly funny, and the thing that grounds them isn’t yet another nagging wife. Bob could be seen as the grounding force, but he is also a character that can be extremely fun when even slightly provoked, while Linda either is the source the craziness that surrounds them or she fully participates in it. She also gets the best lines a lot of the time too (“I’ll tell you what that is: It’s diarrhea and throw-up. You’re firing from both ends. I studied the ballistics, it checks out”).
Another thing that defines the annoying nagging wife is how insecure they tend to be and how many pointless fights she HAS to win with her husband. The marriage between Bob and Linda is surprisingly rock solid, with these two being shockingly secure with each other. As an example, there was an instance of Bob casually admitting that he found another woman attractive, and then being incredibly surprised at Linda’s negative reaction because he knows that’s no like her at all. Of course, Linda was just pretending to be seriously distressed by the idea that Bob found another woman more physically attractive than her because she wanted to recreate the experience of going to a middle school dance for him (I told you she was a little insane…). The point here is that in most other shows, that one instance of a attraction the husband had for another woman would be the plot behind an entire episode with the wife pouting and sulking about it for its entire duration. I appreciate the fact that Linda is comfortable with herself a great deal, and I really appreciate the implication that this is what Bob expects out of her after being married for so long; because a high self-esteem is an awesome thing to come to expect.
Where most sitcom wives will yell at you to turn down the volume, Linda will happily add to the noise (she often breaks into brief improvised musical numbers), where most sitcom wives will do whatever it takes to put a stop to the fun people are having, Linda will try to join in and improve it, and where most sitcom wives will be exasperated at just about everything, Linda will always roll with the punches. There was one occasion for example, where Linda misinterpreted Bob’s declaration that he was going to kill his best friend Teddy (who he felt he was feeding way too many burgers to) as an actual murder plan; one where she was already mentally checking off things like if the car is fueled up and whether or not she could home-school the children. While Linda is by no means the first character within the last two decade to break the mold of sitcom wives (Peggy from King of The Hill‘s twist on the nagging wife concept was that she herself was the irresponsible one despite her complaints), there’s just no one else quite like her. She was the character that reminded us that there is no sense in having a cast of characters be required to have someone that is completely unfun just for the sake of it, and as a result she is a large part of what makes Bob’s Burgers and its cast so great.
Quote of the Day:
– Linda Belcher, Bob’s Burgers