A recent episode of Bob’s Burgers had me thinking about outdated episode premises in TV shows. The saying that writers tend to “write what they know” is true in a lot of ways, and nowhere is that more apparent than with writing children. When they write about the childhoods of their characters, they’re really projecting their own childhoods into their storytelling. That’s why they write about kids who get stuffed in lockers (which happens rarely these days since schools are far more crowded and lockers need to be smaller to fit), that’s why we watch kids actually call each other on their cellphones instead of just texting, and that’s why we see totally implausible plot lines like the one seen on the Bob’s Burgers episode “L’il Hard Dad”.
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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.
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