What ‘Bob’s Burgers’ says about American Society: What people will do to have a good family

At face value, it would be one of those strange mysteries. But when you dig into the issue a bit, it makes a lot of sense and says a lot about what kind of society we really are as Americans. I’ll admit, I was perplexed as to why any studio would produce a Bob’s Burgers theatrical release. With so many streaming services that are out there these days, why would anybody make a movie of the somewhat popular cartoon on Fox called Bob’s Burgers, which is a version of the typical animated formula that they have made so popular over the years with other offerings like The Simpsons, and Family Guy? I’m not too fond of Bob on Bob’s Burgers; I think of him as a loser. He’s not very ambitious; as a dad, he’s perpetually broke. He runs a little New England burger place in a resort town, and he can barely rub two pennies together.

Most of the episodes are about the problems they have as a family because they never have enough money to do things. And of course, my famous saying to people complaining about not having enough money is just to work and make more. Especially in America, if you want money, you can have it. You may not make all the money you want in 8 hours of work. Forty hours a week may not be enough; you might have to work 80. When I was raising a family, I have told the stories of only having one car, and I rode a bicycle 25 miles a day, so my wife could have the car for the kids and worked two full-time jobs to make the money we needed as a family. So, I can’t relate to Bob in Bob’s Burgers, and I find it odd that young people like the show so much. But, apparently, they do. Enough so that they made a theatrical movie release this year as something they thought was justifiable. 

I also had a unique experience while attending various comic cons with my daughter, an outstanding illustrator who does exhibitions of her work at those types of events. As I have said, it’s interesting to watch people cosplay at comic cons, the kind of outfits they want to dress up in, and invest so much of their time to bring characters they enjoy to life in some way. I can understand the various Star Wars characters and those from the Marvel movies. Those are action movies that make you feel good when leaving the movie theater in some way, so it makes sense that people would want to dress up as those characters during Halloween and at comic cons. Bringing fantasy to life is a specific function of the human imagination, a conceptual vehicle that expresses inner values that manifest in mythological impressions during social exchanges. Dressing up as a favorite character is a way to vote for the kind of values that you see in pop culture. Imitation is the ultimate compliment. But while I was at these events, I was just a little shocked to see young people dressing up as characters from Bob’s Burgers, which is hard because they are all cartoons. It’s not easy to bring a cartoon character to life, yet people did, and some were really good costumes. Why? I’ve watched many episodes of Bob’s Burgers, and I just don’t enjoy the show that much. For me, it’s often filler in the background while I’m doing five or six other things. I occasionally watch it because I like the colors of cartoons. But I can’t relate to the characters much at all. 

Oddly enough, my wife likes Bob’s Burgers a lot. I’d say it’s her favorite show, so this problem has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Yet, in working to understand the current political sentiment of our mass society, I felt something was going on with Bob’s Burgers that was worth noticing, significantly if film executives believed that a theatrical release of a subpar cartoon series on Fox justified its own movie. So the one thing that really jumps out about Bob’s Burgers that is likable is that all the family members like each other. Bob, his wife, and his three children all live in a little dump of an apartment, yet they don’t act like a bunch of losers who are waiting in line with a bottle of booze to buy lottery tickets. They work hard for the money they make and love each other as a family while running the family burger business. Bob is always a few cents short of whatever the family needs, but his wife never talks about leaving him for a better life with a more ambitious lover. The kids are just happy to have mom and dad together in the house. The brothers and sisters aren’t out to kill each other; they go on many neighborhood adventures and solve problems like rational people. They are a very “traditional” family. 

And that’s what it is with Bob’s Burgers; like many of the other Fox primetime cartoons, they all have in common a mom and a dad in the home who love each other. That is certainly the case with Family Guy, a very progressive show that features a family that stays together. There aren’t step-parents and step-children in these cartoons. They are all very traditional. Other animated shows have tried to make it with more progressive storylines, but they always fail. The ones that stick around over the years are the cartoons that feature traditional family settings. The Simpsons have been on for decades now, a very long time. And yet, with many hundreds of storylines, Homer and his wife Marge still love each other and work through marital problems together in a way that never ends in divorce or a family breakup.   And that was the key to this Bob’s Burgers mystery. Here was a family on an animated show with many problems, and they seemed limited in their ability to solve those problems. But, they enjoy each other as a family. You don’t see Bob running around on the town to cheat on his wife. Or running away from the attention that the kids obviously want from him. He’s a good dad, even if he’s unambitious socially. And his family loves him for it. Obviously, the audiences who can’t say the same about their own families have found a reliable father figure in Bob’s Burgers. In Bob’s Burgers, they see the family they always wanted and never had in the fictional settings. And it has such an impact on them that they even dress up as the characters in cosplay. It says a lot about the true state of our society when those types of fictional stories indicate what people really feel inside. Their vote for the type of entertainment they wish to enjoy says what all people really crave outside of political theater. Most people would give up a lot to have a family like Bob’s Burgers, where at least mom and dad loved each other, and their siblings worked together to help make the family a family. In a world full of disappointments, at least Bob and his animated television family were willing to fight through disappointments for the key ingredient to all happy societies, a good family that might not have a lot of money, but at least they had what all humans crave, a genuine love for each other. And that is worth noting and something that should give us all hope for the future. 

Rich Hoffman

Click to buy The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business