The Unicorn Scale: Bob’s Burgers

9/28/2017

Fall is descending on both the northern hemisphere and the television landscape, and with that comes the onslaught of season premieres on TV. As such, October 1st brings us the premiere of the eighth season of “Bob’s Burgers,” a FOX show which many people consider to be a modern classic. There’s a lot to enjoy about the show, but let’s focus on the titular character Bob and his Johnny-Come-Lately realization about his sexuality.

Caution:

Spoilers. Oh, the spoilers are so thick in this article, you will have to brush them away from your digital face. So please don’t say I didn’t warn you and come at me like Louise on an art crawl.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the rating system this site uses, please feel free to clicky-clicky on this handy little link.

“Bob’s Burgers” is an animated comedy borne of the mind of Loren Bouchard, who also created “Home Movies,” another show with a cult following. “Bob’s” focuses on the hard-working family of Bob Belcher, his wife Linda, and their three teen/pre-teen kiddos Tina, Gene, and Louise. Bob’s family owns a sometimes failing, sometimes flailing burger joint at some indeterminate spot on the Jersey shore (very “Simpsons” Springfield-esque of the writers) and live in the apartment upstairs. The show follows the trials and travails of the whole kooky gang, from the kids’ emotional development to the entire family’s efforts to keep the restaurant afloat. But there are lots of zany, off-beat jokes to be had along with the adventures, and while the characters’ fantasies can get pretty fantastical, the show (and the Belchers) are usually striving for small victories, like getting a break on paying their rent or which school play to produce. This keeps the show grounded with a touch of reality, no matter how outlandish the Belchers’ humor can get (with Bob often playing the comedic straight man.)

While the entire show is delightful, sunny, odd, and completely worth watching, I want to specifically focus on the episode “Turkey In A Can,” the Thanksgiving episode from the show’s fourth season. This episode has a specific run of scenes where Bob, through the course of the dialogue, reveals he’s “mostly straight” and is at least momentarily tempted by the deli guy to run away.

What I Liked:

I really enjoyed the sudden reveal of Bob’s sexuality through this series of scenes. He’s clearly curious about the terms the deli guy uses from gay culture (sloppy bear, etc.) and doesn’t shy away from them.  He also is flattered by the deli guy’s assumptions, and clearly doesn’t have a toxic masculinity/homophobic response. We know from previous episodes (I’m thinking specifically of “Sheesh, Cab Bob”) that Bob has no hang-ups about interacting with out members of the LGBTQIA+ community. He seems to blush at Deli Guy’s assessment, just as he’s blushed at compliments in other episodes. As he gets more and more flustered during the final exchange and reveals he’s mostly straight, he doesn’t walk back his statement. He even has the chance to walk away without clarifying his position, but instead babbles about if he wasn’t married… and he finally concludes that the Deli Guy is too cute for him. This wasn’t necessary to build the joke or the tension, but really cements that Bob’s bi – even if he doesn’t use the actual word.

Later, back at the apartment, Bob may say that he wanted the deli guy to think he had a shot over the fact that he was a bad cook, but I feel like that’s an emotional cover – especially considering the superfluous tail-end of that conversation. He has clearly thought of exploring with men before!

It’s also pleasant to see Bob stick to his agreed-upon monogamy (from what we know) with Linda, even though he is weary and tired and a beachy escape with the Deli Guy sounds tempting. While I would love to see Bob explore his bisexuality, I’d have hated it to come from a cheating standpoint. That’s not true to his character, and honestly there are enough cheating storylines out there in the world. I would have hated to see Bob do anything without Linda’s consent, too. Bob may have realized his sexuality too late to explore it – perhaps after meeting Linda – so he would be loath to open the relationship. Or to talk about it with strangers. But he seems content with his life and his choices, so it’s not a stop-everything-I’m-bi moment.

What I Didn’t Like:

Well, we’ve been here before – it’s a shame the writers didn’t use the word “bi” in this exchange. Especially since later in the same season we have this exchange.

Bob: “When everyone in the bi-county area sees our commercial, they’ll come to our restaurant.”

Tina: “I didn’t know our county was bi. Good for us.”

It’s such a sweet moment and I would have loved to see the word earlier in the season.

There also doesn’t seem to be any other specific references to Bob’s sexuality through the following seasons. Maybe it’s old news for Bob that just came up in that moment of temptation, but it would be good to see flashbacks detailing how he came to that resolution. Or, if I can spitball here for a minute, it may not be completely past what the show would do to see Bob and Linda discuss opening the marriage for him to explore this part of his sexuality. I say this because on the show the writers are not afraid to detail how the couple finds other ways to meet their romantic and sexual needs (recreating the day they met, or taking advantage of the kids being out and adding sex dice to spice up their love life), so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. Even as a tertiary storyline that ends up with the couple deciding against polyamory for their dynamic, it would be nice to see this part of Bob’s personality and attractions addressed. At any rate, it seems a missed opportunity to not see his sexuality brought up more often in the series.

The Rating:

This episode (and show) is a solid three out of four unicorns. No, neither Bob or Deli Guy use the term bi, but Bob’s explanation and hesitancy clearly outlines his attractions.  And he’s a wonderfully fleshed out character, with opinions, feelings, hobbies, and relationships that go beyond his sexual preferences. Really, the whole show is pretty sex-positive and body-positive and contains a few other LGBTQIA+ characters. It affirms while it makes us laugh.

“Bob’s Burgers” is a show worth sinking your teeth into (sorry, couldn’t resist). Bring on October!

Jennie Roberson

Jennie Roberson is an actress and screenwriter who resides in Los Angeles. She recently completed her first novel, a bisexual young adult caper. When she’s not busy playing incredibly dorky sports or dreaming of forming her own cat army, you can find more of her musings at @JennieRoberson on Twitter.