Many of the adult cartoons on TV are heavily saturated with stereotypes, sexual innuendo, violence, explicit language, and references to people or events in history that only some audience members 16 or older would understand. Yet, they are also full of fart jokes, predictable plots, and purposely silly voices that even a five year old would enjoy. These are some common themes in Bob’s Burgers: farts, family, and failure. However, other subordinate themes investigated in episodes might be teetering on the edge of appropriacy for anyone under 16, but Bob’s Burgers remains a more popular adult cartoon because of the rejection of stereotypes in main characters, and its overall positive messages on inclusion.
Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, and the eldest teenage daughter of Bob, is undeniably not stereotyped. Tina is an awkward, dorky, confident, wallflower-type girl who defies the usual barbie-esque teenagers typically shown in cartoons. She has a passion for butts, boy bands, Jimmy Junior, and hall monitoring at the Manatee Level. As quirky and unconventional as her erotic fan fiction may be, Tina is unapologetically forward about her desires and ambitions. Although the butt of her jokes are mostly all about butts, Tina sets herself apart from other stereotypes of teenage girls by being true to herself. Women who know what they want and continue to try for it are better female role models than those who strive for popularity or outward beauty. As cliche as that may be, Tina marches to the beat of her own drum and can connect with audience members who also embrace their own quirks.
Tina does, however, stand out in stark contrast to the purposefully stereotyped character of Tammy. Tammy, another teenage girl, prides herself on her popularity, her knack for bringing Tina down, and her bleach blonde hair. Bob’s Burgers does not entirely reject stereotypes, but it does use them in a way that exposes the main character’s unique opposition to the stereotype. For example, Gene, voiced by Eugene Mirman, and the younger and only Belcher brother, also bends stereotypes of young boys. Gene’s character does not fit the typical 11-ish year old boy cookie cutter. As star cheerleader for a season, a loving mamas boy, and occasional crossdresser, Gene is never ashamed to show his feminine side and embraces it entirely. He even expresses that he has his mother’s “birthing hips,” and that he would rather hang out with his sisters than the boys from his class. Each character on the show stands by their unique sets of values and differences that make them identifiable to different groups of people.
Aside from this, the family does not ever say what their ethnicity is, which becomes a positive aspect of the Belcher family. The show is representational of people of all colors and backgrounds. Though some ethnicities are made to be obvious, such as Jimmy Pesto’s family being Italian, the lack of identification of the Belcher’s makes them recognizable across multiple audiences. There are some culturally contextual episodes, like the Christmas episodes, that hint at the Belcher’s religious preferences. Overall though, people of multiple ethnicities and religious identities will find a character in the show that is representative of themselves. Although inclusivity is as important as ever in modern society, the subtle nature and natural inclusion of multiple ethnic characters throughout the nine seasons of Bob’s Burgers is done tastefully. For example, Tammy’s bat mitzvah includes multiple Jewish references to foods and traditions, but does not do so in an exploitive way for laughs. This differs from shows like South Park that often target cultures as a means for jokes.
The unique blend of character personalities and ethnicities allows for Bob’s Burgers to garner a special level of respect for being socially aware. Rather than play into typical stereotypes for the purpose of hilarity, the show weaves these differences into plots and positive character attributions. Bob’s Burgers is by no means the most PG of adult cartoons, but it does differentiate itself from raunchier shows because of its tasteful themes and positive projections of race, religion, sexual preferences, and acceptance of differences.