I love Bob’s Burgers. It’s one of my favorite shows on television, since that nefarious bastard Josh Kurp wouldn’t shut up about it for months on end on Station Agents. The only thing I hate more than other people being wrong, is other people being right. It just rubs me the wrong way.
But there’s something that we need talk about on the show, something that bugs me in a serious way: the relationship between Louise and Linda. It’s not an omnipresent thing, but it pops up frequently in the background radiation of the stories, and every season or so there’s an episode that focuses specifically on the two of them and brings it uncomfortably to the front.
Linda simply does not accept her daughter for who she is. There’s always going to be some element of this in any relationship, especially in a parental one. And a parent’s job is partially to poke and prod at the things that they think their kid could do better, or would be happier in the long run doing if only they’d bother trying in the first place. And sometimes just because one of the masochistic joys of parenthood is the little ways you gleefully torture your kid for all the ways they torture you.
But the relationship between Linda and Louise crosses a line here, in which Linda is not gently pushing Louise past her comfort zone for her own good - though that might be the way she sees it. Instead she’s regularly pushing Louise into things that Louise explicitly doesn’t like, not because she hasn’t tried them but because that’s not the person she is.
The episode this season of Linda forcing Louise into having a slumber party was one of the more uncomfortable 22 minutes of television I’ve watched that didn’t involve torture scenes on basic cable. And I’m very aware that such reactions are as much the fault of the baggage a viewer brings to the show as the show itself. But telling an introvert that they’re being silly and of course they actually want to hang out with people is like telling a clinically depressed person that all they need to do is look on the bright side. It’s an insulting trivialization of the way a real person feels.
Forcing an introverted self-acknowledged weird loner of a kid to open up their home and room and privacy to people from school who they actively dislike is essentially an emotional hate crime. And it would be one thing if the show let Linda experience some growth, some realization that she needs to accept her kid as she is, but it regularly wimps out on this and lets it all pass as “ah, but she does it because she cares.”
Fuck that. Caring without acceptance is just tying a bow on disrespect and expecting a thank you. Bob’s Burgers is a better show than this.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.