After a long day of pretending to enjoy my job’s open-office floor plan, nothing soothes my world-weary nerves quite like spending quality time with my favorite chin-less, animated family: The Belchers. Bob’s Burgers’ ukulele-heavy theme song is enough to bring me joy on even the most stressful of days.
In its ninth season, the critically-acclaimed show (it won the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in both 2014 and 2017) draws in over 3 million viewers per new episode — clearly, it’s beloved. And though I’ve only been watching for about a year, I’ve found myself drinking the Kool-Aid, because Bob’s Burgers helps me navigate the world as a highly-functional-yet-consistently-depressed person unlike any other show on TV.
Just this morning, I Googled “how long until the days get shorter again?” because it’s already spring and the pressure to have so much fun in the sun has always been too much for me to handle. Turns out there’s a Bob’s Burgers episode for that: When Bob fires the kids so that they can have a summer break instead of working in the family restaurant, Gene is not thrilled.
Gene makes me feel less alone in being overwhelmed by this inaccessible seasonal joy. Louise makes my harmlessly vindictive side feel affirmed, and I am retroactively relieved from embarrassment over my most intense middle school crushes every time I see Tina’s wild shenanigans with Jimmy Jr., our favorite animated fuckboy.
I’m not the only one who has a therapeutic relationship with Bob’s Burgers. “If I’m feeling down or something one day, I turn on a few episodes and laugh and feel a little better,” says Glennis, 25, who also loves Tina. “She doesn’t change herself, something I’m learning [to do myself]. In just the last year or so I’ve started embracing my ‘weirder, nerdier’ side, the fangirl side, that I wouldn’t let people see often. In a way, I learned from Tina to just be who I am and the people that do matter will love and accept me anyway.”
“I relate to Gene so much it’s almost painful! I was literally the kid (and still am as an adult) that carried around weird musical instruments and made weird commentary ALL THE TIME,” Madison, 22, says, underlining the show’s talent for championing eccentricities.
The show also celebrates the increasingly overlooked working class experience with accuracy and care: “Bob’s Burgers is an excellent snapshot of lower middle class white America,” says Ev, 27. “It doesn’t feed into the hillbilly trope.” Ev grew up in rural Illinois and appreciates seeing the Belchers move through their lives in realistic ways without lazy stereotypes attached: Bob argues with a bank agent about not qualifying for a loan. Bob regularly asks his landlord for an extension on paying rent. It’s easy for fictional shows to exist in political vacuums, but Bob’s Burgers bakes cultural awareness into its world.
“No matter what’s going on, [Bob’s] just kind of goes with it,” says Tyann, 21. Maybe “just going with it” is at the heart of how Bob’s Burgers helps people cope. Linda grows out her armpit hair; Tina begins a relationship with… a ghost; Louise rides a tricycle way beyond the “acceptable” age for tricycle riding. No matter what, the Belchers accept each other — even when the world does not.
“To me, Gene is somewhere floating on the sexuality spectrum and the family doesn’t seem to mind at all,” says Glennis. “He says a lot of things relating to the LGBTQ community and he’s identified as a girl a couple times if I’m not mistaken… but the family continues to accept him as he is.”
“I think, in a subtle way, the show reassures me that I’m okay where I’m at, and that being a dork or even a loser doesn’t make me any less loveable,” says Julie, 30. “[That’s] not to say the characters are losers, but they’re not winners. They struggle and fail all the time.”
I feel that. Most days I live with the inescapable paranoia that I’m failing to live up to the expectations of my parents, ancestors, or the judgmental security guard at Whole Foods. But watching Bob lose a burger competition or Gene decide he’s content with knowing just *a few* keyboard chords feels like a prescription written just for my (depressed-yet-highly-functional) ass. It helps me feel okay with just being… okay. And in a world as afflicted as ours, Bob’s Burgers might just be the medicine we all need.
Why do you love Bob’s Burgers? Which Belcher family member do you most closely relate to? I’ll take a break from my 1000-piece Bob’s Burgers puzzle to discuss in the comments below.
Feature image via © Fox/courtesy Everett Collection.