I freely admit that I am late to the party when it comes to what is popular on television or streaming. It was two years ago that I was introduced to Bob’s Burgers and my boyfriend will tell you that I was against watching it, at first. I then started watching the Halloween and Christmas episodes and suddenly… I was wrapped up into the dynamics that is Bob’s Burgers. The characters became relatable and I started to fall for the way that the writers blurred lines with the characters of the show. There seem to be hints of LGBTQ subtext but I was left wondering how LGBTQ friendly is the show, anyway?
In 2011, a crudely drawn cartoon made its way to the Fox Network and stars Bob Belcher (father), Linda Belcher (mother), Tina Belcher (oldest daughter), Gene Belcher (middle son), and Louise Belcher (youngest daughter). The Belchers own a restaurant called Bob’s Burgers and that building houses their apartment on the second floor. The Belchers, much like the Simpsons, live in a nondescript town that is never identified other than being in the North Eastern part of the United States.
Bob’s restaurant has to compete with other places in town and he even has a rival, Jimmy Pesto who runs an Italian restaurant directly across the street from them. Many episodes of the show consist of the constant battle between them. The show also has a small cast of regulars that are guaranteed to show up in each show. Mort, who owns the crematorium It’s Your Funeral Home and Crematorium, and Teddy the local handyman. From there is a host of recurring secondary characters such as Marshmallow, Hugo and Ron – local health inspectors, Calvin Fischoeder – the odd landowner, Mr Frond – guidance counselor, Gayle – Linda’s sister, and many kids from the school that the Belcher kids attend.
Look at all the stars
The talent behind this show is simply amazing. The creator of the show is Loren Bouchard, known for shows like Dr Katz, The Great North, Lucy: the daughter of the Devil, and Central Park. The talent doesn’t stop there, the voice overs are nothing short of amazing. The main cast stars H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Kevin Klein, and Megan Mullally. Many stars have made their way onto the show for spot characters. Best known would be the husband of Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman and has also included Aziz Ansari, Zach Galifianakis, John Michael Higgins, and Bill Hader.
Cast of characters
Bob is the main protagonist of Bob’s Burgers and the owner of the restaurant. Bob is 44 years old and married to Linda and the father of Tina, Gene, and Louise. Bob comes from a family of restaurant owners but his father “Big Bob” carries around anger over Bob leaving his restaurant to start his own. Bob can be somewhat pessimistic and petty but he truly loves his family and restaurant. Bob does seem to skirt sexuality quite a bit as seen with his remarks about men being attractive, talks of kissing men, and his fascination with the co-character Marshmallow.
Linda is the 44 year old wife and mother of the show. She have a very pronounced New York/New Jersey accent. Linda is the polar opposite to her husband, Bob. She is out-going and optimistic, she enjoys having fun in life and seems generally laid back. She is very supportive of her childern and sister’s interests. Linda also love a good glass of wine. (Honestly, who doesn’t?)
Tina is the oldest of the three children. She is most noticeable for being somewhat socially awkward, insecure, and famous for her affectations whenever conflict arises. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her brave and assertive side, when the moment calls for it. She plays the normal 13-year-old part very well with her constant fantisizing about boys and butts. She is most noticeably know for writing her own fan fiction about her life that includes her classmates, butts, and often zombies. Her romantic interest, in the show, is the aloof Jimmy Pesto Jr., who seems to be a bit unaware and disinterested in her affections. Tina is the innocent and naive of all of the Belcher children.
Gene is the middle child and the most diverse, when it comes to emotions and actions. Gene seems to bridge sexuality, playing with various roles and modalities. He is carefree and friendly while still carrying around some inadequacies, like his father. Gene is obsessed with music and can be seen in almost every show playing on his keyboard and making various kinds of sounds. He has one full musical and a multitude of songs about farts and holidays under his belt. He appears to be the glue of the relationships of the children.
Louise is the youngest Belcher, at 9-years-old. She can be summed up as being cynical and mischievous. She has a love of anime, as seen in her collection of doll including Kuchi Kopi. She is considered a protector of her family and has stood up for them in many episodes. She is the tomboy companion of her father, enjoying his style of movies and games. She is known for her contacts wearing of her pink bunny ears. Only once have they came off of her head in all of the seasons and that only happened when a character named Logan stole them from her.
While there are a multitude of supporting characters on this show, only one has risen to become a mainstay, that is Teddy. Teddy is the lovable pseudo-handyman who is Bob’s most loyal customer. Teddy’s relationship to Bob and Linda is complex. Teddy seems. himself as the stand-in in case anything happens to either Bob or Linda. Over the seasons we have seen his character grow and evolve to become part of the Belcher family. Teddy has professed his love of both Bob and Linda without any qualms of implied sexuality.
LGBTQ and Bob’s Burgers
What makes this show so endearing, to me, is the way in which sexuality is handled in the show. Whether it is Tina’s erotic friend fiction or showcasing LGBTQ characters, it is handled as if it is just another part of life.
Simply put, this is one of the few shows that introduces fully fleshed out queer characters without having them run around waving rainbow flags or being the most stereotypical. To state it in the simplest of terms, the show normalizes LGBTQ people.
The very first episode to introduce queer characters happened in season 1 on the episode “Sheesh Cab, Bob?” This episode we see Bob take on a cab driver role to help pay rent for the restaurant. It goes through a night of Bob picking up his fairs and actually enjoying meeting new people. He befriends three trans characters who quickly become his regular fairs. This was the episode where we first met Marshmallow, a trans woman who makes her living as a sex worker. This is a pretty controversial and groundbreaking subject for an animated series. From there, Marshmallow goes on to appear in many more episodes over the seasons and a close friend of the Belchers. Bob has even professed his love and respect for Marshmallow, even calling her beautiful.
In a later Thanksgiving episode, Bob is thought to be hitting on the gay meat clerk. By the end of the episode we see Bob explaining to the guy that he felt he was out of his league but that he would consider dating him. There have even been episodes where Bob has mentioned kissing other men.
Bob’s own son, Gene, seems to skirt the lines of sexuality in the show. There have been numerous occasions where Gene has labeled himself as one of the girls or the other “pretty” sister. Gene has a fascination for costumes and make up and has even been seen in at least one show, wearing a dress and in full stage makeup.
The list of queer characters aren’t just limited to the people in the show, in fact, Linda Belcher states that she has pet raccoons in the alley that are gay. Enter Little King Trashmouth and his boyfriend Gary. The show also includes Dalton Crespin, who first appeared in the episode Brunchsquatch. In this episode, the Belchers decide to make their restaurant a brunch spot and Dalton and his crew show up to review it for his brunch blog.
Nat Kinkle is a lesbian that drives a pink limousine. She has had guest appearances in a few episodes and been the focus of two episodes. The first was her introduction episode called “V for Valentine-delta” and the second called “Just the Trip.” In the latter, she takes the Belchers on a road trip to return her depressed boa constrictor to her former girlfriend Theresa who runs an exotic animal sanctuary.
This is only a list of characters that have been in more than one episode. There has been a large cast of one off characters that grace the show. Todrick Hall played the character Miss Triple X-mas and was seen doing the midnight spotlight show in the episode “The Bleakening, Part 2.”
One can argue that many animated shows have had queer characters but few showcase them in the type of light that Bob’s Burgers does. Each episode that includes a queer character is introduced as a character first and shows as having a complete personality and interactions with the rest of the cast. Their gender preference or sexuality is only mentioned in passing, giving us the belief that it simply isn’t important to how they act and interact in the show. A dream that many of us wished was true to real life.
We have seen LGBTQ pride, raves, and public displays of affection all accepted as if it is no different than anything else going on in the unnamed small seaside town. What is even more impressive is the amount of Queer talent that goes into making this show such a success. At least two of the voice talents behind the characters are queer. Voice actors Megan Mullally and John Roberts are queer.
All of this positivity may make it seem that this is the perfect show for queer representation. Sadly, there have been issues with character portrayals. The show has come under fire due to the voice actor of the titular character, Marshmallow is a white cisgendered voice actor named David Herman. I am not going down the rabbit hole of discussing actors portraying characters that are vastly different than they are, that can be saved for other writers. The first episode we meet Marshmallow is also known for delivering jokes that embody stereotypes, misgendering, and repeated use of the offensive slur transvestite. This has caused the character of Marshmallow to be tabled in later seasons.
A glimmer of hope
It is true that Bob’s Burgers isn’t the best when it comes to portraying the queer community but it is a far sight better than most shows that are currently out there for streaming. Most shows available for streaming seem to endlessly cater to the wide array of stereotypes that pervade society, still. The glimmer of hope is that Bob’s Burgers seems to recognize when they cross the line and try to correct it quickly.
With that being said, it is refreshing to see a show that can make light of situations in real life while, at the same time, trying to approach them with respect AND comedy. Instead of just playing to the basest of humor. This is why this show has become one of my all time favorites. With that, I must also admit that it was my boyfriend who got me obsessed, albeit against my will, with this show.
Get out there and check it out and let me know in the comments what you think about this show.