English Instructor highlights the genius of cartoon Bob’s Burgers in new book
Given the limitless freedom of animation, why would anyone use it to make a sitcom about a struggling family-owned burger place? And why would audiences embrace this greasy fantasy, not just by tuning in but by permanently decorating their legs and arms with images from the show and writing detailed backstories for its minor characters? These are all questions, YVC English Instructor Margaret France tackles in her new book, “The Genius of Bob’s Burgers: Comedy, Culture and Onion-Tended Consequences.”
This book-length critical study of “Bob’s Burgers” examines the moments in which the animated sitcom exposes the chasms between generations, explores gender and sexual identity, and allows fans to imagine a better world. Essays cover how the show can be read as a series of critiques of Steven Spielberg’s early blockbusters, a rejection of Freudian psychology, or an examination of the artificiality of gendered behaviors through the cross-casting of characters like Tina and Linda.
By tracing the ways that the popular reception of “Bob’s Burgers” reflects changing cultural attitudes, the essays provoke broader questions about the responsibility of popular entertainment to help audiences conceive of fantasies closer to home: fantasies of loving and accepting parents, of creative, self-assured children, and of menus filled with artisanal puns.
“My interest in the show ‘Bob’s Burgers’ sprang directly from my students, who pushed me to start watching it in 2014,” states France. “Since then, I’ve gone through eight moves, four jobs, one marriage and half a pandemic. This project, the first sustained critical work on the show, has kept me company through it all. The book shows fans new ways of understanding a work of art by bringing in the tools of cultural analysis. How we watch this show tells us who we are. By looking at the way ‘Bob’s Burgers’ rewrites the popular culture that comes before it, we see how art can tell us how far we’ve come and where we still need to go.”