It’s no secret that I’m a Bob’s Burgers fan. I have a Teddy keychain hanging on the vision board behind my altar and I even have an alarm on my phone that goes off every Sunday night to help me stop what I’m doing and settle in to watch. What can I say? Millennials are healing their childhood trauma with Bob’s Burgers, and it’s great.

There's an englarged cheeseburger in the background. In the foreground is a semi-transparent white box with the text

(About that Teddy keychain: I’m not trying to manifest a Teddy in my daily life. He’s a great guy, but damn. I don’t know if I have the energy for that. Last summer, my husband and I were invited to a cocktail attire wedding. It was 2023, and your girl no longer fit into her pre-pandemic cocktail attire. So, we found ourselves at the mall trying on many, many items that weren’t quite right or didn’t fit the dress code. After a long day of feeling like an overstuffed sausage in a too-small casing, we left the mall empty handed. But my husband did purchase the Teddy keychain for me as a little surprise. It was basically a treat for subjecting myself to the fluorescent lighting in fitting rooms and clothing brands that seem to think all women are either sixteen or seventy-five years old. It’s on the vision board because my husband is great, and I want many more years with him.)

At first, we started watching Bob’s Burgers because we’d seen a few episodes on TV, and there were a few seasons streaming. That’s how we really got hooked.

It’s now our comfort show, and I think there’s a very good reason for that.

(Side note: This isn’t the first time I’ve made bold statements about a media franchise. Remember when I shared the 10 writing lessons I learned from The Fast and the Furious?)

Millennials are Healing Their Childhood Trauma with Bob’s Burgers

I’m going to speak in broad terms here. Firstly, because I want this to be as relatable as possible. And secondly, because my dad recently found out I had a blog and got so scared that I might be writing about him.

Broadly speaking, millennials were raised by boomers. Boomers grew up during the post-war prosperity, and have pretty much consistently voted to end any programs that would extend that prosperity to later generations. I would also argue boomers are the generation of doing what you’re supposed to do, meaning they didn’t question anything and just did what they thought was expected of them. It doesn’t seem like many of them thought about what kind of career they wanted, they just got a job. I would also argue that many didn’t think about whether or not they wanted to have kids, they just did because it’s what you do.

I also staunchly believe that boomers had pretty terrible childhoods. But they generally refuse to believe it because they would have to acknowledge that pain, and understand they deserved better, which would fundamentally destroy everything they believe about themselves and the way the world works. Also, they tend to think that the tough work of therapy is the easy way out, and the real strong people just ignore their problems.

So, all that trauma definitely trickled down to their kids.

Plus, there’s a whole list of events that shaped the lives of millennials too:

  1. We learned about oral sex because the president was doing it with someone who arguably couldn’t consent (you can’t consent if you’re a college intern and he’s the most powerful man in the free world, can you?) and then Kenneth Starr (the guy that later allowed football players at Baylor University to rape at will) insisted on dragging out the details of that affair.
  2. It took a presidential scandal to teach many of us about oral sex because purity culture and “worth the wait” bullshit was at an all-time high. Abstinence only sex ed was what we had in Oklahoma, and I know we were not the exception. Plus, the evangelical overculture was getting really, really strong.
  3. We watched 9/11 on TV at school. I was a sophomore when it happened, and by the time I graduated, a significant portion of my classmates were shipping out to Iraq and Afghanistan.
  4. We started our careers in the Great Recession. I had a master’s degree and couldn’t find anything that paid more than $30,000 a year. Boomers assured me that was a lot of money, but they have consistently proven that they don’t know the value of a dollar.
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There’s more, of course, and we could go on for days. But this post is about Bob’s Burgers, and I’ve already written like 800 words that aren’t about the show.

Why Bob’s Burgers is the Best

For me, a good show is one that I can come back to over and over. And I know my fellow millennials and I are coming back to Bob’s Burgers like we’re coming home after work.

Here’s what makes Bob’s Burgers the best:

001: There are two parents who love each other.

Bob and Linda are relationship goals. Sure, they have fights sometimes, but they always work it out. And Linda has, on many occasions, shown that she’s ready to do various crimes for her husband and family. It’s loyalty at it’s finest.

This brings millennials back for a few of reasons:

Firstly, we can’t always imagine our boomer parents having the same kind of relationship. Secondly, so many TV couples before this were either saccharine sweet and looked fake as hell, or it was two people who actively seemed to hate each other. And thirdly, millennials like building healthy relationships. We tend to get married later than previous generations and our divorce rate is lower.

Basically, we just want to be Bob and Linda. And honestly, with my big glasses and wine consumption, I’m getting there.

002: The kids come before capitalism.

Bob’s restaurant isn’t doing great. Ever.

But you know what? Who cares? The family is doing great all the time. And that’s what actually matters.

I don’t know a single person in my generation who enjoys participating in capitalism. Sure, many of us love our jobs, but a lot of us also acknowledge that we would do our jobs even if capitalism didn’t exist. And I think Bob would be cooking food even if he didn’t do it for a living.

The family doesn’t always have the money to do big, expensive things, like throw the kids birthday parties or send them to camp. But if the kids want something, they’re going to try like hell to make it happen, even if it comes at the expense of the restaurant.

And the kids never have to hear about how many hours their parents work to make it happen. Bob and Linda give the kids what they want because they love their kids. They never hold it against them.

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003: Tina gets to be horny.

The worst part about being a teenage girl was having every single one of my behaviors policed by literally everyone. Parents were constantly monitoring my clothes, makeup, and behavior. Peers were slut shaming left and right for very innocuous, non-slutty things, like waving to boys or listening to a particular type of music.

Tina seems to be free of that judgment. No one ever shames her for being a sexual being, even when she’s writing erotic friend fiction about zombies.

Yes, Tina is a bit of a weirdo who had a very torrid love affair with a goose. But also? She’s a teenager who is given the space to figure out how she feels and what she thinks and what she wants, and I can’t imagine having that kind of freedom.

When she gets to college, she’s definitely going to have a fantastic time and she’s going to be able to advocate for herself in bed in a way that most of us didn’t learn how to do until we were in our thirties.

Also, in my heart, she loses her virginity to Zeke, and he’s so attentive and perfect that she forgets about Jimmy Junior FOREVER.

004: Gene gets to be Gene.

A very common search term I found while doing some work to optimize this post is “is Gene from Bob’s Burgers a girl?”

I won’t harsh on anyone’s headcanon, but I will say this: In my heart, Gene is genderfluid. Sometimes he likes referring to himself as a boy. Sometimes, he likes referring to himself as a girl.

While I think his identity is important, I don’t think defining it from the outside is as relevant as acknowledging that Gene has two parents who give him space to just be.

Bob and Linda run a restaurant. They’re working class people who didn’t attend college. And even though the majority of people I know with kids who identify somewhere on the 2SLGBTQIA spectrum are very similar to Bob and Linda in that they have a very working class background, this isn’t something that TV shows often portray.

Instead, we’re made to believe that the only safe place for these kids is in the upper middle class home of the liberal elite. There’s this pervasive and inccorect notion that working class people can’t accept their children for who they are.

But that’s the beauty of Bob’s Burgers. When you put your family first, you can make space for them to be themselves. Also, Bob isn’t exactly straight, though I don’t think it’s ever explicitly stated that he isn’t. (I mean, it’s implied with his relationship with Marshmallow and his interaction with the man behind the butcher counter on the Thanksgiving episode where he has to keep buying turkeys.)

005: Louise doesn’t have to be socialized into girlhood.

If you didn’t know, gender can be a performance. And it’s usually one we do to make those around us feel comfortable.

Before I was being slut shamed all day as a teen, I was a little girl who was aggressively taught how to be a girl. Shirley Temple movies were thrown at me, ostensibly so I could learn to be cute and precocious. Why all those movies are about a little girl making a grown man fall in love with her is something I will never understand.

From Barbies to baby dolls, from kitchen play sets to toy vacuum cleaners, the female gender role is learned in childhood.

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But Louise gets space to be feral. She has her Burobu cards that she trades with the boys. And in the episode where Linda takes her to a mother-daughter retreat, the two of them end up teaming up against the mommy blogger antagonist in a game of laser tag.

She gets to wear a dress but often behaves like a gangster/hustler. And it’s awesome to see her get to figure out what her gender means to her.

006: The show grew into itself.

It’s weird that one of the most heartwarming shows on TV today was originally going to be about a family of cannibals.

For me, some of the first and even the second season is a little hard to go back and watch now. It’s not because it’s not good, but mostly because it just doesn’t feel like my show. The earlier episodes were edgier. The family was meaner to one another. Everything was less soft.

And if there’s one things millennials know, it’s all about starting out a little aggressive and problematic only to soften as you grow.

Look. We were all problematic edgelords back in the mid-2000s as we came of age, posting photos on MySpace with captions that were either song lyrics about slitting throats (that was big in the mid 2000s rock scene) or Dane Cook jokes.

But things are different now, and we all want a little more grace and compassion and love and emotional resonance. The show grew from its original form into something that is guaranteed to make me cry at least twice a season.

I mean, Louise’s Christmas poem? Jesus. Instant tears.

The Amelia Earhart episode? Fuck. Literal bawling.

Any interaction between Bob and his dad? Goddamn. Straight up ugly crying.

Hawk and Chick? Shiiiiiiit. Pass the tissues.

And speaking of episodes that make me cry…

007: That season 14 Rudy episode though…

The Amazing Rudy. Season 14, episode 2.

If you didn’t think this show was about healing childhood trauma, then go watch the episode where Regular-Sized Rudy has dinner with his divorced parents and can’t perform the magic trick he prepared for the night, something he feels he has to do to make everyone happy.

When our sweet little emotionally fragile people pleaser in training runs to his friend, Louise, for help, it’s like all of us were just given a hug from a friend who always has our backs.

And with that, Rudy can return to the restaurant to spend time with his parents and the people they’re dating, even if his life is never going to be like it was before his parents separated.

Eighty-Seven Seasons and a Movie Every Other Year

What’s your favorite episode of Bob’s Burgers? Which of the musical episodes do you love the most? Is the Bleaken now part of your Christmas decor? Do you worry that other people may compare you to Gayle behind your back? Have you ever read the comments on the official Bob’s Burgers Instagram account and wanted to hit people for not understanding the true genius of the show?

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