Little girls are finally being raised to believe that they can do whatever they want, be whoever they dream to be, and wear whatever their little hearts desire. They can happily skip down the Barbie or the Hot Wheels aisle without ever thinking twice.
Sadly, the same can’t always be said for boys yet — unless they happen to live in the fictional world of Bob’s Burgers.
In the world of Bob’s Burgers, Jimmy Jr. can spend his days dancing, Mr. Fischoeder can have high-stakes gingerbread house decorating contests, and Louise can wear bunny ears all day every day. Bob can rock his wife’s hat as he tends to his garden and Zeke can be wrestling his friends one minute and concocting delicious recipes the next. No one is held to a gender stereotype of any kind on the show, a concept that is particularly evident in Gene.
From the very beginning, the middle Belcher child has been bucking gender norms. In many ways, Gene’s a “typical” boy who loves a good fart joke, will set off on a mission to see a two-butted goat, never passes on a father/son adventure, and thinks that if any movie should be turned into a musical, it’s Die Hard.
But he also believes he was “born to be a mother”, wears a girl’s bathing suit, declares he will never be too old to hold his dad’s hand, and dresses up like a member of The Supremes to sing “Girls Being Girls.”Gene likes what he likes and everyone in his world accepts him as is. His gender-bending ways don’t stop him from having a girlfriend or close male friends and it’s never used as a story arch for the show to highlight how progressive it is. It’s just Gene being Gene.
Bob’s Burgers’ approach to Gene (and so many of the other cisgender male characters) is a wonderful reminder that little boys don’t have to fit into a stereotypical box. We so often preach this to little girls, but boys are getting lost in the conversation.
Watching Gene gives viewers the chance to see another side of masculinity, one that’s rarely shown on television. Little boys can like dresses, grow their hair long, and do just about whatever they please. And that doesn’t make them any less of a boy. Just like little girls should be free to play with monster trucks, little boys should feel free to play with dolls.
It’s time we stop inflicting our ideas of what gender “should be” to children. Because if we allow kids to express their gender exactly how they want to, maybe, just maybe, a little bit of the love and acceptance exemplified by Bob’s Burgers will rub off on us.