Tina Belcher: The Daria of our Generation
Daria and Tina look very much alike, but the resemblance seems to end there. Daria is cynical, anti-social, and not interested in boys. Tina is optimistic to a fault, in the know about social happenings, and a veritable expert on the male posteriors of her entire grade. Daria was the coolest girl I’d ever seen on TV. Jane was an artist, Veronica Mars solved crime, and Alex Mack was essentially a nuclear weapon, but Daria captured what it meant to be cool in the late ’90s starting with the outfit: no-nonsense combat boots, what’s likely a men’s blazer in dark tones, chunky black frames that obscure her face. She doesn’t have low self- esteem, she has “low esteem for everybody else.” Daria knows she comes off “as a cranky, know-it-all curmudgeon. Distant, aloof and arrogant. Cynical, negative and smug.” She doesn’t care (or doesn’t seem to). She stands up to misuse of authority and doesn’t take anything at face value.
Tina, on the other hand, is achingly earnest. Her respect for authority is rivaled only by her love for boy bands, boy brains, and boy butts (and horses). Tina has a strong moral code (often to the chagrin of her peers and family members) and is the voice of reason for anarchist Louise or devil-may-care Gene. Her willingness to engage her passions, whether they be erotic friend fiction or horses or some combination thereof, is admirable.
Jon Christian of Slate points out that “Last year, Boston telephone poles were pasted with flyers for a feminist punk festival that featured a grimacing Tina, playing an electric keyboard and flanked by Lisa Simpson, Daria Morgendorffer, and burning police cars. It’s a telling trifecta of animated heroines. Lisa rebels against the seeming mediocrity of her suburban family, Daria against the conventionality of the ’90s. Tina’s role in this trio, I think, is to speak to the anxieties of young people who quietly fear they will never set a firm course in life.”
Channeling your inner Daria can be easy. Outrage comes in many forms, especially if you’re a woman of color who wades into internet comments. Channeling your inner Lisa Simpson can also be easy. Her love of reading and her disdain for tomfoolery made logical sense. Channeling your inner Tina Belcher, however, is a challenging exercise in sincerity and vulnerability. There is a reason more people search for Tina than the other Belchers . She has struck a chord with a cohort of young women (and men, I’d wager) which is heartening.
If Daria reflected the apathy of Gen-Xers, Tina then, is the millennial's soul sister (not spirit animal. Please let us all stop with that). Every overwrought article about the looming threat of millennials should be combated with the popularity of Tina. Tina is the Daria we deserve. She is loyal, she works hard, and most gloriously, she also lets her freak flag fly. Tina isn’t afraid of her sexual urges and desires. She challenges the status quo not by being disruptive, but by just embracing a new normal. In her own words, though, she’s “no hero. [She] puts her bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.”
Bob's Burgers airs on Sunday Nights on Fox. Images courtesy of MTV and 20th Century Fox Studios.