Tina Belcher is just like us. She “puts on her bra one boob at a time,” and dreams big about the future. But while the 13-year-old heroine of FOX’s animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers (voiced by Dan Mintz) may be a cartoon, she’s quickly also become a feminist icon for the next generation. Many an essay have focused on Ms. Belcher, for good reason.
But to assume feminism in the Belcher household begins and ends with Tina would be an unfortunate oversight. Although they’re served in very different packages, Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts) and Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal) can and should be praised as feminist role models, too. Strap on your bunny eared hats and spice racks, kids.
Passionate about horses and classmate Jimmy Junior’s butt, Tina is equal parts confident and unsure of herself. Tina wakes up every morning and knows she’s worth it. In one episode, she tells her father (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), “If you believe you’re beautiful, you will be. I did.” That’s empowering advice for the ages.
Her steamy, G-rated stories aren’t about weddings or fairytales; she flies around “Quickie Kiss It Island” smooching every guy on the lips and has had several zombie suitors.
On the other end of the spectrum is nine-year-old Louise. Bold, brash and the mastermind behind countless shenanigans, the youngest Belcher child knows what she wants out of life, and more importantly, knows how to get it from people. Her ubiquitous bunny-eared hat bobbing, Louise isn’t afraid to lay down a dose of tough love to her family members, especially Tina. She’s also a gifted visionary who dominated her school science fair with a rousing musical exposing her teacher as a jerk. Louise doesn’t let anyone or anything get in her way.
While she tries to hide it, she’s also got a soft side. Unlike her big sister, Louise generally thinks boys are pretty gross—why would she want to kiss someone, which is basically “a fight with lips?”—until a boy in a boy band inexplicably steals her heart It’s a hard day for Louise, liking a boy for the first time. But it also is an important moment in her and Tina’s relationship. For girls who are more assertive than Tina, ambitious, fervent Louise is a better fit. Not that she would care what you think.
But of course, Louise and Tina had to get it from someone.
Linda Belcher is an enthusiastic and doting mother, wife and businesswoman who has probably reminded many a viewer of their own mothers. Yet, underneath her dorky exterior is a fierce woman unafraid to let others know what or who she loves. Whether embracing her son’s gender fluidity or telling Tina her mustache hair is beautiful, Linda is a nerdy, sex-positive whirlwind.
She supports her husband through each of his schemes to keep the restaurant afloat, and comes up with a few of her ingenious own. She fully endorses her kids’ crazy ideas, encouraging Tina’s writing, assisting with Louise’s low level mischief and even crafting a few costumes for the theatrical Gene. (Beefsquatch didn’t just appear out of nowhere, you know.)
Her children are the light of her life, but they don’t define it. Mommy doesn’t get drunk, she just has fun—as in sneaking Schnapps into the school dance she’s chaperoning, or hosting a “lady toy” party for her friends. The woman knows how to live. Comfortable in her sexuality, supportive of her loved ones and honest about her own needs, Linda is the role model that Tina and Louise thrive off of.
It’s obvious why Tina is so celebrated. We know that she’s a “smart, strong, sensual woman,” but she’s not the only Belcher woman who fits that description. When we continue to speak about the excellent Bob’s Burgers, we need to remember that sometimes the most important champions of gender equality are the one’s standing just off camera.