THIS POST IS A REUPLOAD DUE TO A TECHNOLOGICAL ERROR ON THE ORIGINAL.
So I know I haven’t posted in a while. Been going through something of a writer’s block lately in terms of this blog. Posts I thought I’d do ended up being cancelled, and I didn’t really have anything else in particular to talk about.
But that ends now.
As regular readers of this blog know, occasionally I will break form and talk about the story structure of television shows. I’ve talked a bit about my two main favorite shows here: Sherlock and Gravity Falls, and have greatly enjoyed doing so.
Fair warning that there will be spoilers concerning Gravity Falls from here on out. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the show in its entirety.
Now, with Sherlock, I’ve been fairly vocal about my love for it on Facebook. With a show like Gravity Falls, however, I have been fairly quiet on certain platforms while fairly vocal on others. My followers on Twitter know I love the show, but my Facebook friends rarely see me talk about it, and that’s because it is classified as a children’s show… and I’m about to turn twenty-one.
See what I’m getting at?
Besides here, I haven’t felt comfortable talking about it extensively online, except in certain situations.
Which brings me to this post. Recently, this Emmy-award-winning television show (yes, it is a two-time Emmy award winner) created by Alex Hirsch was released in its entirety on DVD and blu-ray. I bought a copy of the DVD as soon as I could.
But, some of you may be wondering, yes I love the show, but why do I love it? Why did I fall in love with it? Why do I talk about it at all on this blog if it’s a show that is not specifically aimed at someone my age?
The answer to that is simple on the surface, but rather complex underneath. I think my main reason can be summed up in this one sentence:
It understands nerds and encourages them to be who they are without shaming them for it.
See, I’m tired of being silent about the way I am. I love reading books, I enjoy a good story, I’m no longer afraid to admit that I am passionate about certain things that others may think are stupid or childish. Being a nerd is about being who you are without fear of what others may think of you.
This show first aired at a time in my life when I was struggling with some mental health issues and feeling uncertain and anxious about my own future. I remember passing it off, from the promos I saw, as “another stupid kids’ cartoon.” It was only when my sister asked me to watch the first three episodes with her that I saw something in the story that absolutely hooked me. Because I was afraid of being made fun of for watching the show, I would often read the plot summaries of recently-aired episodes on the internet. I started watching reaction videos and found myself even more invested in the story the longer it went on and the more I learned about it. I loved the story Gravity Falls told. For once, it wasn’t just an episodic show that only worked in a sort of fragmented manner. It had an overarching plot line that intrigued me from the very first episode to the very end. I often found myself wondering about both the mysterious background character from the first three episodes (who was eventually revealed to be Blendin Blandin, a time traveler) and who wrote the cryptic Journal 3that the main character, Dipper Pines, found in the woods in the first episode. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I was slowly falling in love with the show.
Starting with the main protagonist, Dipper’s curiosity about the supernatural ended up being infectious and I often found myself wanting to know what he wanted to know. His personality was just a welcome break from the usual nerd stereotypes that I was afraid I would be seeing. Dipper, even though he had a clear nerdy side to him, was consistently shown in a manner in which he could grow and change as a person. I liked how he often struggled with the desire to grow up so quickly, but still didn’t know how to cope with normal prepubescent feelings. His crush on his teenaged friend, Wendy Corduroy, helped cement that he was still a kid who needed to give himself a chance to gradually grow up.
What I think made Dipper feel so relatable to me (even though I’d probably be a little older than him if he were real) is that he always wanted to be the smart guy and the adult voice in the supernatural situations he and his friends would get involved in. I like how this presents real problems for him that he has to face in order to grow. I remember often feeling like that when I was in middle and high school, that desire to show that you’re a mature person despite your young age. I liked how, instead of this being portrayed as an arrogant attitude of Dipper’s, it’s actually his own insecurities about himself and who he is shining through. I often, as a kid, tried to put up a more mature front as a way of coping with the fact that my social skills in relation to my age group were lacking. As a way of managing this, I often felt more at ease talking to adults on conversational levels than I did kids my own age. This ended up being a problem for me in the long run, just as trying to shoulder the stress of the adult world often tried Dipper’s character. But seeing him deal with the supernatural situations spoke to me on such a personal level that it was hard not to empathize with him.
Voiced by Jason Ritter
Now, I liked his twin sister Mabel just as much, but for a different reason. I’ve often been told that I have a somewhat innocent personality despite my age. Mabel connected with me mainly on that front. She always tried to see only the best in people if she could. Even with her eventual frenemy, Pacifica Northwest, she first met her and was completely friendly despite Pacifica’s snobby and hostile attitude. That innocence just reminded me so much of myself (although I can tell when someone is being mean or ignoring me) because Mabel’s attitude through it all, on the front, showed her trying to smile in spite of the hurt. I often try to emulate that attitude, where you can smile in spite of tears. Seeing Mabel grow emotionally and learn to accept who she is no matter what others think of her resonated with me in a way that Dipper’s character couldn’t, and I appreciate the way she was written because of that.
Voiced by Kristen Schaal
I also want to talk a bit about the kids’ guardian, their great-uncle Stan. While I can’t really connect with him on a personal level, I still think he is one of the best adult characters I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. I don’t say this lightly. He is simply one of the most intriguing, badass characters I’ve ever come across. At first glance, he acts kind of like the stereotypical aloof adult figure but, as early as the end of the show’s very first episode hints, there’s more to him than meets the eye. From there on out, it’s a lot of fun to see him just be himself (despite the trouble he often got into for doing so). I love that he’s a conman and is often seen trying to swindle the people in town because, most of the time, it makes for comedic gold. I’ve heard people call him a darker version of Mr. Krabs and I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. When the second season of the show came around was also the exact moment when Stan established himself as one of my favorite Gravity Falls characters, showing that he will do anything to protect Dipper and Mabel in the most heartwarming and, admittedly, badass manner possible. I love how he tells the kids in the season two premiere that the “clueless old man” front was all an act, and that he does indeed believe in the supernatural. It’s awesome to see him take that aloof adult stereotype and decimate it all over the course of just two episodes, first revealing that he knows more to the audience with the introduction of the lab underneath the Mystery Shack and then the kids after his battle with the zombies.
Voiced by Alex Hirsch
Speaking of aloof adults, I should probably talk about the townsfolk on the show for a minute, because there’s something about them that I really think is worth mentioning. As with Stan in the first season, most of the adults in Gravity Fallsare portrayed in that blissfully ignorant manner. It annoyed me at first, because it felt a bit stereotypical, but where this show actually succeeded with this characteristic is showing why the entire town is like that, and the answer actually paints all the people of Gravity Fallsin a tragic light, where I legitimately felt sorry for them, instead of being annoyed at their ignorance. I love how this show took what I would usually consider a crutch to good storytelling, and flipped it around by making the viewer feel bad for them while hoping they could move on and get better.
I have to mention one more member of the Pines family before I move on. As viewers who have seen the entire show know, Stan has a secret twin brother named Stanford (or Ford for short) who is the author of the journal Dipper found. I want to mention him because I feel like he’s a character I can mostly relate to given where I currently am at in my life. I am rather introverted as a person and, while it hasn’t helped drive a wedge between me and my family like it did for both Stan and Ford, it can be difficult for me to cope with certain social situations from time to time. I often find myself being driven back to my comfort zone, like Ford was, when I find myself in social interactions that don’t feel natural to me. Like Ford, I really do long for certain social interactions. I wish it were easier to make more friends at school; I hate that I’m always so busy that I find it hard to squeeze in social things; and I have found one very close best friend and confidante in my relationship with my boyfriend, much like Ford found that one friend in his college roommate Fiddleford McGucket. That said, seeing a character like Ford learning to slowly open up to others on the show gives me hope that I will eventually learn to feel more comfortable in social scenarios, rather than immediately running back to my original comfort zone.
That’s also not to mention that Ford is extremely well-executed as a character. He comes off as something of a jerk when first seen, but gradually grows to open up more through his (admittedly, very sweet and heartwarming) friendship with Dipper. It was just so nice to see him actually develop and learn to love. I know that sounds like a cliché, but that growth in his character really helped me to appreciate who he was, given that he seemed so arrogant and isolated when first introduced. That said, the show unfortunately did not have enough time to completely flesh out his character, so when the real-life version of Journal 3 came out, creator Alex Hirsch took advantage of that opportunity to flesh him out more, because it was such a simple-yet-natural way to tell his full story. And I grew to appreciate him even more through both the story in the Journal and the story on the show, seeing how they both tied together and created this incredible plot line.
Voiced by J.K. Simmons
I feel like I should also mention the show’s main antagonists before moving on. The first one is Gideon Gleeful, who is kind of Stan’s business rival, because he owns his own tourist trap in competition with Stan. He’s mostly a comedic villain, being a child, but the jokes that surround his character are really sharp, mostly because he tries to act like an adult despite his age. I also really liked seeing how he’s pretty much a foil for Dipper, basically what Dipper would be like if he consistently used magic for the wrong reasons. That said, he can’t carry the entire show as the sole antagonist, so this next antagonist makes Gideon look like a playground bully!
Voiced by Thurop Van Orman
This next antagonist, Bill Cipher, is what I consider to be one of Disney’s darkest villains ever. Introduced at the end of the first season, he always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else. I liked how, after first seeing him, I thought, “Oh, he’s not that scary,” but come the finale of the show and I was genuinely spooked at times. This is because he went much farther than I thought Disney would permit, and as a result the stakes raised significantly during the final arc. What is so interesting about this type of character is that we’re never quite sure what he’s going to do. It could be masochistic or sadistic but what made him legitimately creepy was that you never knew what he was going to do next. A villain with that type of control is absolutely terrifying, and it made the show all the better for it.
Voiced by Alex Hirsch
And the plot line. I should talk about this a bit (this is The Writer’s Library, after all…. *crickets chirping.* Ah, bad joke. Moving on!) because it is a good portion of what I’m talking about when I say that this show gets me. I love to be captivated and taken away by a good story, in any form. This show, in delivering a consistent story with these likable characters, made it easy for me to quickly find myself enjoying it while laughing at the jokes or deciphering the codes. As I said, I felt captivated from the very first episode. I had to give it a shot, because I had questions and I wanted answers. A good mystery makes you want the answers, and in the early days of my liking the show (before I really started to appreciate the characters) that’s what I was in it for. The story itself spoke to me right away, and that’s something that I’ll always appreciate about it.
Now that I think about it, there is one thing that’s not related to story, characters, or code-cracking that I do want to give mention to, and that’s the music used in this show. As the daughter of a musician, I feel I both really should, and need to, for the purpose of this post. The score for the show was done by Brad Breeck, and he did an absolutely phenomenal job. I have a lot of his scores from the show on my “likes” list on soundcloud and I find that, even just listening to the tracks on their own, while not watching the show, brings me right back to the exact moment the song was played in. I think the entire Gravity Falls score really raises the bar for music used in television shows, animated or not. Honestly, a good portion of the scores sound more like movie soundtracks. The scores sounding like that really drives up what’s actually happening in the scene matching the music, making the scenario feel more epic, tragic, or happy, depending on the song and scene being presented.
Overall, I’m really glad I gave this show a chance. It opened up this whole amazing new world to me that I love visiting when I need to cheer up or just want to enjoy a quality show.
All that said, I leave you with a…