What is an Original Character?
“not the same as anything or anyone else and therefore special and interesting…”
— from The Cambridge English Dictionary
Most importantly, in screenplay terms, an original character is a character that shines through in spite of any other weaknesses within that screenplay.
For a Screenplay Reader or Development Executive, an original character is an element of a script that stands out. No matter how busy they are or no matter how much work other elements of the script need, the original characters steal the show.
Great characters are at the very heart of great screenwriting and original characters can help elevate great to superlative.
They might be plucked from real life or an amalgamation of real people. Or they may just simply be a genius stroke of creativity. Either way, these are original characters…
The sixteenth in our original characters series will look at Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.
*The following article contains spoilers for Bob’s Burgers*
Who is Tina Belcher?
Bob’s eldest daughter, Tina Belcher is a determined love-hungry teen who is known for having awkward social skills. When she’s not working as a part-time cook at the family burger joint, she and her siblings are constantly seeking adventures.
While parts of Tina’s personality are certainly one-of-a-kind, there are things about her that are incredibly relatable. In essence, she’s just a quirky young girl trying to survive the awkward transitional time between childhood and adolescence. She struggles at times to display her emotions properly and puts herself under copious amounts of (often self-induced) stress.
Overall, her personality is full of entertaining, contradicting factors. She has a confident attitude about her appearance and personality. Yet she can also be shy. She tends to moan or crawl under tables when she feels the weight of social pressure, for instance.
Despite her attempts to fit in with the popular kids at school, she still stands out from the crowd. Bob’s Burgers has lots of amusing characters with interesting traits. But Tina in particular has gained fans for being an awkward yet bold teenage girl, full of contradictions and relatability.
“I’m no hero. I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.”Tina Belcher
What Makes Tina Belcher Original?
Each one of Tina’s original characteristics makes her more lovable. Whether she is sharing her erotic fiction, confessing her feelings for a boy, or helping her siblings with an obscure task, she always stays true to who she is.
What truly sets Tina’s character apart from others is how unapologetic and honest she is. She is open about her likes, dislikes, and most importantly, her sexuality. She has clear and consistent interests throughout the series: horses, rainbows, cute boys, erotic fiction, and of course, butts.
Tina’s comedy and originality largely stem from the fact that she is unlike any other 13-year-old girl portrayed on TV. She encompasses the struggles other teens might be feeling. The difference is that she’s not afraid to actually express these thoughts and struggles.
She is an original character because she’s a celebration of all the things that make her weird and quirky. The show allows her to be everything she wants and to subvert stereotypes. Tina Belcher is the perfect modern icon in this regard; someone who is celebrated for the way she both embraces and struggles with her individuality.
Tina Belcher’s Love Life
It’s often Tina’s boy-craziness that gets her into awkward situations. Although she typically looks dreamily at other boys, her most consistent love interest is Jimmy Pesto Jr.
Jimmy Jr is the son of Jimmy Pesto, the pizzeria owner across the street from Bob’s Burgers. The two fathers are constantly hassling one another. So Tina and Jimmy are, in this regard, star-crossed lovers.
We are first introduced to Tina and Jimmy Jr’s intense relationship in the episode Sheesh! Cab, Bob? Here, Tina invites everyone in her class to her 13th birthday party.
- When Linda asks Tina what would make her birthday party extra special, Tina doesn’t hesitate to request Jimmy Jr’s presence.
- In fact, that’s practically all she wants. She states that she wants it to be a boy-girl party. Moreover, she’s expecting to have her first kiss with Jimmy Jr.
Jimmy Jr’s love for Tina, however, tends to fluctuate. He often seems most interested in her when there’s another guy in the picture.
In season three episode seventeen, for instance, Tina asks Jimmy to the dance. He replies with a “maybe”. But when he finds out that Tina got an offer to go to the dance with Josh, her long-lost milk fridge man, he immediately retracts his initial response and says he definitely wants to go with her. Tina is conflicted and doesn’t know who to choose.
“But, I’ve logged over 3,000 fantasy hours on my relationship with Jimmy Jr. You don’t just throw that away.”Tina Belcher
Overall, their relationship is a core part of Tina’s arc throughout the series. The series makes the characters’ love seem like destiny but also constantly undermines this idea. It’s a useful arc to return to, always giving Tina a goal but changing the parameters of that goal.
Will Jimmy Jr ever like Tina as much as she likes him? In a sense, it’s a dynamic that could run and run without conclusion. And this is often the key to a great series arc.
Tina’s Family Relationships
Bob is considered to be the more sensible parent. The family is constantly pulling Bob along and involving him in their crazy endeavours. Regardless of how many troubles they bring upon him though, he would do anything for their happiness.
A fan-favorite moment between him and Tina is when he tries to teach her how to drive.
- He takes her to an almost empty parking lot. Here, she rams the car into the only other car in the entire lot.
- Bob’s hope for a father-daughter moment divulges into a disastrous situation.
- He ends up teaching her how to lie instead of drive.
Bob has many other moments in which he sacrifices himself for Tina’s well-being. For example, he goes to great lengths to save her prized horse toy, works a second job to throw her a party, and fights for her to get her yellow belt in martial arts.
He will always support her interests no matter how strange they are. In a sense, Bob answers the why of Tina being a character that embraces her individuality. He supports her in who she is and strives to make her feel comfortable with this identity.
Linda is chaotic much like Tina and her other children. She’s always eager for new opportunities and a chance to have the spotlight. But similar to Bob, she would do anything for her kids. And she’s especially excited to hear of Tina’s latest relationship developments.
Linda loves the teachable moments of motherhood. She, for instance, comforts Tina after she has been bullied, and shows her how to shave her legs. Tina is consistently embarrassed by her parents, as most teens are, and she sometimes chooses boys or friends over them. Nonetheless, in the end, the moments of genuine love and connection win out.
Again, the support of Tina’s parents makes a valuable point about parental support in general. It doesn’t present the parents as flawless. Instead, it depicts the many challenges along the way. However, the series forces us to do the maths of supportive, loving parents plus an individual who is fiercely herself. With the parents’ continual support, Tina is able to thrive.
TV drama can often be dominated by the opposite of this dynamic, portraying parents whose attitudes towards their children have a detrimental effect (we’re looking at you Succession). So in this way, Bob’s Burgers provides a refreshing change.
Gene and Louise
The three siblings have many great times together, whilst also having moments of frustration or trouble. They get themselves into many situations that could easily end badly. But most of all, the three Belcher kids trust each other endlessly.
Gene and Louise support Tina’s love life. For instance, they help Jimmy Jr when he wants to ask Tina to a dance. They also give her their honest opinions and hold her to her word.
- For example, in season eleven, Tina gets caught up in a pretend relationship and forgets about a commitment she made to her siblings.
- Despite Tina’s distracting imaginary crush, Gene and Louise pull her away and remind her of that commitment. In the end, she stays true to her word.
Tina’s relationship with her siblings is another aspect of the series portraying a loving, family dynamic overall. The series’ strength is that it portrays relationships with complexity. The family’s relationship might not always be easy. In contrast, they often have to work hard at maintaining their relationships or reminding themselves of their importance.
But it’s in this nuance that the series achieves depth. And it finds endless storylines in the continual maintenance of this ultimately loving and dynamic family.
Rainbows and Erotic Fiction
We can’t celebrate Tina Belcher’s originality without acknowledging her hobbies. The most distinct of these is her love for writing erotic fiction.
She writes many pieces of fan fiction taken from some of her favorite movies or shows. This includes Erotic Harry Potter, Sexy Lord of the Rings, Erotic Garfield, Erotic Twilight and Sexy Simpsons.
When she has filled her quota of fan fiction, she moves on to other types of erotic fiction.
Tina first shares her erotic friend fiction at school in front of the whole lunchroom. She opens her journal and proceeds to read a story. The story might embarrass most. But Tina remains resolute.
Her teacher tries to stop her and her classmates give her confused looks. But Tina stands firm. It’s a moment of gratifying self-confidence. She’s determined that people liked the friend fiction, despite contrasting opinions.
Tina also enjoys writing erotic holiday fiction.
- In season seven, for example, she shares “The Quirky Turkey” with her family.
- The story is about a turkey who coincidentally wears glasses and knee-high socks just like Tina.
- Moreover, the turkey feels left out because she doesn’t look like all the other turkeys.
This demonstrates clearly how Tina’s fiction is a form of self-expression. And again, we’re seeing this self-expression manifest in a unique way. Tina reveals something about herself that she wouldn’t necessarily reveal through normal conversation. It’s a great example of how a character can reveal their internal conflict through actions and not just through dialogue.
For the Love of Horses
While Tina loves sharing her astute writing skills, she is also still in touch with her inner child. She loves rainbows, and of course horses. At one point, she even begs her parents to let her go to a horse camp. Here, she has multiple conversations with an imaginary horse, Jericho.
- In season four, she is tricked into trading her collectible chariot toy with a newer one.
- Tina then devises a plan for Bob to steal back her cherished doll.
- When the horse is back in her possession, Tina decides she has outgrown it.
However, she never truly outgrows horses. She merely wanted to act grown-up at that moment. Tina has a few moments like this throughout the series where she longs to be a grown-up. She wants to sit at the grown-up table, experiment with makeup, and has moments when she tries to step up as the oldest sibling.
Despite all of this though, she’s undoubtedly in touch with her inner child. It’s a feeling many teenagers can relate to. So it again demonstrates how Tina is a rewarding representation of the awkward adolescent experience.
Tina Belcher – Personality Through Musicality
One of the most comic and influential elements in this show is the music that is intertwined throughout. Tina, and the other characters, are constantly relaying their thoughts and struggles through song. And these songs add an even more interesting layer to Tina’s personality.
Some songs allow us to see a softer side of Tina’s personality.
- For example, in season eleven, all three of the kids take responsibility for their reckless actions.
- The restaurant gets burned down, and together they sing a song about how it’s all their fault.
- Tina’s portion of this song is funny and sweet at the same time. It shows that she can admit when she has done something wrong. In addition, it shows that she and her siblings can overcome things together.
Ultimately, the music is an important part of what makes the show unique and memorable. Music represents aspects of the characters’ personalities that normal drama can’t necessarily do as acutely. We understand something deeper about the characters by the way they express themselves through song.
And this demonstrates how important it can be to flesh out your characters in a variety of ways. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to work musical interludes into your script. But thinking about how music serves Tina Belcher and the Bob’s Burgers characters can encourage you to think of how distinct forms of expression can be best utilized for your screenplay.
Your characters should be a deep well of thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. And often it’s not in their actual life that they express these elements, but in artistic, spiritual or unconscious ways.
The Lasting Impact of Tina Belcher
As the eldest child, Tina may seem to be the most sensible at first. But she’s painfully yet hilariously honest about herself and her interests. She’s confident yet insecure, and will most certainly break out into a sweat when a cute boy walks by her. She’s at the age where she’s still growing, and she’s outwardly confused about any new physical developments.
Defying Social Norms
Tina knows her self-worth and she’s not afraid to say it. Despite having many crushes, she’s still an independent woman that doesn’t need validation from any boy.
In this way, Tina’s character opposes social norms. She’s a headstrong, quirky, confident hero, albeit with a large dose of insecurity and anxiety. Tina shows us how to be ourselves. But she also demonstrates that this isn’t always easy. In this, she’s a three-dimensional character, in spite of her animated form.
“Oh, it’s okay. I guess I wasn’t meant to have a good life.”Tina Belcher
This is really the key to any long-standing and original character. Tina feels well-defined by her likes, hobbies and personality. But we also continually get new glimpses into the reality of her psyche. There’s depth here; always new directions and ways for Tina to reveal herself.
Furthermore, Tina achieves that magical concoction of uniqueness and relatability. She’s probably not like any character we’re likely to know. However, at the same time, she feels like a typical and relatable teenager. Tina allows people to see themselves in her, whilst also providing them with a character unlike any other.
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This article was written by Corey Campbell and edited by IS staff.
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