Holy shit. Such a great show. I love that there seems to be this big move in animation away from ~zany~ ~random~ ~humor~ and back to stuff with strong narrative and emotional arcs. And that those arcs focus not just on the child protagonist characters, but deal with a bunch of pretty heavy-duty–and heavy-duty realistic–stuff with the adult characters, too.
(Cutty cut for spoilers and such.)
Like, I keep thinking about Stan’s character arc through the show; how in the early episodes he’s kind of this misanthropic gross old guy, who could very easily have turned into one of the show’s antagonists because parental figures often are. The show even plays around with the viewer’s expectations that this will be the case. And yet, even from very early on, there are signs he does legitimately want to bond with his niece and nephew; he’s just not quite sure how to do it (which is, yanno, not unrealistic for an elderly bachelor).
Then by the time we get to his reveal in season 2, that entire episode hinges on the fact that he has integrated into Dipper and Mabel’s life, and that the three have a strong (if a little, er, unconventional, because Stan is still Stan) family bond.
And then, of course, we get the whole backstory dump, and everything about Stan–his awkward yearning around the kids, his lust for money, everything about the shack–all makes this tragic sort of sense. And, like, strip back all the interdimensional portals and whatnot, and what’s left is something that actually has a pretty poignant and adult emotional texture to it. Because Stan isn’t smart or nice and he’s not “good” in a conventional sense… but he is loyal in his own way, and he does care very deeply about (his) family. He’s essentially a villain protagonist, which is… pretty unusual in a show aimed at pre-teens.
But not, it must be said, unusual in people’s lives; there’d be a lot of people who watch Gravity Falls who have similarly imperfect yet loving relatives. And one of the things I think is interesting in shows like this and Steven Universe, is that they do show these quite complex adult-level relationships in ways that are accessible to their younger viewers. Your dad and your aunts fight over your mother’s death, but they try to get along for your sake, because they believe your love for them is more important than their antagonism with each other. Your great uncle is a convicted felon who routinely breaks the law, and yet would do anything to keep you and your brother safe. These are pretty serious narratives about love and family, hidden away behind trappings of magic and aliens.
It’s probably no secret that outlandish speculative fiction used to tell very small-scale interpersonal stories is my favourite sort of speculative fiction. So I am all over this being So Hot Right Now in kid’s cartoons. All over it.
(It’s also probably not coincidental that I’d be in the same age demographic as the creators of this stuff. But anyway.)
So yeah. Gravity Falls. If you’re not watching it, y’all should.
And while I’m on the subject, some predictions for the rest of the season, basically so I can come back and laugh at how wrong I am (I’m always wrong at this stuff).
So: I don’t think Bill is the season’s Big Bad. It’s too obvious. I think we’re supposed to think he is, and I think something like Bill is the foreshadowed Doom That Came To Gravity Falls, but I don’t think it’s actually Bill.
I think Bill has a relationship to the Big Bad, though, and I think it’s a “child”/minion/subordinate/herald role. I think Bill is obligated to serve the Big Bad in some way, but is afraid of it, and the “plans” he talks about have to do with his survival from whatever horrible fate the Big Bad has in store for him. I think Ford knows this.
I think the Big Bad is a triangle eye demon, like Bill is, but I think it’s the inverted triangle. Most of the background eye-triangles in the show are Bill-ish, e.g. the window in the twins’ room, but others, like the portal, are the other way up, and some are ambiguous, like (IIRC) the rug on the floor in the shack.
I think the Big Bad’s pupils go sideways, like the goat. I think the Big Bad might be the goat (or be possessing it in some fashion). I think its name is Lou Zebub. I’m less convinced of the latter than I am of anything else. It’s mostly just a pun and I like those.
I think, ultimately, Bill will end up working with Dipper to defeat/put down/seal the Big Bad in some fashion. Maybe. Temporarily. Maybe this is just wishful thinking because I totally ship them. I blame Tumblr. Don’t judge.
Mostly I think I’m totally off base. But it sure will be fun finding out exactly how…