Friday, February 19, 2016

Once Again, the Forensic Sciences Ruin Musical Theater

For reasons that aren't completely explained, I completely missed the show Bob's Burgers for the first five years of its run.*

It's still running now, for the record**

**Unless you're reading this in the far future and this is all just an historic record of some kind***

***Btw - just out of curiosity - Jetpacks? Did that ever happen? 

If you, like me, were living in a yurt and are unfamiliar with Bob and his burgers, here's the basic upshot- Bob's Burgers is a cartoon aimed for adults* that airs on the Fox network. It follows Bob Belcher and his family, who own and operate a hamburger restaurant and get into what can loosely be described as 'wacky hi-jinx'.

*In the sense that it features simultaneously more intelligent and occasionally cruder humor, not in the sense that there are boobs everywhere. Although it does score major points by showing Bob's older daughter, Tina - a girl just beginning puberty - taking her fear of zombies and overcoming it by making a conscious decision to objectify them sexually, which is - if nothing else - not the sort of thing you're going to see on just any show. So... you know... Suck it, Walking Dead.**

**Not literally.

One particular wacky hi-jinc (Is that the singular for hi-jinx, or is hi-jinx both singular and plural?  You know... like Sheep or Moose.) involved a school project about Thomas Edison and an elephant named Topsy

Now, it should be acknowledged that this episode, upon further research, contained more than a bit of slander (or possibly libel.  The courts are split in an interesting way as to whether broadcast television counts as written word or spoken.) Specifically, a big chunk of the plot is based on an apparently long standing belief that Thomas Edison was involved in the electrocution of an elephant named Topsy as part of his campaign to prove that the new Alternating Current was more dangerous than his own Direct Current*

*It turns out that this isn't actually true.  Yes, there was an elephant named Topsy that was electrocuted for being 'Bad', whatever that means to an elephant at the turn of the twentieth century, but Edison himself had nothing to do with it.  The confusion probably stems from the fact that the electrocution was recorded on a camera that Edison had patented. Seriously, the footage is still out there and VERY findable on the web, but you're probably happier not having seen it.

So in the plot of the show, Louise, the younger daughter and amusingly borderline psychotic*, is assigned to do a project about Thomas Edison.  Because the teach in question super LOVES Thomas Edison, she of course frames the whole thing as both a hit piece and (less expectedly) a musical.

*From the wrong side of the border...

Except of course that things get a bit carried away and instead of a musical about Edison electrocuting an elephant we end up with a musical about Edison and an elephant falling in love with one another.  To quote the show itself on this subject - 'If it's not man on elephant love, it ain't worth singing about.'

And so, in a very catchy and singable riff, we begin with a thoughtful Topsy the elephant musing about her own mortality with the line, 'They'll say Awww, Topsy... at my Autopsy...'

Which is very touching and whistful... until you remember that it's only called an autopsy when performed on human beings.  On an animal it's called a Necropsy.

It still rhymes, but it's not as fun and clever. Sure, there's some wiggle room to argue that the capacity for self awareness and love (not to mention being able to sing a soulful musical number) might justify bumping Topsy up to a human-like standard in order to justify using the term autopsy, but still...

Stupid science.

Here's the closing number.  Yes, that is Kevin Kline as the voice of Thomas Edison.

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