Double Feature: Ratatouille & Bob’s Burgers
The Gordon Ramsay Double Feature (AKA Patton Oswalt has Discerning Taste)
September 16, 2016 at 1:22 pm
So, this week’s installment of “Jenny Y’know I Don’t See How That’s Going to Work But I Trust You” is going to take a little more trust than usual. We — you and I, together — are going to be branching out into the wide, wide, world of cinematic alternatives. After all, we’re living in the Golden Age of Television™ and I could only forestall this inevitability for so long. But do not fear! The reflective purpose of the double feature remains intact! But, this one only takes two hours instead of, like, four.
This may be an unpopular opinion to hold, but hold it I do: Ratatouille (2007) is the best Pixar movie. There. I’ve said it. And it’s TRUE.
Ratatouille is about a rat (Remy), voiced by Patton Oswalt, who just really loves to cook! In his home in the French countryside, Remy spent a lot of time watching the male version of Julia Child believe in people on television, and this caused him to believe! in! himself!
It’s very sweet. Anyway, Remy finds himself in Paris, where he befriends/puppeteers some dude who works in a critically-acclaimed, and then -disparaged, and then -acclaimed again restaurant (the critic in question being a cross between Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay, as voiced by Peter O’Toole). BUT, do you know who else works in that restaurant??
Colette Tatou — Light of My Life
Now, in the tradition of my Double Features (which are often enough named for a dude, but actually about ladies), let me tell you how great she is: SO GREAT. Colette Tatou is the only woman in this whole kitchen and she. is. ruthless. I love it. She works harder than anyone else; she rides a motorcycle; she has NO TIME for anyone’s shit. She is a woman making it in a man’s world and she deserves only good things.
Colette is lovely and perfect, and this story serves her as well as can be expected (which is to say: not well enough).
Colette falls in love with Remy’s Puppet — a small but kind simpleton who worships and fears her (so, y’know: could be worse). BUT, she falls in love with him, in large part because she respects Remy’s cooking abilities and she is flattered that someone so skillful would defer to her in anything. I mean, we’re really moving into some pretty (y)iffy Bee Movie territory at this point. And at the end (spoilers), the three of them — Colette, Remy, and Remy’s Puppet — open a restaurant together, where Remy is the head chef.
As always with Pixar — look at that detail
I mean, aside from all the interspecies poly weirdness, Colette didn’t work so hard for so long to settle for being anyone’s sous chef (even the sous chef of a delightfully earnest and very talented rat). She didn’t suffer a working life under the likes of Bradley Cooper in Burnt to be anything other than HBIC.
Colette Tatou sacrifices her ultimate, defining dream of running her own kitchen — she settles for less than she deserves — all because, as the only woman in the movie, her real job is to be the love interest.
And it’s so frustrating because when she is first introduced, she’s all: “Haute cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules written by stupid old men — rules designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world,” and “I am the toughest cook in this kitchen. I’ve worked too hard for too long to get here and I am not going to jeopardize it for some garbage boy who got lucky.” She is a Strong Woman™ — my Misandry Life hero.
So, again, this narrative does not serve her very well at all — it’s not designed to serve her; it’s designed to use her. Over the course of the movie, she is written into choosing love over the career she’s always wanted. She is written into not just accepting, but being happy with her position as second in command.
She is written into the passive, supporting role that women are so often forced to take because — ? they’re not relatable enough to be main characters (I mean the main character is literally, again, a delightfully earnest and very talented talking rat)?? the general public doesn’t care about their stories?? I honestly don’t know how people are still trying to justify it at this point.
What I do know is that as soon as she sympathizes (that old, womanly emotion — sympathy) with our hero and his puppet, she just stops having goals of her own and focuses all her energy on them and their goals. And I hate it. Because she deserves so much more.
Look at her, though. She is a precious gift.
Now, I do realize that I’ve just spent a good chunk of this article complaining about how poorly Colette Tatou is treated by this movie, but, even taking all of that into account, I continue to maintain that Ratatouille is The Best Pixar Movie. And it’s all because of the line: “Haute cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules written by stupid old men.”
It just does not get better than that.
Bob’s Burgers, “Moody Foodie”
Anyway, we’ve come now to the “Moody Foodie” episode of Bob’s Burgers.
For those of you unfamiliar with this show, Bob owns a burger restaurant, which he runs with the help of his wife, Linda, and their three kids, Tina, Gene, and Louise. It’s a great show. It’s a great show because these characters make up a family that actually cares about each other (unlike, say, anything Seth MacFarlane has ever touched).
So, in the episode “Moody Foodie” (2012), Patton Oswalt voices a food critic who has a blog and sometimes writes for the local paper (living the dream, Patton). But when you compare this role to his character in Ratatouille, OH how the turn tables. Whose opinion is closing restaurants now, Peter O’Toole??
Anyway, Bob wants a good review at all costs, and comedy ensues.
Mostly I just want to talk about what a good show Bob’s Burgers is. Like, these siblings were built on the same archetypes as Family Guy (dowdy nerd oldest girl, chubby weirdo middle boy, violent baby/youngest bent on world domination), but the characters in Bob’s Burgers move beyond archetypes — they’re well-rounded individuals with distinct personalities and interests! AND, the parents are always loving and supportive of those interests!
Bob’s Burgers really does a lot of work towards making weirdos feel good about themselves — like, for all of us who suffered through the Family Guy/American Dad/Seth MacFarlane hellscape of media-reinforced insecurity that was primetime cartoons in the 00’s, Bob’s Burgers is our reward.
For example, in a situation where Peter from Family Guy would make a joke at his daughter’s expense (perhaps the weird horse-girl tendencies shared by both Meg and Tina), Bob or Linda tell Tina that she’s smart and they love her and she should believe in herself.
Like, there’s an episode where we find out that Tina writes “Erotic Friend Fiction” — which is just the journalling of those stories we all [used to] tell ourselves (you remember: trying to fall asleep by coming up with absurd situations that would ~naturally~ lead to your crush finally noticing you). The mean girl at school finds Tina’s journal and, unsurprisingly, blackmails her. THEN — and this is the incredible part — Tina goes to her mother for advice (what a healthy relationship! who does that??); AND the advice Tina receives from her mother is full of love and support! Incredible!
Which is not to say that there are no jokes (of course there are jokes — it’s a comedy); it’s just that the jokes aren’t mean; the jokes are just funny.
And goddamn if that isn’t refreshing.
So, yes — I have just used Patton Oswalt and also food critics to very thinly connect two delightful and inspiring pieces of media, and I barely mentioned Gordon Ramsay at all, BUT: worth. Ratatouille and Bob’s Burgers are both great and I like them.
They both really just come down to that line towards the end of Ratatouille, when Peter O’Toole says, “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere;” y’know? Like, even this very average family is capable of inspiring a great depth of feeling (as art does). And maybe it’s that modesty and mundanity — the relatability of these stories — that make them inspiring.
At any rate, the commiseration I feel with Colette or with Tina is validating and real in just the way I look for in a quiet Friday night double feature.
Besides, it’s not like these narratives are asking all that much of you — all they really want is for you to believe in yourself and support each other (and also maybe invest in more than three spices).