Reading Too Much Into Phineas & Ferb
Back when I was but a pain-in-the-butt youth, I took a film studies class that loved to overanalyze old movies. We once spent over 12 hours going shot by shot through the entirety of Citizen Kane. While I can never watch Citizen Kane ever again, I did pick up the skills to sit there and wax philosophic and pick apart every little thing to come up with new, elaborate and generally stupid theories. This came in quite handy when I took a Shakespeare class a few years later. Because of this rigid training in over analyzing and dissecting (or what we like to call in the trade, ‘Bull#$%&ing’. Hey, at least I’m honest.) I have the fun but bad habit of doing it to things that I have no intention of analyzing. Case in point, shows like Phineas & Ferb.
If you’re not familiar with Phineas & Ferb – first of all, shame on you – it’s a relatively easy show to understand. A pair of brothers who with the power of positive thinking and improbable plot are able to create incredible inventions as their teenage sister tries to bust them to their mom who never believes her. Meanwhile there’s always a B-Plot about the titular characters’ pet platypus who is a secret agent and foils an evil scientist named Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (Doof-in-schmirtz… No I can’t think of a simpler way to pronounce ‘schmirtz’.) It’s a simple premise with tons of genre savvy jokes, and is one of those great shows that will make their own cliches just to parody them. If you haven’t checked out Phineas & Ferb before, I highly recommend it.
However, after watching a marathon session of the show off of Netflix, I started to notice some strange connections between the A-plot and B-plot. Candice, the older sister, has been driven to the point of sheer insanity out of frustration because no one ever believes that her brothers have created these elaborate and amazing things. In fact a good amount of her “summer” (The show theoretically takes place over a single summer, however how that has occurred in conjunction with both Halloween and Christmas specials is beyond me) has been ruined due to her persistence in busting her popular and successful brothers. Dr. Doofenshmirtz on the other hand spends a good deal of time and his ex-wife’s alimony money creating elaborate devices to take revenge on his brother Roger who is the wealthy, well liked, and successful mayor of the city.
It’s almost like Candice is the Proto-Doofenshmirtz and Phineas & Ferb are the Proto-Mayor Rogers. The boys are universally successful, well liked by their peers and parents, and are everything always seems to work out for them. The same who could be said for Mayor Roger Doofenshmirtz, who earned his mother’s love with his mastery of kickball and is adored by the people of Danville regardless of his brother’s attempt to ruin him. Candice & Dr. D both face troubled youths, strained relations with siblings and parents, and an overwhelming sense of frustration due to constant failure. It’s actually pretty easy to see Candice growing up into another Dr. Doofenshmirtz if it wasn’t for those couple of time traveling episodes.
So, since realism goes out the window in the first episode when a couple of grade schoolers build a roller-coaster across the city, we have those time travel episodes that more or less confirm that Candice does not become the dark apprentice of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. But why? They have so much in common. Well, I can only imagine it’s because Candice has two thing that Heinz never had: a significant other and a best friend. Well, I suppose Dr. D did have a best friend – but it was a balloon. I can speak from personal experience that slumber parties are not fun when your only guest is a balloon. Took me a week to discharge all that static…
Candice has a boyfriend who for unknown reasons seems downright attracted to her insanity and a best friend who helps out with whatever scheme she comes up with. Heinz Doofenshmirtz has an ex-wife who he seems to passive aggressively despise and a daughter that he struggles to gain the respect of. Tragically, the closest person to Dr. D seems to be his nemesis, a secret agent platypus who can’t talk. On top of that, despite the fact that Candice’s parents think she’s down right insane, they do in fact love her. Where as Heinz’s parents either lathered his brother Roger or their dog ‘Only Son’ with all their affection while Heinz was forced to stand out in the garden impersonating a lawn gnome for much of his formative years.
So in the end love conquers evil that isn’t really that evil. Huzzah!