Slate and I Must Be Neighbors in the Idea Space


“… [A] space in which mental events can be said to occur, an idea space which is perhaps universal. Our individual consciousnesses have access to this vast universal space, just as we have individual houses, but the street outside the front door belongs to everybody. It’s almost as if ideas are pre-existing forms within this space… The landmasses that might exist in this mind space would be composed entirely of ideas, of concepts, that instead of continents and islands you might have large belief systems, philosophies, Marxism might be one, Judeo-Christian religions might make up another.” – Comic book writer Alan Moore on the “Idea Space” from the documentary, The Mindscape of Alan Moore [courtesy of Wikipedia].

Moore’s words are weighing on my mind today as I read Slate’s post about Bob’s Burgers by writer Jon Christian.  Christian takes the same premise, analyzes the same scene, quotes the same lines, and comes to (mostly) the same conclusions I did when writing for the TV Addict last week about Tina Belcher, the show’s eldest daughter.

From Christian’s opening, published yesterday, April 17.

There’s a wonderful scene in Season 3 of Bob’s Burgers, in which the eponymous restaurateur lets his 13-year-old daughter Tina drive the family’s car in a nearly-empty lot. “Let’s make this kitty purr,” Tina monotones, glancing nervously at her dad from the driver’s seat. She pulls out of the parking space at a snail’s pace, and starts to groan with anxiety. Bob talks over the groan, calmly reassuring Tina, his voice rising as she sets them on a glacial collision course with the only other car.

“OK, Tina, you’re kinda headed toward the only other car in the lot,” he says. “You have plenty of time to turn, Tina, so just go ahead, turn one way or the other.” Tina’s groan intensifies. “You’re just swerving back and forth,” Bob says, now alarmed. “Turn one way and stick with it, Tina. Tina for the love of God, turn away or stop! The brakes, Tina, the brakes!”

Needless to say, Tina totals the car.

And now, from mine, published on April 8.

Take, for instance, her driving lesson at the start of the season’s seventh episode, “Tina-rannasaurus Wrecks.” Tina’s father, Bob, gets the bright idea to let her drive his car in a mostly empty parking lot as a treat for helping him run errands. Tina’s unsure and antsy, but she hops in the driver’s seat and says with faux confidence (re: terrified trepidation), “Let’s make this kitty purr.”

What follows is perhaps the greatest slow-burn visual gag in years. Despite Bob’s initially reassuring tone, Tina starts groaning in the way only she can as voiced by Mintz (“Uuuuuuunnnnnnngggggh.”). She knows exactly what needs to be done, but it’s scary. She’s paralyzed. She’s also not moving beyond idle speed, which builds the comedic value exponentially the closer she gets to the only other parked car in the lot. Increasingly frustrated and later panicked, Bob tells her all she needs to do is turn the wheel slightly in either direction, and later to brake, but this goes about as well as you would expect.

The similarities follow with connections made to Tina’s groan being the perfect sonic example of the go-nowhere sense shared by many millennials in my situation.  They differ as Christian goes into a short discussion of Tina’s place in the zeitgeist as a feminist hero.

I joked with a few people this morning about how Slate “basically plagiarized me,” but that is likely a fiction.  My best days on this site get maybe 50 views, most of them from friends, family, and whoever actually reads the stuff on Blog Surfer before the time limit runs out.  I don’t have the readership numbers for my post on the TV Addict, but I can’t imagine some nobody like me would have garnered much attention on my first post there — speaking of which, I pitched some more ideas to them, so I’ll be writing there again, perhaps as soon as later today.

Which is an extended way of saying, I’m not interesting or established enough to plagiarize.  Yet.  I do recognize that Christian’s piece is surprisingly similar to mine, and maybe even suspiciously so, but I’m struck by how much better a writer Christian is than me.  He supports the ideas better than I did, which goes to show that I have a long way to go before I can get paid to do this; if anything, he refined my thoughts.  Besides, like the Moore quote above says, ideas tend to grow from multiple sources.  There’s no such thing as an original thought.  It’s all a matter of organization of those ideas to form something worthwhile.  Christian and I were struck by the same moment, and latched onto the same themes, likely because that was the intent of episode writer Jon Schroeder.  The idea came down our block of the Idea Space, and I said hello to it a week before Christian did.

Or, who knows, maybe he plagiarized me.

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