Gravity Falls: “Boyz Crazy”
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Gravity Falls: “Boyz Crazy”

While it’s well-established that Dipper and Mabel are 12 years old, it’s easy to forget that means the twins were born in 2000 or so. Child characters on TV often come across as older than they are supposed to be, and that’s especially true in cartoons, where the writers, animators, and voice artists are usually at least twice as old as the characters they create. That typically means that children in animated shows are mature beyond their years—even at its creative apex, The Simpsons never really pretended Lisa was a realistic portrayal of an 8-year-old girl—and that they take on anachronistic interests that reflect not what’s popular among kids now but what the show’s creators remember from their own youth. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as whatever an episode like “Boyz Crazy” loses in plausibility, it gains right back with the episode’s clear familiarity with the ridiculous source material; writers Alex Hirsch and Matt Chapman likely wouldn’t have been able to craft nearly as funny or specific an episode if Mabel were obsessed with whoever it is preteens swoon over these days.

Besides, “Boyz Crazy” never pretends otherwise about the improbability of Mabel, Grenda, and Candy’s sudden obsession with the boy band Sev’ral Timez, as Dipper points out the band is popular at least a decade after it should have been. The passage of time also lends the episode perspective, which admittedly doesn’t extend too far beyond the basic observation that the late ’90s was all sorts of ridiculous. It’s at least easier to recognize absurd 1999 slang than it is absurd 2013 slang, if only because we’re all still too busy speaking the latter to notice how ludicrous it actually is. While the episode mostly plays around with actual slang, albeit in increasingly absurd contexts—as when Chubby Z wonders, “Yo dog, who is this big, round, bright fool?” when he sees the Sun for the first time—it also freely mixes in utter nonsense, like when Chubby Z earlier calls Mabel “Beef,” which is random enough that even she momentarily stops swooning. The members of Sev’ral Timez aren’t just laboratory-grown relics of the late ’90s; they are the platonic ideal of a boy band, proudly declaring themselves non-threatening in their songs and designing their stage patter so that each individual girl in the audience thinks they are talking to her and her alone.

As a straightforward lampoon of boy bands, Sev’ral Timez is reasonably amusing, if far too outdated to pack much satirical punch. “Boyz Crazy” doesn’t wait long to unveil the much crazier, funnier truth about the group, but the episode still has fun with more familiar comedic territory like the pandemonium at the concert. Jokes about young female fans going insane over bands are at least a half-century old—A Hard Day’s Night came out in 1964, after all—but Gravity Falls mines humor from its established characters, whether it’s Candy Chiu declaring, “I welcome you, death” after being told the concert is sold out or it’s Will Forte’s weird biker spouting his inexplicable but amusing “Get ‘em, get ‘em!” catchphrase as preteen fans start whaling on each other for Deep Chris’ affections.

All that is merely prelude for the reveal that the members of Sev’ral Timez are clones, genetically engineered by their producer—and yes, that’s a delightful double meaning—Ergman Bratzman to be the perfect boy band. At this point, Hirsch and Chapman wisely ditch the boy band parody for something infinitely more absurd, as the boys show themselves unable to figure out how something as simple as a glass of water works. It’s an insane line of humor, as no matter how much Bratzman sheltered them from the real world, it’s difficult to imagine they could be a touring boy band without ever once seeing the outside or learning that things like tape dispensers aren’t food. Admittedly, this isn’t a serious complaint, because realism is even less a priority in “Boyz Crazy” than it normally is on Gravity Falls, and the staging of Greggy C stuffing the tape dispenser in his mouth and immediately collapsing is too funny to be denied.

The silliness works slightly better here than it does in the previous two episodes because this episode commits so completely to the absurdity; Sev’ral Timez is impossible to take seriously, except possibly when they’re singing heartfelt, catchy songs that show Mabel the error of her ways. Even so, “Boyz Crazy” happily admits it hasn’t really earned its big emotional conclusion, in which a tearful Mabel sets the boys free. As soon as they harmonize on a final, “Goodbye, girl!” and disappear into the woods, Candy deadpans, “They won’t last a week.” Most Gravity Falls stories don’t end on a punchline, let alone one as dark as that, and the show would lose much of its vaunted emotional depth if this became the norm. But on this occasion, it’s the perfect ending, especially when the post-credits epilogue features Creggy G making out with a tree.

Meanwhile, Dipper’s story takes a while to come into focus, but it ends with a serious emotional wallop. His story also features Wendy, Robbie, and Stan, three characters who don’t slide into the paranormal as easily as some of the other characters, which creates a tricky narrative balancing act. For instance, Stan teams up with Dipper, but he doesn’t believe his grandnephew’s wild claims of musical mind control so much as he relives his own memories of losing his sweetheart Carla “Hot Pants” McCorkle to some transcendental hippie tree-hugger. It’s also a little unclear just what Robbie is up to with the music—if he ripped off some other band’s music and rerecorded it, why is the backwards message still there, and in his voice? (Plus, it didn’t sound like there was a vocal track on the CD when he originally sang along to it, but that’s definitely nitpicking.) It’s fun to see Dipper and Grunkle Stan team up, particularly when it gives the latter legitimate reason to punch a teenager in the face and advise people how to prepare for the apocalypse, but it’s a little fuzzy what’s really going on.

But then, that’s kind of the point—it doesn’t matter what exactly Robbie actually did and what he was lying about, because the fact that he lied at all is what Wendy cares about. Wendy and Robbie’s breakup is a raw, emotional moment, and it’s remarkable Gravity Falls can shift to that tone so effortlessly in what is otherwise such a silly half-hour. The episode makes it clear Dipper crossed the line about 15 seconds before he himself realizes this, as Dipper and Stan first celebrate their pyrrhic victory in front of a weeping Robbie. Dipper pays dearly for his selfishness, as Wendy rebuffs his bowling invitation with a blistering rebuke.

Indeed, Wendy probably knows exactly how Dipper feels about her, and she quite possibly always has known, but she tolerated or ignored his awkwardness because she legitimately cares about him. But now, when she is at her lowest and desperately needs a friend, Dipper still thinks of her primarily as a prize, something—rather than someone—that he won after defeating Robbie. Linda Cardellini is pitch-perfect as the righteously angry Wendy, and “Boyz Crazy” boldly leaves this plot unresolved. Dipper knows he screwed up and that he has to earn Wendy’s forgiveness, and Stan’s heartfelt offer to go bowling with him in the meantime is his lone consolation. Just when Gravity Falls seems to be at its silliest, it ends with its most complex, emotionally mature moment to date. If anybody is still wondering why this show is so special, that’s as good a proof as any.

Stray observations:

  • Going back to the whole point about anachronisms, there’s also the fact that Stan used to dance with Carla at their “favorite ’50s-themed 1970s diner.” The way Stan is written, it’s hard to imagine him as a young man in any decade but the ’50s, except that would logically make him at least 85 years old. This is one seriously funny way to cheat around that fact.
  • Incidentally, who is the person preteens swoon over these days? Is it still Justin Bieber, or is there a fresh new phenomenon I’m not cool enough to be aware of yet? I just assume you guys can answer these questions.
  • Adding to the general ridiculousness of the Sev’ral Timez story is how the episode gets rid of Ergman Bratzman, who gets arrested for not having a rear license plate after the goat chews it off. Showing a Wiggum-like commitment to justice, Sheriff Blubs dismisses Bratzman’s “The goat did it!” defense with a dismissive “That’s what they all say.”
  • “What’s in the bag?” “Uh, money! Money we stole!” “We are criminals—we will cut you!”
  • “Darn beautiful men, always eating out of my trash! Wait… what?”
  • 2013!

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