Class Struggle at the Wonder Wharf: Bob's Burgers' Working Class World

Curator's Note

Much of the praise that Bob's Burgers has earned over its five seasons has centered on its positivity. Unlike many other animated sitcoms, the Belcher family visibly like and support each other. Moreover, they exist as part of a community in which they exist as part of a contellation of mostly well-meaning weirdos. While this is certainly the case, another adjective should be interjected in that description of the world in which the Belcher's exist: working-class. The seaside town in which Bob's Burgers is set is not a resort town, nor does the neighborhood in which the eponymous restaurant is located house upper-class residents or businesses. In fact, the affluent of the area are almost entirely self-isolated on King's Head Island, a place so removed from the Belchers' experience that any episode in which they travel their is rife jokes about the culture clash.

The only affluent character who regularly interacts with the Belchers is their landlord, Mr. Fishoeder. In his white suit, eye patch affectation, and general characterization as an eccentric, he often hyperbolizes upper-class, and occasionally even Bond-villain rich. However, Mr. Fishoeder's main business endeavor (and possibly his main source of income based on how often the Belchers admit to not paying their rent) is the local amusement park: Wonder Wharf. And Wonder Wharf is the clearest indicator of the show's firmly working-class world. Where many amusement parks seek to present a hyper-clean, idealized space, Wonder Wharf is known for its cheapness because Mr. Fishoeder believes he can get away with it in the context of the working-class town.

Wonder Wharf is full of delapidated and dangerous rides. Ex-cons work the attractions. In the recent season finale--a clip of which is found here--it's revealed that Mr. Fishoeder keeps the broken rides on part of his property, and yet they appear not too much worse-for-wear than the rides we've seen in operation at Wonder Wharf. Fishoeder's cost-cutting extends to forgoing recycling the old rides. The episode ends with Bob, Linda, and the other Fishoeder tenents re-banding together to protest the rent hikes. The final showdown and ultimate class conflict occurs in the detritus of the Wonder Wharf, among the remnants of the working-class signifier. The Wonder Wharf is both a symbol of Bob's Burgers' working class world and of Mr. Fishoeder's position as the exaggerated representation of the rich.


Thank you for your great post Charlotte. It makes me wonder if there is something about amusement parks in general that has become associated with the working-class? Perhaps fairs and amusement parks have always had a working class connotation--I'm thinking about 20th century concerns about the "mixing" of genders, ethnicities and classes that were circulating in public discourse when the popularity of outdoor entertainment (along with cinemas) was at its peak. Obviously these fears imply the upper classes are participating in these activities as well, but it is the association with the lower classes that makes these spaces dangerous.

Great post Charlotte. You raise an interesting question (among many questions) about the amusement park as a hyper-clean, idealized space -- versus a cheap/dirty/broken space. While the roadside stops on historical Route 66 were meant to entertain, after the emergence of in-place amusement parks, there was a tendency toward the hyper clean and the hyper real. Amusement parks are are more clean/real than the realities they represent, such as California Adventure, etc. Thanks for these insights.

Thank you for this post Charlotte! Whonder Warf reminds me of old-timey (typically seaside) amusement parks like Coney Island. Where I live, in Long Beach, CA, the boardwalk also features some remnants of the long-defunct amusement park. I think these working class parks, as you identify them correctly IMO, are from a time when they were one of the few entertainment options for the working class (like vaudeville, arcades, etc.). They were accessible and cheap. Nowadays that we're inundated with low-cost or even free entertainment -- especially through the Internet -- amusement parks have become more of a luxury, with day-pass prices around $100 for the most popular parks. Not only are they hyper-clean and hyper-real, they also include luxurious hotel resorts, restaurants, bars, shopping areas, etc. They're a treat, a week-end getaway, a vacation destination primarily for people of means I think.

Hi Charlotte, Thanks for introducing me to Bob's Burgers! I’ve never seen this show but your post has sparked my interest on it. While reading I was thinking about the time I visited Euro Disney as a child and how class was marked across the selection of Hotel resorts available for visitors. As a kid I could clearly perceive those differences that ranged from the beautiful Disney archetypical palace, which of course was just beside the park’s entrance, to the more modest western ranch type, just a 20 min walk away… Even as visitors are invited to consume a world of artifice and fantasy they are reminded about their social position and limitations.

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