The Dark Side of Doug

All is not well in Bluffington...
December 27, 2010

Why twenty years later, we now realize that not all is well in Bluffington. . .

You really can't talk about the 1990s without talking about Nickelodeon television.

For a lot of people (myself included), Nickelodeon TV pretty much defined everything that was awesome about the 90s. It was every bit as significant and culturally important as Nirvana and the rise of the 16 bit consoles, and stands as a pop culture watershed on par with The Simpsons and Pulp Fiction.

Simply put, there really is not anything more nostalgic than 90s Nickelodeon. The live action TV shows were fantastic, and serve as the backbone of joyous recollections for millions of people to this day. Salute Your Shorts, All That, The Keenan and Kel Show, and my personal favorite, The Adventures of Pete and Pete remain some of the most enjoyable shows in the history of television, and I am not limiting that to just TV aimed at children. Granted, some of the shows were a little hit and miss (Alex Mack and Welcome, Freshmen, namely), and some were just flat out bad (Roundhouse and Fifteen, I'm looking at you), but by and large, live action Nick TV was good stuff. Come on, how could anyone hate Hey, Dude!

Who could forget the game shows, either? GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple (even though the Silver Snakes seemed to ALWAYS win), Nick Arcade: oh, the hours I spent watching chubby children attempt to surmount the AGROCRAG and get their asses kicked in Super Ghouls N Ghosts (speaking of which, is it just me or did the Expedient traveling company rip the music from Nick Arcade for some of their commercials recently?)

Of course, the crowning jewel of 90s Nickelodeon television was its animated lineup. If you do not love Rugrats or Ren and Stimpy more than half of your family, you might as well stop breathing now and save yourself such a squandered existence.

Rockos Modern Life. Ah, Real Monsters! The Angry Beavers. . .well, not so much The Angry Beavers, but the point is made, regardless. Long story short, Nicktoons not only ruled, they were one of the absolute best things that happened in the 90s, Jurassic Park and the rise of the Internet INCLUDED.

Of all of the superb shows on Nickelodeon during the timeframe, I think my absolute favorite had to have been Doug. On behalf of all six continents, I believe it's safe to say that Viacom s refusal to release the series on DVD is one of the worst atrocities in the history of humanity, and that ISNT hyperbole. Well, maybe a little, but the fact remains that not having DOUG on DVD or Blu-Ray is absolutely UNFORGIVABLE.

These days, the only way you can catch Doug is if you scam it off the Internet or see the aberrational episode on one of the nine billion Nickelodeon offshoots on cable TV. During the heyday of Nick TV, about eight episodes of Doug were shown per day, and if you ask me, that still WASN'T enough Doug for me to get my fill. I guess my adulation for the show stems from the fact that the show s protagonist may very well be the most relatable character in the history of animated television.

We can all relate to Doug, but I ESPECIALLY related to Mr. Funnie. Like me, he was an avid writer. Like me, he was a closeted musician (he had the banjo, and I had my bongos). We were both daydreamers, and we both sought adventures in a world that was all but devoid of them. I would say that my hometown is comparable to Bluffington, but we did not even HAVE a cultural Mecca on par with the Honker Burger, so I suppose that is where the similarities end.

I recently got on a Doug kick, and while I still love the show today (perhaps even more so than when I was a kid), something suddenly dawned upon me: the world of Doug is actually a fairly dark, depressing, and disturbing world to live in.

Now, I know what you are thinking: how in the hell can ANYBODY look back on Doug as a dark and depressing program? How can the world of Mr. Dink and Quailman and Skeeter Valentine be a disturbing one?

Allow me to do a little psychoanalysis here.

As most of you know, I am a huge psychology nerd. In addition to knowing more about late 80s horror movies, Sega Genesis games and early 90s alt rock then any well person should, I also fancy myself as something of an armchair psychiatrist. Think my love of Tecmo Super Bowl and The Amazing Spider-Man is hardcore? Amigos, you ought to see my bookshelf: page after page of psychobabble conjecture from guys like Freud, Fromm, Foucault and Otto Rank, and I love ALL OF THEM. Needless to say, stuff like Art and Artist and The Denial of Death has greatly influenced my work even here at Retro Junk, and sometimes, I cannot help but carry over my love of psychoanalysis to my love of pop culture.

Thus, when I look at the world of Doug through those same psychological lenses, I come to the conclusion that there is FAR more going on with the show than most people would initially assume, and I assure you, these things are quite distressing and unnerving to dwell upon. Beneath the strings of Killer Tofu, a far
more disconcerting song plays throughout Bluffington, and today, I would like to expose you all to. . .


Doug Funnie suffered from severe depression

Like most chronic sufferers of depression, Doug Funnie does not seem to exhibit the typical traits of clinical depression. In public settings and around his friends, he appears content, amorous and even naively overjoyed at times: however, when he is in isolation, you begin to see traces of Doug s deep seated moroseness seep out.

I was coming through one of my old psychology textbooks, when I stumbled across a section about signs of extreme depression. Here are just a FEW of the warning signs this college level text, circa 2008, lists:

Disinterest in social gatherings - (The Individual) would rather PLACE HIM OR HERSELF IN ISOLATION, or experiences mild to extreme PANIC when placed in a social environment.


Oh, boy. If that does not sound like our good chum Doug, I do not know WHAT does. But hey, there is more! Other telltale signs include:


Decreased memory, inability to focus - As in, not being able to solve simple MATH PROBLEMS and being unable to expound upon what SILT is, right?

Placing nonrealistic attributes upon things, such as RELATIONSHIPS - Certainly, this doesn't relate to a character who is SMITTEN by a female he lacks even the simplest ability to communicate with, nor does it relate to a character that speaks ENGLISH to a dog, does it?

Illusions of grandeur, erratic mood shifts - I believe that anyone that thinks he or she can parlay banging on a trashcan and drumming on a streetlight into a career more lucrative than Michael Jackson, Madonna and The Rolling Stones COMBINED certainly qualifies for this one. Also, in case you have not noticed, Doug REALLY seems to go from one extreme to the other: one minute, he's on pins and needles, and the next, he thinks he's king of the school yard. Needless to say, the guy may be a top-level candidate for some Ritalin or Lithium, pending Bluffington Elementary ever scores itself a certified school psychiatrist.

Feelings of unwarranted guilt and unworthiness - Doug may very well be the most self-conscious cartoon character in the history of animated television, and I mean that in more ways than one. The poor kid is guilt-ridden about EVERYTHING, to the point that I am beginning to wonder if Funnie is a Yiddish surname or something. He does not want his maternal grandmother (the one with the motorcycle) to be late getting home, even though it is apparent that she does not give half a flying flip about the concept of time whatsoever. Doug feels GUILTY about simply holding on to the money that the old woman lost in that one episode, going as far as to fantasize that she would literally lose her head over the ordeal. Hell, he even feels GUILTY about the wrongdoings of others, like when Connie s boom box was stolen. Doug Funnie is so damned guilt-ridden that he makes Woody Allen look like Henry Lee Lucas by comparison.

Because, as we all know, there's no such thing as a depressed musician, right?

Then, there's Doug s CONSTANT feelings of inferiority. He s probably the first cartoon character EVER to realize that EVERYBODY seems to wear the same clothes, day in and day out, so he feels the need to CHANGE his wardrobe or face social reprimand. Skeeter s little brother (a four year old kid, by the way), says that Doug has a big nose, so he thinks about having cosmetic surgery. . . OVER A SNIDE REMARK FROM A PRE-SCHOOLER. Needless to say, Doug would be a pretty big fan of The Dashboard Confessional if he were around these days (and yes, I do not know the names of any so-called emo bands, so if that does not stick, so sue me.)

The desire to remain silent in public or social events, even though the individual may STRONGLY feel the desire to express his or her opinions or feelings - the ultimate passive - aggressive trait, is it not? Simply put, Doug is an incredibly awkward member of society, which can only be explained by a DEEP disliking of the individual in question. It is never really stated WHY Doug exhibits these traits (which all tie back to the gigantic, blinking fascia reading THIS KID IS CLINICALLY DEPRESSED, YOU MORONS), but more than likely, it has to do SOMETHING with a rough and tough childhood, or difficulties adjusting to new lifestyles. To be fair, NOWHERE in the show does it state that BOTH of Doug s parents are his biological ones, and is it more than just a little PECULIAR that we never see any Aunts or Uncles from either side of the Funnie lineage? Now, I am NOT saying that Doug is actually adopted or that he was assaulted and abused by a relative, but it really would not SURPRISE me if either of those were the unwritten, unstated cases behind the fact. Hell, Mr. Funnie could be a raging alcoholic behind the scenes, and perhaps Doug s perpetual fantasies are actually ways of CIRCUMVENTING the suburban hell that is being the child of functional, drug addicted parents?

Yeah, yeah, I know: it is all a pretty big stretch, but so is a town in which GREEN and PURPLE people make up half of the population. Draw your own conclusions here, readers.

Patti Mayonnaise was a closeted lesbian

OK, I know it is WAY too easy to play into the hands of stereotypes here, but most of these things simply CANNOT be overlooked:

Short hair? CHECK. (Hell, in the Disney reboot, her do was even SHORTER than it was on Nickelodeon.)

Lack of a maternal figure, or a strong female influence? CHECK.

An interest in masculine hobbies and activities? Dude, she s an eleven year old girl, AND SHE IS INTO WEIGHTLIFTING. CHECK, CHECK, AND ONE MORE CHECK JUST TO BE SURE.

Patti never really struck me as the most feminine character in cartoon world, and that s not just because she played softball and kind of sounded like Macho Man Randy Savage after sucking on a cherry flavored cough drop for a couple of hours. Honestly, I really did not see what Doug saw in her, unless he has something of a David Guest / Lezi Minella pseudo-relationship going on to cover up their mutual not-straight-ness. . .which, really, could be the case here.

The ONLY time it seemed as if Patti did anything even remotely girlie was when she was in the company of other girls, you know, like at all night sleepovers. And if a lifetime of catching B Movies on HBO at 3 in the morning has taught me anything, it s that lesbian activity NEVER transpires at slumber parties, right?

Despite Doug s OH so obvious yearning for Patti, it seemed like she was more interested in Connie than the show s titular character. Hmm. . . You know, it just seems as if the characters of Patti and Connie remind me of SOMEBODY, but who?

. . . Yeah. I Went THERE. I went THERE, and bought the tee shirt while I was at it.

Mr. Dink suffered from E.D.

...yes Douglas, it IS very expensive, HYUK-HYUK!

Mr. Dink was basically Doug s adoptive uncle, a crazy, grape hued inventor that was always concocting some odd contraption that most often backfired in comical fashion. Although Mr. Dink was married (and had been for years and years), he and Mrs. Dink never seemed to produce any offspring, which brings up this charming little notion from famed psychoanalyst Karen Horney:

At this point, I, as a woman, ask in amazement, what about motherhood? And the blissful consciousness of bearing a new life within oneself? And the ineffable happiness of the increasing expectation of the appearance of this new being. . .When one begins, as I did, to analyze men only after a fairly long experience of analyzing women, one receives a most surprising impression of this envy of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
Freud is credited with coming up with the notion of penis envy, and Horney is credited with coming up with the riposte known as womb envy. Horney (an ironic title for a sex behaviorist, I know) believes that man s desire to create and invent stuff is actually a desire to create human life, and since dudes cannot get knocked up, they just design buildings and work on cars instead. So, what does this have to do with Doug, you must be thinking?

Well, Mr. Dink has to be such an adamant inventor for SOME reason or another. If building things is a metaphor for being unable to create life, than I think it is pretty much a given that Doug s next door neighbor has to suffer from some INTENSE erectile dysfunction issues. Granted, Mrs. Dink may have a barren stretch of real estate under her skivvies, but if that is the case, SHE would be the one coming up with all of these kooky devices and NOT her eccentric genius (read: goofball) husband.

Hell, it is right there in their names: DINK - Double Income, No Kids. Certainly, there is a non-stated reason as to why the two never had kids, and although there is plenty of morose conjecture to be had, I think the simple answer is just that Mr. Dink suffered from a Hank Hill-esque urethra problem. Sigh, if Mr. Dink would have held on for a couple of more years, he would have been front line and center when Viagra was released. . .

Roger Klotz was the victim of child abuse

Yeah, I, too, am glad that we are able to hop into such blithe discussion material.

In case you did not notice, Roger Klotz was a major league ass hole, with seemingly no excuse other than the fact that it was hard wired in his genes. Although initially introduced as a background-less jerk, it was eventually revealed that Klotz was a.) poor as all hell, and b.) a text book definition of the term bastard. This gave some explanation as to why Klotz was such an antagonist, antisocial cretin, but there HAS to be more to the story than what the show told us.

My best guess is that Roger s dad is in Bluffington State Penitentiary, probably for selling knockoff prescription drugs in Bloatsburg or something. Although the show never comes out and says it, it is fairly obvious that Roger s dad was a routine wife beater, and he probably pushed Roger down the stairs a couple of times, just for getting in the way of TV watching and beer drinking.

Really, you do not NEED a text book to help you solve this case. By and large, just about ALL aggressive bullies are indeed the victims of aggressive bullying themselves, which is almost always via the hands of a family member or close acquaintance. As a means of masking the inferiority of not having a father figure, Roger attempts to form a synthetic family consisting of all of the schoolhouse ruffians, an act which makes him his OWN paternal figure, in a way. Clearly, he has a vested interest in SOME things outside of himself, such as his cat Stinky, which may be a Freudian transference of his feelings of inadequacy stemming from abandonment or abuse issues (which is exemplified through his happiness when he is paired up with Mr. Dink at the sack relay that one time).

Well, that, or maybe he IS just a grade A ass hole. Let s face it, there ARE a lot of natural jerk wads out there, so Roger may simply just be a genetic prick AFTER ALL.

Bluffington was an Apartheid state

Skeeter Valentine, seen here musing the racial strife in Bluffington

It is somewhat illogical to think of racism when a town population consists of blue and neon orange people, but after closer inspection, it appears as if there IS something of a racial pecking order in Doug s hometown. (and yes, I know that, technically, Bluffington IS NOT Doug s real hometown, so before you make any snide comments on the matter, cram it.)

Apparently, the purple people in Doug seem to be representatives of the upper class, Anglo-Saxon white people we have in the United States. In case you have not noticed, pretty much all of the super wealthy people in Doug seem to be some sort of periwinkle variation. Bebe Bluff and her relatives, Mr. Dink and his wife. . .all an off eggplant shade, and all wealthier than the aggregate townsfolk.

The orange people are almost ALWAYS in some position of power. I guess that this people (which would include Doug, his family, and a couple of Roger Klotz' amigos) would be representative of non Anglican or Germanic Caucasians, such as the Italians, Eastern Europeans, and Slavs. Now, there are SOME people that would say that perhaps the orange-toned people are supposed to represent members of the Jewish persuasion, but if you ask me, Mr. Bone and the Mayor of Bluffington just do not come off as Hebrew, if you ask me.

Of course, EVERYBODY assumes that Skeeter Valentine is, technically, African-American, even though in the world of Doug, it is not really stated that either Africa OR America exist. IF the green people in Bluffington are metaphors for black people in the United States, you would have to say that the writers of the show managed to sneak it in quite skillfully. Skeeter, with his mannerisms and lingo, has a distinct Afro American vibe to his ways. Chalkie, the school sports standout, also has a rather Afrocentric way of expressing himself. Of course, this would also make Mrs. Wingo and Roger black by extension, although it certainly COULD be implied that both characters are of mixed ethnicity.

The real wrench in that hypothesis is in the existence of Fentruck, the foreign exchange student from a barely pronounceable middle-eastern nation. Although he has an accent AND appearance this is almost Jewish in nature, this would also mean that, as a broccoli tinged character, he was, conjecturally, black. Therefore, I would say that the green skinned people of Bluffington are analogies for the somewhat marginalized Jewish, Black and Immigrant members of U.S. society.

The thing here is, despite so many different hues of characters walking around town, the neighborhoods seem to be AWFULLY devoid of variant shades, if you catch my drift. All of the green skinned people seem to live AMONGST themselves, and very, very rarely do the purple skinned people hang out with people that ARENT also the color of grapes.

Unfortunately for Doug, once Patti went purple, she never went back...

That, and the businesses in Bluffington are laid out, well, kind of funny (pun, not really intended). Orange people very rarely go to businesses owned by purple people, and whenever purple people have feelings for green people (as exemplified by Bebe s crush on Skeeter), there seems to be some sort of social shame that keeps people in check from hanging out with one another. Ultimately, Bluffington is a state in which people of all colors, technically, interact, but there is definitely something of a surreptitious social system in place that keeps them from forging a true harmony as a community. Perhaps calling it an apartheid state is a bit much, but it definitely is not a place where all people are equal.

That, and those god damned orange people can t parallel park, either.


Seriously, how can you come up with the idea of wearing a belt on your forehead and NOT be a world-class stoner?

I really did not know much about drug culture as a seven year old kid, so a lot of the stuff that went down on Doug, I never really got. Of course, most kids have pretty active imaginations, but Doug was practically LIVING on another plane of existence most of the time. This dude was not just a day dreamer, he was a morning, afternoon and evening dreamer, to boot.

Bluffington is supposed to be a placeholder for small town, USA, but for some reason or another, there was just something, I don t know, off, about the place. And no, I am not just talking about how weird looking the cars were and the fact that people with skin tones the same color as blueberry parfaits lived in it. I never could figure out what the mysterious tinge was a youngster, but as a college kid today, it is BEYOND obvious: EVERYBODY in Bluffington was smoking reefer.

I know, it is something of a vague, generalized statement, but think about it. Just how many people in your hometown create robotic contraptions in their garage? And is it just me, or are MOST of the townsfolk on Doug super-mellow, as in, laid back to the point that their spines kind of concave?

By the time you reach 25, you know pretty much ALL of the shades of pot head, and I will be damned if the ENTIRE town of Bluffington reeks of patchouli scented stereotypes.


Examples: Doug s parents, Mrs. Dink, Mrs. Wingo

Did these characters EVER seem to change emotions? There are consistent people in this world, but these characters had a tight grip on their emotions and then some. Sure, Mr. Funnie DID freak out that one time when he opened up a photography studio, but out of about 150 or so episodes, that was as EXPLOSIVE as he ever got. It really is not natural to be THAT complacent, so methinks there must have been some backstage toking going on en masse in the world of Doug.


Examples: Doug, Mr. Bone, Roger Klotz

Pictured: everybody's neighborhood dope peddlar, circa 1993

One of the longest standing pot stereotypes is that of the paranoid ganja smoker. Needless to say, more than a few characters in Doug fit this mold, including the titular character. There were certain characters on the show that seemed to get FREAKED OUT by the smallest thing, and amble about with this palpable suspicion at seemingly all hours. Doug FRETS about everything, Mr. Bone lives in constant fear of the wrath of Principal Buttsavich, and Roger? Well, it seems like Roger is ALWAYS on edge, as if something may be revealed about him. Like, I do not know, maybe his secret MARIJUANA PATCH behind Lucky Duck Lake. If Bluffington IS high as a kite, there is no denying that Roger Klotz is the number one hook up man in town: I mean, just look at the dude and TELL me that he does not resemble that one kid in the tenth grade that drove a Camaro and tried to sell you cough syrup before gym class. Hell, you could probably interchange the cast of Doug with Dazed and Confused and you would barely be able to tell the difference. . .


Examples: Skeeter, Chalkie, Porkchop

Yes, EVEN the pets in Bluffington hit the bong, apparently. As we all know by now, the weed makes some people EXTREMELY talkative and jittery (in the positive sense, if that is even possible), and several Doug cast members display this trait to an almost text book perfect definition. How many sports did Chalkie play, like eight? And as we all know, the kids on the varsity squad were ALWAYS the ones that had the best quality ganja. Skeeter, a guy that talks a mile a minute, is another presumed weed head, but really, anybody that wears a Flash tee shirt and bicycle kneepads even when he is not riding a bike probably is.


Examples: Doug, Patti, Mr. Dink, Judith Funnie, Mr. Bone

Yeah, Doug is a clear cut, dyed in the wool escapist, but so are a lot of other characters. For a town that is supposed to be representative of small town, America, pretty much EVERYBODY seems to have hard-on for arts and music, and more than one person in town can lay claim to the title of mad inventor (lest we forget the Mook twins, have we?)

Hmm...wasn't this a Slayer cover first?

EVERYBODY in town is into karaoke. EVERYBODY in town has illusions of making it in show business. The same way real-life potheads display an almost cultish dedication to Phish, the community of Bluffington displays an almost cultish dedication to The Beets. And what are all of the Beets songs about? Why, food, of course. Is Killer Tofu an ode to the munchies? Yeah, probably.

You know how in That 70s Show, the basement was basically a way of showing the kids getting high without really showing the kids getting high? Well, if you ask me, I think that is what the Honker Burger was in Doug. Apparently, there were an overabundance of junk foodstuffs in Bluffington, and EVERYBODY seemed to have an insatiable hunger at all conceivable hours. Remember, Doug once ordered EVERYTHING on the menu from a pizza chain, so it is only safe to assume that superhuman absorption of marijuana lead to his supreme case of the hunger pangs. Shocked? Considering that the entire town looks like a cross between The Yellow Submarine and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, that really should not be THAT much of a revelation. I mean, shit, do you think a NON-HIGH brain could think up Quail Man and Silver Skeeter? The case, it doth rest.

- -

Well, that was an entertaining little romp down memory lane. And by entertaining, I mean awkwardly depressing and soul crushing.

The reality is, A LOT of child-oriented art is actually a means of addressing real-world problems and harshities (a portmanteau of harsh and realities, if you are wondering), and Doug really is no exception. Of course, we all remember and love Doug as a nostalgic look at elementary school life, but at the same time, it kind of reminds us that things are NEVER as cut and dry and cheery as we WISH to remember them. Yes, we remember Durango Doug and Smash Atoms, but we kind of overlook the abject hopelessness of Doug s anti-love affair with Patti, his inability to connect with his classmates on any real level, and the fact that by the time he got to high school, his dreams of becoming a cartoonist (or whatever the hell he wanted to be) were probably crushed by the burdens and hardships of that little annoyance known as growing up.

Does any of the conjecture and nonsense I have brought up today change the fact that Doug was, and still is, one of the greatest TV shows in the history of, uh, cable? Absolutely not, but at the same time, it does give you a new perspective to analyze the show under, now that most of you are old enough to drive cars, apply for credit cards and enlist in the military.

There is A LOT MORE going on than what simply appears on the surface, not just in the world of beloved animated programs from the 90s, but in ALL areas of life and society. Yeah, it is possible to overdo it and think EVERYTHING is some sort of furtive form of commentary on stuff, but at the same time, it s a hell of a lot of fun to look at these things we loved as a child through ADULT eyes, and realize that maybe, just maybe, all of that kid stuff was a bit more grown up than we originally noted.

Now, get back to me on the matter, just as soon as you bag that neematoad. . .

- - -
James Swift is a twenty-something writer currently living in the metro Atlanta area. His first two books, How I Survived Three Years At A Two-Year Community College: A Junior Memoir of Epic proportions and Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks would make outstanding stocking stuffers for the people you care about this holiday season, you know. . .
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