The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a take on the American worker and all their American glory. I highlight the concepts and ideals surrounding these workers by citing two well-known animated representations in Hank Hill from “King of the Hill” and Bob Belcher from “Bob’s Burgers.” If you’re fans of these shows and appreciate the struggles of the American worker, I think you’ll appreciate this. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: King of the Hill
The greatness of a TV show is often measured in how endearing the characters are. Whether it has dramatic themes like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” or over-the-top comedy like “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” TV shows thrive and fail by the strength of their characters.
A show like “King of the Hill” is a good example of this and not just because it has plenty of great characters. The personalities and stories of characters like Hank Hill, Boomhauer, and Luanne are all endearing in their own unique way. I’ve even gone out of my way to praise Hank Hill on multiple occasions for his work ethic and his unique approach to masculinity.
However, “King of the Hill” is unique in the sheer range of characters it offers, with respect to likability. Characters like Bill Dautrieve and Khan Souphanousinphone have definite flaws, but do plenty to warrant respect. Peggy Hill is a textbook narcissist, but still does plenty to balance it out. Dale Gribble is a paranoid idiot, but he’s still a loyal friend and just fun to be around.
There are also a few characters who are just assholes most of the time. While the show goes out of its way to balance everyone to some extent, there’s only so much you can do with characters like Cotton Hill and Buck Strickland. I could say a lot about those two, in terms of how they impact the themes of the show, but I’d like to focus on a character who has confounded me over the years.
Of all the colorful characters that make “King of the Hill” one of my favorite shows of all time, Bobby Hill is the one I’m most conflicted about. I’ve always had mixed feelings about him. I can watch one episode where I have no sympathy for him, but in the very next, he’ll come off as one of the most respectable characters in Arlen.
Some of that might have to do with me, as a viewer. When I started watching this show, I was younger and had a lot more in common with Bobby. We were both overwhelmed by the prospect of growing up. We often felt beleaguered by school, adults, and puberty. I related to him a lot more than I did with the adults in the show.
Then, as I re-watched those same episodes as an adult, I saw Bobby in a different light. I had a hard time sympathizing with his struggles in certain episodes. At times, he came off as some immature kid trying desperately to avoid responsibility and hard work. In one episode, he became a full-fledged panhandler.
At the same time, Bobby had moments where he genuinely shined. While I would argue that the series finale was his finest hour and the culmination of his growth, he also had other moments in which he stepped up to do something awesome. He was, in my opinion, the most confounding characters in the entire show.
Now, after having watched and re-watched every episode of “King of the Hill,” while also having the benefit of my own personal growth, I feel like I can appreciate Bobby’s character in a new way. In terms of the bigger picture, Bobby Hill represents an important theme in the show. Specifically, his story revolves around someone torn between adulthood and childhood.
While “King of the Hill” has many themes, Bobby’s were often tied to his youth and that youth was often the catalyst for his misadventures. When the show begins, he’s 11-year-old. By the time it ends, he’s 13-years-old. These are some formative years in a boy’s life and the show takes full advantage of that.
In the first several seasons, Bobby definitely carries himself as a kid. His behavior is distinctly childlike, from using his dad’s golf clubs to hit dog shit to taking part in a camping trip in which he accidentally kills an endangered animal. Then, over the course of the show, his stories evolve. He starts getting interested in girls and sees the effects of puberty on his best friend. At times, he’s more than a little overwhelmed.
In some cases, he wants to be an adult. He even enjoys the maturity and status that comes with it. In others, he actively avoids it, clinging to his childhood and the carefree innocence that it entails. Granted, there are times when he just wants to be lazy. At one point, he states outright that he prefers taking baths because he doesn’t like standing for so long.
However, there are plenty of other instances in which he sees the rigors of adulthood and doesn’t find it the least bit appealing. It doesn’t help that he’s had some very unpleasant experiences with the adult world, which includes one in which he ran out onto a racetrack because of an asshole boss. After an experience like that, who wouldn’t long for the more sheltered life of childhood?
To some extent, it’s not entirely Bobby’s fault that the adult world is so overwhelming. His laziness doesn’t help, but there are times when Hank’s uptight parenting skills actively contribute to the problem. The only reason he had that aforementioned job at a racetrack was because Hank tried to teach him a lesson about hard work and it taught him the wrong lesson, entirely.
On top of that, Peggy often babies him in ways that reinforce how much easier and carefree it is to be a child. Whether it’s cutting his hair or giving him one of Hank’s old trophies, she often makes childhood feel a lot easier and safer, albeit indirectly. Bobby gets so many mixed messages throughout the show that it’s easy to see why he’s often so conflicted.
Like most themes in “King of the Hill,” the nature of the conflicts fluctuate. There is a sense of progression for certain characters, but there’s also a general consistency over the course of the show. Joseph and Luanne are very different by the final season when compared to the first season, but Bobby’s journey is left somewhat ambiguous.
By the end of the show, he finds a skill and a passion that he wants to pursue. In the same way Hank has a passion for propane and propane accessories, Bobby discovers a passion for grading the quality of steaks. It’s a passion that requires both hard work and a level of maturity the likes of which he hasn’t pursued before. It also makes for a powerful moment when he and his dad finally get to share in a mutual interest.
At the same time, he still carries himself like a kid. Even within that final episode, he gets overwhelmed by the pressure placed on him by other adults. While he managed to overcome the pressure, there’s still a sense that he’s not entirely ready for the adult world. At the very least, he’s not quite as reluctant to pursue it.
Bobby Hill’s journey, struggling between childhood and adulthood, is just one among many compelling plots in “King of the Hill.” His journey has many setbacks and absurdities, but it still feels real and relatable. For an animated show that includes eccentric characters in fictitious settings, it’s quite an achievement.
Hank Hill often says his boy ain’t right. On some levels, that might be true. In the grand scheme of things, however, the show demonstrated that Bobby Hill was as right as he needed to be when struggling between childhood and adulthood.
Some people have a calling in life and they go to great lengths to pursue it. Not everyone has the opportunity or resources, but those who do show a genuine passion for their calling. Their talents, skills, and work ethic reveal themselves and it nicely reflects the kind of person they are.
For Hank Hill of “King of the Hill,” selling propane and propane accessories is definitely his calling. He pursues it with a passion that few can match, regardless of whether they exist in the real world or animated shows from the early 2000s. It’s a big part of his character and I’ve highlighted on multiple occasions how it reflects concepts ranging from noble masculinity to a good work ethic.
Hank is a rare breed among fictional characters. He doesn’t spend all 13 seasons of his show endlessly driving to achieve his dream job. He already has his dream job. He loves what he does and he dedicates himself to doing well. It’s part of what makes him a respectable, engaging character.
While I don’t deny Hank Hill’s passion for propane and propane accessories, I would also make the argument that the same skills with which he does that job so well also makes him perfectly suited for another job, namely that of a pimp. As it just so happens, it’s a job he briefly did in Season 5, Episode 13, “Ho Yeah!”
Granted, he did that job unknowingly, as Hank can be laughably oblivious at times, but that one episode has always been a personal favorite of mine. In watching it multiple times, it convinced me of something. Hank Hill, armed with the same skills that help him sell propane and propane accessories, would make the perfect pimp.
I know the popular image of pimps is mixed, at best. Some that has more to do with the illegality of prostitution, which I’ve talked about before, but it’s the world’s oldest profession for a reason. Where there are prostitutes, there are also people who manage them. Call them what you want. Pimp just happens to be the most comprehensive in a modern context.
Setting aside the legality of prostitution and the less-than-respectable behavior associated with pimps, I contend that Hank would be able to navigate the world of prostitution and pimping better than almost anyone, fictional or otherwise. He would set a gold standard in how to succeed in this lurid industry in all the right ways for all the right reasons.
What follows are six reasons that I believe prove that Hank Hill would make the perfect pimp. Having seen every episode of “King of the Hill” and researched the sex industry, I’ll try to make my points as effectively as possible. In the spirit of Hank’s dedication to getting the job done, I can do no less.
Reason #1: He Makes Customer Satisfaction A Top Priority
In the context of prostitution, customer satisfaction may seem like an afterthought and for good reason. It’s a service that involves providing intimacy and pleasure to a client in one of the most basic ways possible. Aside from connecting prostitutes with clients, how can a pimp affect this?
This is where Hank’s unceasing dedication to customer service comes in. Throughout many episodes in “King of the Hill,” he puts satisfying the customer first. His approach is simple. If the customer is satisfied, then both the products and the business take care of themselves.
This is wonderfully demonstrated in Season 7, Episode 16, “The Miseducation of Bobby Hill” in which Hank’s customer-oriented sales tactics win out over the less scrupulous approach that Bobby tried. As is often the case, Hank emphasizes doing things the right way and not in the way that’s most expedient.
As a pimp, Hank would definitely emphasis this for those working for him. Just as he tried to do with Bobby, he would preach customer satisfaction over money or expediency. He would tell them not to do the bare minimum. He believes in making sure customers are fully satisfied with their service and then some.
That kind of satisfaction breeds customer loyalty. In any industry, including prostitution, a loyal customer base goes a long way towards success. It’s why companies like Apple can get away with charging extra for their products. They’ve earned their consumer’s loyalty. For Hank, that loyalty is often more valuable than money.
Reason #2: He Commands Loyalty For The Right Reasons
This builds directly off the first reason, but it goes beyond just satisfying the customer. For Hank Hill, loyal customers aren’t just an important component of sales. Loyalty from co-workers and superiors is every bit as important. That loyalty isn’t given to him, either. He earns it, even when the people he works with don’t make it easy for him.
A prostitute working for Hank Hill wouldn’t be expected to give their loyalty by default. He would earn that loyalty by demonstrating how hard he’s willing to work. He would set an example for those around him. That means showing up on time, responding to calls or complaints, and resolving conflicts quickly and effectively.
While the propane industry is very different from the sex industry, I would argue the value of loyalty is much greater in prostitution. One of the key responsibilities of a pimp or manager is to ensure that those around them feel safe, secured, and valued. At no point in any episode of “King of the Hill” does he ever see his fellow employees as cogs in a machine.
He calls people by their first name. He treats them with the same respect that he seeks. For prostitutes, who are more likely to deal with difficult customers than propane salesmen, this kind of dedication is invaluable. They would feel safe and comfortable going to Hank with their issues and feel confident that he could resolve them.
If satisfying the customer is the top priority, then earning the loyalty of employees is a close second. Hank dedicates himself to both. It helped Strickland Propane succeed over the course of 13 seasons. It would serve him well as a pimp.
Reason #3: He Sets High Standards For Employees, Products, And Services
You could accuse Hank Hill a lot of things. He can be uptight, dense, and exceedingly set in his ways. He’ll even get upset when his favorite mower is revamped. However, nobody will ever accuse him of having low standards.
When it comes to his job, Hank sets the bar high for everything. Whether it’s the quality of the grill or the safety of a propane tank, he will never settle for anything sub-standard. Maintaining that quality for both products and services are critical in every industry. Prostitution is no exception.
Hank would not be the kind of pimp who encourages his prostitutes to do the bare minimum. Anyone could get a customer off. He would set his sights higher for both his customers and his prostitutes. He would expect them to go the extra mile with respect to serving the customer and presenting themselves as a competent employee.
He wouldn’t just bark orders, though. In multiple episodes, Hank is shown doing everything from polishing propane tanks to arranging the grills. For his prostitutes, he would make sure that their clothes, their makeup, and whatever accessories they might use are of the highest quality. He would not settle for trashy or dirty. That would be like selling a rusty propane tank.
I imagine some of the prostitutes would be annoyed by such standards, but those who take it seriously would reap the benefits. Those who don’t abide by those standards would either be let go or would never work with him in the first place. Hank is not one to just tell people the right way to do things. He lets the results speak for themselves and most of the time, they prove him right.
Reason #4: He Dedicated Himself To His Work And Maintains A Working Knowledge Of Everything It Involves
To succeed in any industry, it helps to have in-depth knowledge of it. When it comes to propane, you won’t find many people who are as knowledgeable or informed as Hank Hill. He knows propane and propane accessories. It’s not just facts and details, either. His face lights up whenever people talk about it. When something happens in the propane world, he knows about it.
That kind of dedication is just as important in sex work. Most people know how sex works in the same way they know how a grill works. However, only someone as knowledgeable as Hank understands the nuts and bolts to it all. Imagine if someone had the same working knowledge of sex work as Hank does with propane. That kind of expertise would go a long way.
As a pimp truly dedicated to his craft, Hank would understand the workings of successful sex work the same way he does with grills. He would know the difference between an effective tool and a trendy gimmick. For the prostitutes and the clients they serve, it would maintain those high standards he sets.
Beyond just knowing his trade, Hank would go out of his way to educate others. In the show, he never misses an opportunity to tell someone about propane. As a pimp, he would never hesitate to tell an aspiring prostitute how to do their job well. Like any profession, people may think they know what it entails, but someone like Hank would be able to help them see the forest from the trees.
Reason #5: He Treats His Employees Fairly And Goes Out Of His Way To Support Them
Throughout the course of “King of the Hill,” the employees of Strickland Propane rarely change. While most of them are background characters, some distinguish themselves more than others. Some episodes focus entirely on Hank helping them deal with their issues, even when it doesn’t involve their work.
That’s because, as I noted earlier, Hank doesn’t see his employees as cogs in a machine. He treats them like human beings. If they have an issue, he’ll help them as best he can. He’s always honest, transparent, and genuine with them.
Those practices are even more effective as a pimp. Prostitution is an intimate business, in more ways than one. They’re selling more than just a product. They’re selling an experience. Having someone like Hank, who supports them and treats them fairly, would go a long way towards helping them deliver that experience.
Beyond just being there for them, Hank is also someone who understands that work life is work life and personal life is none of his business. He’s not the kind of person who micromanages his employees when they’re off the clock. In fact, he sets clear and unambiguous boundaries about what constitutes work and what constitutes personal affairs.
In an industry where pimps have been known to micromanage prostitutes to an egregious extent, Hank Hill would offer the perfect balance. He would give prostitutes an ability to separate their life as a sex worker from the personal life they’re trying to build. For those looking for a job and not wanting it to define them, this would set Hank apart from other pimps in the best possible way.
Reason #6: He’s Willing To Kick An Ass When It Needs To Be Kicked
I don’t think I need to make an elaborate argument for this reason. Hank Hill’s ability and willingness to kick ass is well documented throughout the show. Generally, he avoids confrontations, but he will kick an ass when it needs to be kicked. He even proved that in “Ho Yeah!” when he took on another pimp who dared to challenge him. Needlessly to say, Hank won.
As dedicated as Hank is to serving customers and helping employees, he has a limit to how much bullshit he’ll endure. If someone dares cross a certain threshold, he won’t hesitate to respond. If someone disrespects one of his prostitutes or even his loyal customers, he won’t hold back. He’ll kick all the asses that need kicking.
For his prostitutes, it only deepens that loyalty he so values. Even other clients could appreciate that. Hank Hill may be uptight and uncompromising, but he doesn’t give a pass to people who cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed. He will kick ass and he’ll make sure he kicks the right ones.
There are probably many other reasons why Hank Hill would make a great pimp. If you have a few I didn’t mention, please share them in the comments. Hank is a great character and “King of the Hill” did plenty to show why he’s so compelling.
Even though his pimping potential may never be realized, but even Tammi, the secret prostitute at the center of the “Ho Yeah!” episode, told him outright that he would be a great pimp. I just don’t think she realized how right she was.
What happened to the American Dream? That’s a question more and more people are asking these days. It’s a question people have been asking in some form or another for decades. Even if you’re not American, it’s relevant because as politics and economics become more global, there’s a sense that a great many people are being left behind. More recently, it feels like that trend is accelerating.
Since I’m not a political scientist or an economist, I’m not qualified to break down all the factors behind these trends. However, given my age and relative experiences, I’ve witnessed many of the changes and upheavals that have shaped the current state of affairs. Over that period, I’ve even seen those changes reflected in two iconic animated TV shows from two disparate eras.
One is “King of the Hill,” a colorful slice of the late 90s/early 2000s cultural zeitgeist. The other is “F is for Family,” a show that, despite taking place in the 1970s, heaps plenty of scathing criticism on current American ideals. I’ve written about both shows before, citing the former as a lesson in work ethic and the latter as a perfect satire for its time. I also consider myself a fan of both shows.
On their own, they each have their own sense of style, story, and overall humor. They’re both entertaining and endearing in their own unique way. When placed side-by-side, though, they reflect an even greater message that goes beyond the themes of either shows. That message can be summed up with one harsh realization.
The American Dream isn’t just failing. Those who pursue it are being punished.
I know it sounds bleak, if not fatalistic. It’s certainly not a message that “King of the Hill” and “F is for Family” ever state overtly. However, when placed in the context of their time and their over-arching themes, the overarching themes are clear, if not unavoidable.
In terms of ideals, Hank Hill and Frank Murphy have a lot in common. They’re both hard-working American men who see themselves as embodiments of American values. They take pride in their roles and responsibilities as husbands, fathers, and providers. They’re active in shaping the identity of their community. They both have an idealized vision of what the American Dream entails.
Some of those similarities extend to their family and how they impact the structure of the show. Many plots in “King of the Hill” and “F is for Family” revolve around Hank and Frank reacting to events that happen within their family. They have wives that seek their own path and kids who rarely appreciate the work they do. Much of the comedy in each show emerges from these conflicts.
Things really start to differ when the bigger picture of their respective worlds comes in. Whereas “King of the Hill” reflects a more optimistic view of the world that was more prevalent in the late 1990s, “F is for Family” paints a more dire picture. In Frank’s world, American ideals are failing and he’s struggling just to keep that vision alive.
In just three seasons, Frank has lost his job, struggled to provide for his family, and had his dreams derailed again when his wife gets pregnant. While his temper and his penchant for threatening to put people through walls don’t help, many of the factors that put him in such situations aren’t his fault. In fact, his tendency to do things the right way, as Hank often does, often work against him.
Within this dynamic, “King of the Hill” and “F is for Family” diverge in a critical way that speaks to the larger issues surrounding the American Dream. In the world of “King of the Hill,” doing the right thing and following American values are rewarded. It’s one of the show’s most common themes over the course of 13 seasons.
In this world, working hard at a blue collar job is fulfilling, respectable, and rewarding.
In this world, a man can support his family with a job that involves selling propane and propane accessories.
In this world, people who take short-cuts or try to avoid hard work ultimately fail.
In this world, a man who marries the woman he impregnates is rewarded with respect, support, and admiration.
Simply put, adhering to principles of hard work, high morals, and personal responsibility will help someone achieve the American dream. Hank Hill, with his quaint suburban house and supportive community, is the personification of these principles. It’s not always easy for him, given his influences, but that only makes his adherence to those principles more respectable.
This is virtuous system is not present in “F is for Family.” If anything, it’s turned upside down. Frank Murphy followed those principles as closely as Hank. He put his personal goals on hold when his wife got pregnant. He served his country dutifully when he got drafted. He works hard and provides, despite having a slob for a boss. However, his efforts go unrewarded. If anything, they’re punished.
In Frank Murphy’s world, a hard-working man can save the company he works for, but still get fired.
In Frank Murphy’s world, marrying your pregnant girlfriend instead of following your dreams will only get you ungrateful kids, a miserable wife, and an unfulfilling job.
In Frank Murphy’s world, a corporation can steal your idea and make millions off it while you don’t even get credit.
The system is harsh, unfair, and completely unconcerned with who adheres to American ideals. The only thing that ever seems to matter is dumb luck and already having significant wealth or privilege. Sadly, this is a lot more consistent with the current state of affairs where the rich and powerful exact immense influence, creating a system that benefits those at the top while straining everyone else.
This unfair system even extends beyond the political and economic sphere. In “F is for Family,” there are multiple characters who seem to succeed, no matter how little they work or how unmotivated they are. It’s not unlike those who flaunt their lavish lifestyles on Instagram, which is often fueled by inherited wealth that they did not work for or earn.
That kind of system wouldn’t just leave Hank Hill aghast. It would completely undermine his world, his identity, and his ethics. Whether he would resort to putting people through walls instead of just kicking asses is difficult to determine, but the bigger picture is clear. The American Dream in his world is intact whereas its reversing course in “F is for Family.”
To some extent, this reversal is consistent with how the world has been trending since the late 1990s and early 2000s. People have become increasingly cynical and trust in institutions is declining. Thanks to the media and the internet, it’s getting harder to hide the harsh realities of a world where just doing the right thing isn’t enough anymore. Despite taking place before the internet, “F is for Family” perfectly reflects this reality.
It creates a dynamic that’s bound to create more Frank Murphys and fewer Hank Hills. People are told that the American dream is still in their grasp. They just have to be like Hank, playing by the rules, working hard, and not taking shortcuts. Those who buy into that dream aren’t just let down. They’re outright punished.
Frank didn’t become a profanity-spewing rageaholic overnight. As perfectly depicted in the show’s opening credits, the various machinations of this unfair system just kept hitting him and no matter how hard he worked or how much he sacrificed, he never got closer to the American Dream. If anything, it just kept getting farther away.
Both “F is for Family” and “King of the Hill” have plenty to offer in terms of insights. Their respective worlds may take place in an animated world where former presidents and future serial killers can show up, but such exaggerated dynamics help each show convey a certain message that fit perfectly within the context of a certain time.
The idealism in “King of the Hill” and the satirical deconstruction in “F is for Family” paint conflicting pictures of the American Dream. Both still glorify it as an ideal, but each present a different understanding of how it plays out. Within the comedy, there are genuine, relevant messages worth considering.
For many people in the real, non-animated world, the American Dream still matters. Many still work as hard and as passionately as Hank Hill and Frank Murphy. It’s hard enough when those efforts go unrewarded, but when doing the right thing becomes a liability, it’s hard to call it a dream.