Here’s part 2 of why Gravity Falls is a well-made and incredibly-executed series that’s full of heart. On Part 1 I talked about Dipper, so now let’s talk about Mabel.
First off, Mabel is hilarious and adorable. I think we all know that. I don’t need to waste your time or mine listing examples of moments where she has cracked us up. We know that she’s funny. But despite being the source of many gags, she ALSO feels incredibly real. And her role in the episodes we’ve seen has been incredibly important and powerful so far.
Why is this?
Like Dipper, Mabel isn’t portrayed as a joke of a character. She makes a lot of jokes, but she herself is not one. This is a crucial difference that a lot of comedy series in general don’t seem to grasp.
We know that Mabel has a serious side. Firstly, it’s clear that she cares about Dipper immensely and wants to help him mature and learn from his mistakes. Even if she’s “the silly one,” in many situations she actually serves as Dipper’s logical advisor when he’s being unreasonable. Look to Double Dipper for the biggest example of her trying to teach her brother to be more calm and sane.
At no point has Mabel seemed “weird” or “immature” to me. She’s just a funny person, who likes making other people laugh. And she KNOWS it. In Tourist Trapped she implies that Dipper doesn’t trust her because of her usual nature, and she asks that he does it “for once.” In Irrational Treasure, she begins to realize how her constant joking makes other people look at her, and becomes frustrated with it.
Mabel speaks to me very powerfully because I know how she feels. I love to make people laugh. It makes me happy. And in some situations, I’ll say anything to brighten the mood or get a chuckle, even if it makes me look ridiculous.
Remember when Mabel got completely sincere and somber in Irrational Treasure and laments to Dipper that everyone thinks she’s “just a joke”? That was the moment I knew for sure I wasn’t “reading too much into it.” That was an incredibly real, down-to-earth, and powerful moment, albeit a short one. And I know people who like to bring the comic relief to their groups of friends who get frustrated for reasons just like this.
What I’m trying to say is that in the hands of any other writers, Mabel would be a horrible character. She would be wacky, she would be dumb, and she would have no depth to her.
But in Gravity Falls, she clearly isn’t dumb. She’s just as smart as Dipper, just in different ways. She’s not weird in a freak-show sort of way, she just likes to enjoy life and make others laugh too. One of her highest values is other people’s happiness! Look at how she didn’t want to hurt Gideon’s feelings, and how distraught she was for not doing the right thing. Look at how she wants Dipper to talk to Wendy. Look at how she wants to make friends in this new town, and stick up for them too.
Does that sound like a gag-spewing cartoon character to you? No. It sounds like a person.
Because like Dipper, Mabel is a three-dimensional, relatable person.
(Thanks for reading! I’ll be writing 2 more parts to this. Part 3 will focus on the other characters as well as the themes of the episodes, and Part 4 will appreciate the production quality in animation, music, and voice-acting. Stay tuned!)