Gravity Falls (2012-2016)

Instead of posting this on the 20th (which I plan to make the day I share the SOTM), I moved this story up to today, the 18th. The story behind that: today is Alex Hirsch’s birthday.

And Hirsch is the creator of “Gravity Falls,” one of my favorite animated shows.

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Each episode covers a different aspect of either magical fantasy or science-fiction, which are the two genres I love writing for most. I don’t find a lot of stories that brilliantly, seamlessly mix these two genres together as much as this show does.

Also, this show is not afraid to be weird. It embraces the quirkiness of life, and of these characters: the two main characters, twins Dipper and Mabel Pines, deal with peer pressure, self-acceptance, first crushes and first heartbreaks, family, and growing up.

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If I had to summarize who Dipper Pines is, it would be…resilient nerd. His love of books, sci-fi shows, and mysteries often gets him into trouble, but nothing can shake him from a task once he puts his mind to it. Throughout the show, he struggles with his masculinity as he is not the typical buff, refined hot guy in town. In episodes like “Dipper vs. Manliness” and “Little Dipper,” in particular, he grapples with his small, lithe form and his lack of physical prowess. While he never becomes muscular, he does learn to accept that he doesn’t have to be the biggest or strongest – but I love that that doesn’t stop him from continuing to get stronger. To quote his great-uncle: “When the world fights, he fights back.”

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Mabel Pines, on the other hand, would rather knit a new sweater, update her scrapbook, or go into town and make new friends. Between the two twins, she is the more social one, and the one less afraid to be silly and unique. But in the episode “Irrational Treasure,” after being bullied for her clothes and quirks, she wonders if she might be too immature or childish, and even tries to change herself, feeling terrible and scoffing at how “silly” she’s behaving. She even comes face-to-face with the fact that she is not like her brother: whereas he loves planning things out and knows what he wants to do in life and has a general sense of how to do that, she’d rather live day-to-day and doesn’t know what she wants to do in life. In “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future,” Mabel fears that she won’t be able to keep up with her brother and that he’ll leave her to pursue his dreams while she wanders through life. Ultimately, she comes to accept who she is and that she may not have a life plan right now, and that’s okay.

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Let me emphasize that last part: it’s okay not to know where life will take you. Without spoiling anything, all the characters in the show – even some secondary and extra characters – all go through something I call a Threshold. In the course of a mythic hero’s story, (s)he comes upon what is known as a Threshold. (Technically, there are two, the First and the Return, but for our purposes, I’m combining them into one.) The Threshold is a major point in the hero’s journey: it can be an obstacle, a trial, or a test, but the hero must prove him-/herself to move into the next stage, which could be victory in battle, or the next stage in life (i.e. puberty, adulthood). Unlike other trials or tests, which the hero could avoid, the Threshold is unavoidable and usually reveals something about the hero, like a great fear or a skill/trait yet undiscovered. Dipper, Mabel, their family, friends, neighbors, and even a few enemies all encounter their own Thresholds, but some make it through, while others fail to overcome the challenge.

One common Threshold is knowledge: of the universe, of secrets and mysteries, of girls (yes, this joke is present in an episode or two), of life, etc. It’s natural for people to want to know everything, but this show challenges that by asking the characters, and by extension the viewer: “Do you truly want to know everything?”

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There’s so much more to talk about, but I’m afraid of giving too much away – and this is one show you do not want spoiled for you at all. But would I recommend this show?

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P.S. The photo captions are all in Caesarian Cipher, which is the first code/cipher to be used in the show! Can you figure out what they say?

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