The Best Tina Belcher Episodes About Being a Teenager

Bob’s Burgers, created by Loren Bouchard (Home Movies), follows the everyday lives of the Belcher

Bob’s Burgers, created by Loren Bouchard (Home Movies), follows the everyday lives of the Belcher family, owners of a third-generation burger joint. Tina Belcher, perfectly voiced by the monotone Dan Mintz, has become a cultural symbol for teenage girls’ eccentric and awkward nature. Tina is what happens when you demystify the sexualized American depiction of teenage girls. As she mumbles her way through life, Tina Belcher is grounded in her honest portrayal of complicated adolescence.

As the eldest of three siblings, Tina, at first glance, appears to be the most practical. Her quiet demeanor and sensible practicality hide a teenage girl coming to terms with her sexuality and purpose in life. However, compared to Mena Suvari’s Angela Hayes from American Beauty, Tina is closer to reality for most teenage girls: she’s insecure, severely confused by every new bodily development, and breaks out in a sweat when the cutest guy in school makes eye contact.

Even more unique to this particular portrayal of an adolescent in the throes of hormones is Tina’s respect and love for her family. Her characterization is not based on rebelling against her family but against societal norms imposed on young women. It’s her family who encourages her along the way. There’s a level of trust and understanding between Tina and her mom Linda, voiced by John Roberts (Paint it Black), and surprisingly, with her dad, Bob, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (Archer). Tina is comfortable enough with her own family to share some of her most intimate hopes and fears.

Here are some of the best Tina-centric episodes of Bob’s Burgers that also explore what it means to be a teenage girl.

RELATED: ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Movie Update: Creator Loren Bouchard Explains Release Date Delay

“Sexy Dance Fighting” (Season 1, Episode 4)

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Image via Fox

As a jumping point, this particular episode finds Bob Belcher reconciling with Tina’s developing emotional growth. It also becomes a learning experience for both Tina and Bob. Tina develops a crush on the new martial arts instructor next door and begins taking lessons. When Tina starts to ignore her responsibilities at the restaurant, Bob is concerned for Tina’s work ethic and sense of obligation. In response, Tina decides to keep going with her lessons despite Bob’s threats.

It is also about reconnecting with Tina. Bob feels like he’s losing her to time and others as she develops these emotional, romantic connections with boys. He knows it’s irrational, so it’s why he antagonizes the martial arts instructor and vice versa. This leads to Bob initially refusing to see Tina pass her qualifying yellow belt test. However, upon realizing his love for Tina is stronger than the uncomfortable feeling of losing his daughter, he goes.

Tina, in turn, recognizes that fear in Bob. Bob stands up for his daughter when the martial arts instructor refuses to pass Tina because he dislikes Bob. Tina’s pride in her father becomes the rekindling of their relationship, ending with Tina staying with her dad to man the grill while the rest of the family goes out. She calls it “dad and daughter time.” It’s a distinctive portrayal of Tina’s uncontrollable evolution into womanhood and grounds it to maturity.

“Mazel-Tina” (Season 4, Episode 13)

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Image via Fox

Some episodes featuring Tina Belcher are just outright fun. The episode titled “Mazel-Tina” is quintessential Tina Belcher. It has the right combination of Tina’s desire to fit in and be included, along with her intense level of self-confidence that she can’t help but have.

After not being invited to her classmate Tammy’s bat mitzvah, Tina offers to have her family cater the event. No matter how rude or inconsiderate Tammy is to Tina throughout the evening, Tina still has a good time. Left in charge of running the party’s schedule when Tammy’s planner quits, Tina fulfills the role with a lot of enthusiasm. Tammy ends up stuck in a paper mache head of herself, which leaves Tina to fulfill Tammy’s role in all the activities.

While the scenario itself makes for a good laugh, Tammy is physically stuck in her own head; it’s Tina’s own commitment to her newly assigned role that gets the ultimate laugh. In trying to stick to the schedule of the party, Tina ends up being the party. It shows that despite Tina’s insecurities and sometimes glum attitude, she remains quite optimistic and happy. A lot of teenage portrayals determine that it’s all or nothing, that somehow life has to harden young kids in order for “maturity” to be gained. Tina Belcher proves that it doesn’t have to be that way. She took a situation that could’ve turned her into a vindictive character and made the most of it.

“Food Truckin” (Season 2, Episode 5)

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Image via Fox

Sometimes Tina’s story being the subplot of the episode makes it that much more special. This particular episode is mainly about Bob getting a food truck to compete with the arrival of another food truck luring his customers away.

Tina’s identity crisis right in the middle of the episode throws the viewer into a jarring spin. After being in charge of taking orders in the food truck, a customer accidentally calls Tina “Dina.” This prompts a visual look into Tina’s mind, where a lit-up “Tina” is suddenly replaced with “Dina,” therefore spurring Tina into this identity/alter ego journey throughout the episode. On the outside, all she “changes” is the placement of her hair clip and her tone of voice (which pretty much remains the same). But on the inside, Tina feels like an entirely new person.

The commentary here is that Tina does not put too much stock into her physical appearance. That’s not to say she doesn’t care; it just isn’t a priority. It’s both funny and heartwarming to see a young female character understand the nuances of how growth and change needs to be interior for anything to change on the outside. In most depictions of coming-of-age moments in teenage girls, the internal begins to shift after the character changes her appearance. For Tina, change comes from the inside.

“Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks” (Season 3, Episode 7)

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Image via Fox

Bob’s Burgers isn’t afraid to lend the voice of reason to its young female character. Tina Belcher is often the Belchers’ moral compass, which regularly makes her the foil for the other members of her family.

“Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks” becomes a lesson on ethics for both Tina and her dad Bob. However, it’s not Tina who has a problem with owning up to her mistakes. When Tina crashes her dad’s car in one of the funniest slo-mo scenes in the entire series, Bob makes a terrible choice after finding out it was his arch-nemesis Jimmy Pesto’s car. He tells Tina to lie and say he was the one driving to get their insurance claim. This only triggers the moral question within Tina: is it okay to lie? Is she a jinx because she put her father in this position?

In the end, it’s Tina who ends up saving the family from the fraudulent insurance agent who wants to blackmail the Belchers into helping him commit insurance fraud. It is also Tina who helps her dad regain a sense of morality when it comes to lying. Bob understands that a parent’s job is to set an example, even when they risk losing their car insurance. However, Tina also sees her father in a new light. She acknowledges Bob’s flaws and accepts him. In this frame of mind, Tina exhibits a level of maturity that perhaps is a little exaggerated but necessary in the nuances of understanding teen girls. They are more than their teen angst.

“Bad Tina” (Season 2, Episode 8)

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Image via Fox

A fan favorite amongst many, “Bad Tina” is the mandatory teenage girl episode every show needs. It’s about adolescent sexuality. It’s about rebelling. It’s also about understanding and acceptance.

Amid her first teenage acting-out phase, Tina finds herself under the influence of the new girl, Tammy. At first glance, Tina is acting out to fulfill those inner desires she’s developing, like touching her crush Jimmy Jr’s butt. She is also trying to understand where she fits as a teenager while still feeling like a child.

When Tammy comes over to her house while her parents are away, Tina begins to realize that maybe Tammy isn’t as genuine in her newfound sense of independence. In exploring the many caveats of being a teenage girl, Tina gets swept up by the pressures of being something she is not. Tammy threatens to reveal her dirty “fanfiction” to Jimmy Jr. if she doesn’t do everything Tammy says. Tammy doesn’t foresee Tina’s strong moral center being more vital than the need to fit in.

This episode puts a new spin on the “rebellious” teen narrative by emphasizing the paradox of being a teen. Tina’s internal battle of being between child and adult is the true source of tension. It allows viewers to understand the struggles of teenage girls at that particular age. It’s also a powerful depiction of family support needed in these times of transition for teen girls, as her brother and sister rally behind Tina to stop Tammy from going through with her threat.

Linda helps Tina overcome her insecurities in true Linda Belcher fashion. She tells Tina that she doesn’t have to pretend to be anyone else for someone to like her. Despite the last few days of Tina acting out, Linda finally understands that the problem comes from an actual place of hurt. This development in their mother and daughter relationship illustrates that tensions between parents and their children only grow when there’s no open communication between them.

Bob’s Burgers manages to walk the line between parody and genuine moments of connection when it comes to its young protagonist. Tina Belcher is not just the butt of a joke. Her experiences and emotions are taken into consideration as a vital part of the show’s overarching narrative.

KEEP READING: We Ranked Every Emmy-Nominated Episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ (So Far)


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