Ranger Tabes: A Stereotype with Substance
If you've watched Cartoon Network in recent years, you've probably encountered the show We Bare Bears. The show was created by Daniel Chong, a longtime storyboard artist for companies like Pixar, and it follows the lives of three adoptive bear brothers, Grizz, Panda and Ice (you can probably guess what kind of bears they are), as they live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I first found the show due to the amount of comedians who are featured in it. Former Saturday Night Live actor Bobby Moynihan and stand-up comic Demetri Martin play Panda and Ice respectively, and other comics like Patton Oswalt and Cameron Esposito play secondary characters. It was obviously really intriguing because most of these comics have very adult material in their acts and hearing that they were in a children's show seemed off, but I understood upon watching some episodes of it this summer.
The show both celebrates and critiques modern culture through plots revolving around things like quirky San Francisco restaruants but also internet stars who are real divas when off-camera. It has both dry humor and more traditional cartoon jokes, and I think it can be enjoyed across age groups. Since the three main characters are male, I looked into secondary characters for representation of TSC (tall, strong, chunky) women. To be frank, there was only one remotely thicker woman that I could find who was more than a background character, so I watched all episodes that she was featured in. Meet Dana Tabes, more commnly known as "Ranger Tabes."
Ranger Tabes makes her first appearance in an episode entitled "Ranger Tabes." In it, the bears reach out the the local police station about a missing package, but the officer quickly hears that they live in a cave and immediately forwards them to Ranger Tabes for further assistance. Ranger Tabes is the exact opposite of this officer, acting incredibly serious about even this small problem, ready to jump into action. Within her first few lines, we understand that her character is driven, dedicated, passionate and confident. Her first line is, "I'm on it!" She treats the smallest cases with the same intensity as the biggest one, and she uses her brain and knowhow to protect the forest that she loves.
Tabes also presents very real tacts of belittling that passionate people and women in general face. The lazy police officer accuses her of always blowing things out of proportion and calls her "kiddo," even though they appear to be the same age. He tries to make her feel small, but Tabes proceeds to show him up. "I don't think that wanting to do what's right is blowing things out of proportion. I want to help because I care. Someone has to care[...]," is Tabes' response to this officer, and it's the line that ultimately gains her the friendship/admiration of the bears. They proceed to find out that the little case of the missing package was actually a huge deal regarding defunction delivery drones, proving Tabes' concerns and passions valid.
In the Christmas special of the second season, the bears give Tabes a puppy after she says that she's having trouble finding someone to match her energy. I believe that this implied that Tabes has the enthusiasm, love and energy of a puppy, which is probably the best compliment one can receive.
I think that the best episode about Tabes is from season three. It's entitled "Poppy Rangers." Within it, Tabes leads the show's version of girl scouts on a journey to get their spelunking badges. We meet the young rangers and immediately notice that they have learned Tabes' senses of drive and dedication. Wallace, the smallest ranger, wears an eyepatch, which we see as Tabes apologizes for what happened to her eye, but the young girl says that she has, "No regrets." A very Tabes line, indeed.
This episode is great because it directly shows what a woman like Tabes shows young girls. At one point, Wallace gets herself in danger within the cave they are exploring, so Tabes throws her body over Wallace and rolls them both to safety in the knick of time, inspiring Wallace to say, "You. Are. Awesome." At the climax of the episode, Tabes is kicking herself for being a bad leader and putting her Poppy Rangers in a situation of danger that she couldn't find a way out of (yet). The troup of girls gather around Tabes and tell her, "You're the coolest. We wanna be just like you." This sense of affirmation inspires Tabes to find a solution to the problem, and she gets all of the girls to safety.
In a later episode called "Ranger Games," Tabes tells the Poppy Rangers that the key to winning is a positive attitude, inspiring them to believe in themselves in a game of kickball against their rivals, the Ivy Rangers.
Tabes is tall, as she is cartooned as about the size of Grizz and much taller than Panda (Grizz is 6' tall). She's described as muscular and is drawn with more heft to her than most other women on the show. All of this comes together to make Tabes a certified TSC.
However, I would be remissed not to point the light on some obvious flaws in the character. Tabes is referred to as "sir" by her Poppy Rangers, and a lot of the show seems to portray her as more masculine through her off-duty wardrobe and her "gruffness." As I stated within my first post, it is a great thing to be a masculine women, but I find that TSC women are most commonly made immediately masculine or immediately evil by children's entertainment, and this lack of variety creates stereotypes for women of bigger sizes. It also seems to take away the choice for real women indulging in fiction, seeing that, even in a fictional universe, they're not QUITE the same as women smaller than them.
What saves Tabes is her amazing character traits. Her passionate nature and kindness are unparalleled within the show, and she is quite possibly the best friend you could make in the show's universe. Tabes inspires her fictional Poppy Rangers, but I also believe that she inspires the very real children who view the show to believe that caring and having passions are a great thing, and that you should never fear being "too much" for those who don't see the world in the way that you do.
Tomorrow, I'll be looking into the cartoons of Disney Channel (both past and present). Thank you for learning with me. I hope that you learned one new thing, no matter how small (perhaps that the word "spelunking" means to explore caves).