In the opening moments of “World Wharf II: The Wharfening,” Bob Belcher finds himself a babyface in peril. Due to a moment of personal weakness and ambitious greed, our typically upright hero fell in with the wrong crowd, and as a result, faces a literally rising tide that threatens to drown him.
During Bob’s dark night of the soul, his flip phone, the perfect metaphor for the lack of professional notoriety and financial success he finds so irksome, becomes the principal prop in his struggle to survive. Ever the idea man, Bob devises plans to call first his wife Linda and then 9-1-1, but each time the strategy fails because he cannot be heard clearly through the phone’s low-quality microphone. As the situation grows more and more dire, it becomes clear that Bob does not have the tools to survive alone or even with the help of impotent comedy heel Calvin Fischoeder.
But, wait! Bob has a devoted family, who, even harboring lingering bitterness about his recent decision-making, refuse to give up hope and spring into action. They confront his weaknesses directly and work to understand them, as represented by their fevered translation of his garbled texts. When they look to their friends and neighbors to join in the search during the musical montage “Bad Things are Bad,” the members of the show’s community unanimously try to help as best they can, be they vain (Jimmy Jr.), mean (Zeke), stupid (Andy and Ollie), in a situation where it is physically difficult them to do so (Rudy), or even a previously-established petty adversary (Randy). The takeaway is that the vast majority of people, even clearly flawed people, are fundamentally decent and wouldn’t want harm to come to a neighbor, even at a time when they were personally unhappy with him.
This kind of physical, intellectual, and emotional legwork by supporting characters is present in stories and series with rich ensemble casts but too often conspicuously absent in professional wrestling. If wrestlers, be they babyface or heel, were portrayed more consistently as members of a community in which there are constantly evolving, complex relationships, then it would create a situation in which the things they say and do to each other actually affect the balance of their universe.
Instead, wrestling as a genre is a rather bleak portrayal of humanity. It often forgets that society wouldn’t function if every single person were a highly-driven alpha. The reason any common good can be achieved or even imagined is because a majority of people is willing to band together in spite of each individual’s flaws to try and protect good and decency from harm. The world portrayed on TV in wrestling is one in which backstabbing and pettiness are the rule rather than the exception. It is because their world is fundamentally broken in this way that no wrestling company on earth is capable of building a babyface locker room as impressive as the ensemble cast of characters on Bob’s Burgers.