The episode of the animated television sitcom King of the Hill titled “Bobby Slam” is an amazing example of how a show directed toward teenagers can pack an impressive number of sociological concepts into 22 minutes of running time and deal with them in a particularly impressive way.
Interestingly, the concept of self-esteem is examined most clearly not through the main plot involving competition between the male and female adolescent characters—Bobby and Connie—but through Bobby’s mother, Peggy Hill. She is a substitute teacher for the girl’s P.E. class and a flashback is used to establish how her superior athletic skills were ignored by a male softball coach who ordered her instead to get drinks for the boy players. The show uses this flashback to layer the grown-up Peggy’s ongoing problems with low self-esteem.
The show deals effectively with parent-adolescent conflicts through the character of Connie whose parents are initially against her desire to join an all-boy’s wrestling team on the basis that it won’t help her get into a good college.
The parental conflict between Connie and her parents also touch strongly upon the concept of ethnicity because Connie is a first-generation Asian-American whose parents both immigrated to America from Laos. A running theme through the entire series is the parental pressure upon Connie to excel in school as an example of the ethnic stereotype of pressure upon Asian-American to excel academically.
Parental management and autonomy is handled in a particularly creative way in the episode. Throughout the episode, Bobby’s father is portrayed as figure of absolute control over Bobby, yet in the end it Bobby establishes autonomy by making his own decision on how to handle a conflict between friendship and peer pressure.
The central conflict of the episode has to do peer groups. Bobby is faced with pressure from other boys to behave irresponsibly to Connie when she tries out for the team. Ultimately, the autonomous rebellion is against his father, the school authority, wrestling traditions and his peers as he remains loyal to Connie.
- Fattore, G. (2017, August 18). King of the Hill “Bobby Slam”. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx19cv2HRSw