Louise Belcher is a force of a little girl. She insidiously smart and unapologetically selfish. She thrives on drama and conflict and manipulating others just to manipulate them. She has affection for her family, mostly her father, but her tender feelings are dormant and have to be forced out by acts of terrible uncomfortableness. Her antics are relentless, ruthless, and just shy of pure evil. And that’s why we love her.
Louise Belcher is a the ego unhinged. She says and does all the things we sometimes wish we could, all in the form of an adorable little girl wearing bunny ears that evoke, for me at least, Harvey, Donnie Darko, and a security blanket. The bunny ears are her one source of weakness, they are her only vulnerability. When her ears are stolen during in the “Ear-sy Rider” episode, she is uncharacteristically shaken, and teeters on the brink of madness. Since she does not express things like sadness, her distress in revealed by an eerie false positivity failing to hide an unbridled anger and quest for one of the greatest motivators in human storytelling: revenge.
But even when she loses her protective talisman, Louise does not allow vulnerability to go too far. She still wears a hod die, and we never get to see the top of her head, leaving some to speculate that she’s partly bald (probably not,) or has an intense fear of how much she resembles her mom Linda (entirely possible, but nowhere near the whole story.)
According to Bob’s Burgers showrunner Loren Bouchard, the inspiration for Louise and her ever-present ears was an anime character called Tekkonkinkreet who always wears a bear hat. “You get a little cognitive dissonance where you experience [Louise] both as a little girl and Bugs Bunny at the same time,” Bouchard told The A.V. Club.
Louise is way smarter and more sophisticated that everyone else, including all the adults. Most children are not extremely precocious like this, but Louise’s shrewdness represents something we all go through growing up. When you’re nine you live in a strange land of awakening reason, black and white judgements, a growing desire for your own independence, and at the same time, a resistance at the march of time, the terror of adult responsibility and expectations, and the changes your body is about to go through.
Everyone develops differently, but I think there is something primal about Louise’s character, something we all relate to on a gut level. Early in the first season of Bob’s Burgers, Louise is horrified at her sister for going through puberty, a theme she sticks with throughout the show. Louise exists in that magical place in childhood, the time when your awareness of the world is sharpening, but puberty has not yet come to ravage your identity and moods and change your body into a stranger. For me Louise’s bunny ears are her her security blanket, warding off the hideous parts of growing up while still reaching for power as if you already have. She’s a kingpin Peter Pan.
In a season four episode director Randy taunts Louise with a brilliant line that is both true and not true at the same time. “I can get better at directing,” he says. “But you’ll always be a little girl.” The great thing about cartoon children is that they never grow up, they are suspended in time living out their unchanging personalities for as long as their creators can come up with hijinks. Of course, we know that this is true of us non-cartoon entities as well, at least on the inside. Hopefully we grow wiser and learn to make better decisions and learn how to take on necessary responsibilities without losing our minds, but inside we are still the person we were as children, still harboring the same fears, still clinging to our bunny ears.