Trailer Park Boys: Why We Cheer for Petty Thieves

Trailer Park Boys is an interesting phenomenon.  Canada is an often ignored place in the US, yet the popularity of Bubbles, Ricky, and Julian has exploded in the states in recent years.  The show’s premise is fairly basic, it’s about a group of petty criminals who live in a trailer park and engage in various get rich quick schemes that involve thievery and marijuana.  Most of the law figures in the show are either drunks, perverts, or incompetent such as Mr Lahey and the various cops in the series.  Inevitably, the boys end up going back to jail at the end of every season as Julian the leader of the group allows his ambitions to get the better of him.

It seems a bit odd that a country that appreciates hard work and independence would cheer for a group that refuses to get a honest job and instead indulge in various law breaking schemes.  In most stories, the roles would be reversed.  It would be the cops and trailer park supervisor Mr Lahey who would be the heroes and the boys would be the wacky villains.  Yet, when you examine some of the thematic elements of Trailer Park Boys, it becomes obvious why we cheer for the boys.

First is the strong sense of community and family in Trailer Park Boys.  The boys don’t ever plan to move out of Sunnyvale Trailer Park, and despite the often antagonism between various characters, they are all part of one big family, even the idiotic Corey and Trevor and the perpetually drunk Mr Lahey and his lover Randy who refuses to wear a shirt and eats way too many cheeseburgers.  They have a funny sense of neighborly love for each other that many Americans lack and secretly desire.  So many of us are in our own little worlds that we lack a real sense of a community.

Also, on some level I believe we appreciate and respect tenacious bandits.  There are bountiful movies about chivalrous bandits pulling off sophisticated heists.  While the boys are not necessarily chivalrous and their tools unsophisticated, they are certainly tenacious and their actions don’t seem to be particularly hurtful.  At best, their actions are hilarious and par for the course.  It’s even more hilarious seeing the boys justify their actions through such twisted logic as, “As long as you take something to the side of the road, it’s junk and that means you can take it and it’s not stealing.”  On some level, we can appreciate small time crime as long as it isn’t immensely vile.

Third, there is something to be said for protagonist centered morality.  We often tend to give the main characters more of a pass when it comes to moral misgivings because they are the main characters. We relate with them on a deeper level and we automatically assume in many cases that they are doing the right thing simply because of their status in a story.  The same principle applies to the boys.

Third, the Trailer Park Boys appeal to our desires to live uninhibited and fun lives.  The boys do not allow conventions to get in the way of how they want to live their lives.  Even when they are in jail, Julian keeps up on his readings and Ricky starts hockey teams.  The boys are independent and don’t allow authorities to determine how they live their lives.  Even Bubbles, who is the most moral of the bunch and most likely to try to stay on the right side of the law, lives an uninhibited life of getting high in the streets and play space with his buddies.  Bubble’s kitties are free range kittens who are allowed to roam free throughout the Trailer Park, and that type of desire to live an independent, hilarious, and bizarre life deeply appeals to us.

Comedy is a powerful tool that allows us to laugh at the absurd and topics that would normally fill us with depression.  Yet, it can also appeal to our basic desires for independence and community.  It is easy to see why Americans cheer for the boys and their bizarre schemes.

Of course, any discussion of Trailer Park Boys would be intellectually dishonest if it didn’t discuss the downside of all this.  The boys never truly profit from their ventures, and their chaotic life in and out of jail prevents them from having settled lives.  In addition, the rather ludicrous gun fights where no one ever dies is unfortunate for more reasons for one.  That being said, the series is obviously not taking itself seriously, so such absurdities can be forgiven.

But perhaps it is none of these elements which drive people to cheer for the boys, but rather it is the boys themselves.  Ricky’s loveable idiocy and sayings, Julian’s over the top schemes, and Bubble’s love for his kitties are certainly endearing and can easily draw us into cheering for them.

Or perhaps it is all because of that one song written by Bubbles:

Kitties are so nice.

Kitties are so nice.

Take em down spin em around and tickle their bellies

Not once but twice!

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