I don’t know what to do with this one.
I hesitate to call BOB ZOOM the new hotness; more like a passing fancy– the kid noticed it and insisted on watching it a few times and then it disappeared from Netflix like a bad Brazilian dream. Bob Zoom is an ant. He does not, in any noticeable fashion, ever zoom anywhere, and the provenance of his last name is unclear. Then again, the show is Brazilian, and translated from Portuguese, and I’m really tempted to ascribe all of the weirdness to the fact that the show was originally written for a Brazilian audience. But I’m not convinced. They find this shit weird too, right? They have to.
Start off with this: the ant’s name isn’t Bob Zoom. It’s Bobby. They never once call him Bob, ever. I originally wondered if this was also an artifact of translation, and the show was originally called Bob y Zoom, and Zoom was some other character, but there’s no sign of him anywhere and I’m not sure y actually means and in Portuguese anyway. But here, watch the intro to the show. His name’s Bobby!:
There’s no actual storyline to BOB ZOOM; there are (well, were) two episodes on Netflix and they’re entirely composed of songs. Bob himself doesn’t do much of anything. Some of the songs are fairly normal; there’s the alphabet, and they do a version of BINGO that isn’t far from the American standard but has entertainingly been translated from English to Portuguese and then back to English again. There’s a Maori song called Epo I Tai Tai é, and I dare you to head down the Internet rabbit hole that trying to figure out what that translates as will lead you to, because it’s terrifying.
And then there are what I assume are a couple of traditional Brazilian children’s songs, and that’s where the show gets weird. Well, not immediately. The song about the cow named Barnabe who is in love with another cow is fairly catchy and fun and normal:
Your foot’s tapping, right? And you’ve already got it sorta memorized? That’s how kids’ songs are supposed to work.
I give you Mrs. Cockroach:
Now, before I say more, let me point out that my wife works with an actual Brazilian national and he has never heard of this song. Which is comforting, because make fun of the lying poor person isn’t something that I’ve gotten an impression is a big part of the Brazilian psyche, and this song vibes all sorts of creepy and very probably racist in some sort of coded Brazilian way. And the animation is messed up, too; Mrs. Cockroach spends the occasional moment in the video looking seriously depressed and sad and then puts on her strong face, fully aware that the white children in the back of her car are going to keep making fun of her no matter what she tries to do.
And that’s before we get to what are obviously translation issues: her shell being hard as steel seems difficult to connect to her class ring, for example. But this song, and one more that keeps the weird but takes away the creepy and the “Wait, is this racist too?” element, definitely put BOB ZOOM high among the ranks of weird shit that I would never have been exposed to if I hadn’t had a kid.
Ah, what the hell, I’ll give you the chicken song too. It will haunt your dreams. Enjoy: