By Austin James
Today, my son is a sick little boy who refuses to take any medicine because it all tastes icky. He sleeps and barfs and asks for ginger ale, while we watch a Phineas and Ferb marathon. For those of you that have never seen the Disney animated series, this article will be useless to you. Should you insist on trudging forward, the show’s premise is basically this: Phineas and Ferb are cartoon brothers who spend each day of their summer vacation away fighting boredom with an assortment of creative inventions and wacky adventures.
Anyway, somewhere around the 193rd episode, I’ve come to recognize that this “innocent” cartoon is peppered with subliminal messages within the characters and storylines. Doesn’t surprise me, to be honest. But my findings may be surprising to you, and therefore I’ve decided to record this evidence before the black-suits show up an erase my memory of them.
“Hey, Ferb! I know what we’re going to do today!”
May I Offer People’s Exhibit #1 into Evidence?
Surface Material: Phineas and Ferb’s older sister, Candace, is constantly trying to thwart their plans and “bust them” (get them in trouble with to their mother), although she never truly succeeds at doing so. She’s so obsessed with their demise that she is often torn between busting them and spending time doing the stereotypical teenage girl stuff she’s into.
Undertow: She’s the only witness of her brothers’ schemes that isn’t already “in on it” or that isn’t directly benefitting from their antics. She scrambles to collect enough evidence to turn them over to the authorities (their mother). At the last possible minute, all evidence vanishes, and mom remains unconvinced.
Subconscious Message: Candace is a silly, crazy, stereotypical conspiracy theorist. Everyone around her either doesn’t believe her or doesn’t care because there is always some bigger force that seems to be covering everything up. It’s the main punchline of every episode: dumb conspiracy theorist is not to be taken seriously. Hilarious, right?
People’s Exhibit #2:
Surface Material: The Fireside Girls, sometimes known as The Loyal Sisterhood of the Fireside Girls, are the show’s parody of the Girl Scouts. This group of girls is about the same age as Phineas and Ferb and they collect badges, go on adventures, and are often instrumental in helping the boys defeat their boredom.
Undertow: The Fireside Girls are where the feet hit the pavement for many of the boys’ crazy escalades. They do everything from constructing time machines, handing out propaganda-promoting fliers, and running superpowered, automatic carwashes: all in the name of Phineas and Ferb. There’s even episodes in which they distract Candance from stumbling upon her brothers’ unfinished inventions.
Quick side note: The Fireside Girls are in Troop # 46231, which just so happens to be the zip code for Indianapolis, Indiana; home of the Colts professional football team, who were the victims of 2015’s “Deflategate” (one of the sports world’s most infamous modern conspiracy theories). Coincidence?
Subconscious Message: Go out there and join a group! Buy into the cause! Don’t ask questions, just follow along. Collective brainwashing at its finest.
People’s Exhibit #3:
Surface Material: A farmer and his wife are recurring characters thrown in for a little comical seasoning. The wife is always nagging at the farmer, saying, “I can’t believe you bought a [insert a random business, such as: van rental company] without getting [enter something related to the business, such as: any vans to rent],” to which said thing [van] immediately falls from the sky, usually hurtling down upon her.
Undertow: So, you need a thing? Or maybe you don’t even know you need this thing yet. What if someone were to create technology that could innocently listen in on our personal, domestic conversations and provide a barrage of the appropriate paid advertisements to meet your every potential need? Cue Siri; cue Alexa.
Subconscious Message: Buy stuff, especially stuff you’re lucky to have lived so long without!
People’s Exhibit #4:
Surface Material: Phineas’ head is a triangle with eyes.
Undertow: The illuminati’s most prominent insignia is a triangle with an eye.
Subconscious Message: Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain.
“Hey, where’s Perry?”
People’s Exhibit #5:
For the final, and perhaps most damning, piece of evidence, first let me explain the show’s B-Plot for any non-viewers who are still with us: Phineas and Ferb have a pet platypus named Perry. However, being your standard, semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal, house pet is really just a cover for his profession as a secret agent.
Surface Material: Codenamed Agent P, Perry the Platypus spends most episodes spoiling the evil plans of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the local mad scientist bent on world domination.
Undertow: Agent P, huh? P as in Political terrorism, maybe. Is he really a metaphor for the computer hacking groups that give the common man just enough hope to keep going to work every day? Ever notice how these groups can’t ever seem to do real damage to the political landscape, despite the occasional moral victory? Kind of like how Agent P never actually subdues his nemesis? Interesting.
Subconscious Message: There are heroes out there, fighting for you and everything you stand for. And the more you cheer from your armchair, the more heroing they can do!
“Subliminal messages, you are soooo busted!”
Look, I’m not saying the show is a tool for social compliance. I’m not even saying that Corporate America is really using subliminal messaging techniques in our favorite television programming, even that intended for children. All I’m doing is laying out some interesting threads uncovered in the tapestry known as Phineas and Ferb. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
I rest my case.
Also, my little boy is feeling much better this evening, thanks for your concern!
BIO: Austin James has caffeine in his blood, gypsy spit in his spinal fluid, and an incredibly lazy pseudonym. His prose and poetry have been published in multiple magazines and medias (including Bartleby Snopes and Bizarro Central).