It’s just really funny to me--especially as someone who came into this fandom years after the show ended--that there was this unconscious assumption in the GF fanbase that Dipper was the Hero.
Between Sock Opera and NWHS especially, it seems like, the theories and speculation and fics all tended to revolve around Dipper. Bill was his nemesis. He was the center of this big overarching plot, whatever it was. And then...turned out that not only was that not how the story was going, that was never the story.
The second half of season two completely recontextualized the Big Overarching Plot as revolving around Stan and Ford--Bill was and always had been Ford’s nemesis, Stan and Ford were at the center of everything involving Bill and the Journals and the gravity anomalies, and in the end Stan was 100% the Hero. Dipper and Mabel were crucial to giving the story a happy ending, but...it wasn’t their story, primarily. They walked into Act 3 with the rest of us.
And honestly, that’s really cool. For one thing, it’s super impressive how well NWHS and AToTS managed to reframe the entire narrative. Beautiful writing work. For another, I just...really love that people assumed Dipper was the Protagonist being set up to Vanquish The Evil, because in a kid’s cartoon it’s the main kids’ job to defeat the villain, right? And Dipper was wrapped up in all this mystery/plot/Bill stuff? And then the story basically picked him up and moved him to the side a little like “no. The grownups are going to deal with being Bill’s nemeses and having to sacrifice themselves to defeat evil. These are THEIR roles.” And it’s so thoroughly against the audience expectations--but once you have watched it, it also feels like the only way things ever could have gone.
i know it doesnt seem that way on the surface but once you do some digging and thinking?? bill cipher is kind of a tragic character. hes like a trillion year old kid who could just never learn a lesson because nobody was able to level with him in a way he could appreciate before he became unbearable. there’s a lot of unsaid angst in this character thats rearing its little ass up on the outskirts of the canon show.
Sixty degrees that come in threes. Watches from within birch trees. Saw his own dimension burn. Misses home and can’t return. Says he’s happy. He’s a liar. Blame the arson for the fire. If he wants to shirk the blame, he’ll have to invoke my name. One way to absolve his crime. A different form, a different time.
— Axolotl’s poem, Dipper and Mabel and the Curse of the Time Pirates' Treasure!: Select Your Own Choose-Venture
LITTLE TIP FROM SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK- "TRUTH" IS A TATTLETALE WITH NO FRIENDS. "TRUTH" IS YOUR ANNOYING UNCLE WHO SPOILS THE MOVIE. "TRUTH" IS A CONCEPT INVENTED BY POWERFUL LIARS TO GUILT YOU INTO GIVING THEM MORE POWER. DONT FALL FOR THE TRAP. LIE UNTIL WHAT YOU WANT TO BE TRUE BECOMES TRUE. LIE UNTIL YOU CANT REMEMBER WHATS A LIE AND WHAT ISNT. LIE UNTIL YOU ARENT LYING ANYMORE
— Bill, Reddit AMA
“Alex, why is Bill lying about being happy?” Um, y’know… for courtesy.
— Alex Hirsch, Alex & Dana Charity Draw-A-Thon
If you think Stan’s relationship with his family is bad, Bill’s is worse.
— Alex Hirsch, NYCC 2015
Mabel, on the other hand—her, I like. ‘Fun’ is just another way of saying CHAOS, and I’m the master of that!
— Bill, Dipper’s and Mabel’s Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun
My concept is that Bill genuinely believes that Mabel’s kind of like him. He sees Mabel as a chaos agent… she’s a little bit selfish, she likes to have fun at whatever cost. And Bill is all those things times a billion. So he thinks when he lays it all out for her, like “How about, instead of being lame, you do something fun! And crush whoever you want in the process!” He thinks that’s going to go over. And, uh, he’s not wrong in seeing that side in Mabel, but— but Mabel is a better person than Bill Cipher.
— Alex Hirsch, commentary on Sock Opera from the complete series boxset
Why is Bill so mad at the world? I think there’s a lot of people where you can ask, “Why are they so mad at the world?” I think Bill is angry at the world for the same reason that anyone sometimes can get mad at the world. Everyone has days where they don’t get their way, where you have to go to bed early or you have too much homework to do or you can’t eat the candy that you want or you miss your favorite TV show and, in those moments, you just want to tear the whole world down.
Bill is a character who has been around for countless billions of eons, but he hasn’t grown up in that time. He’s a character who has accumulated many frustrations, many moments of destruction like that, and they’ve built up over time. Now he’s decided that he wants a world where there is no homework, where there is no bedtime—where you can eat any candy you want, and you can do anything you want. But because he is such a crazy guy, when he does anything he wants, it turns out to be terrifying. So I think little frustrations over thousands of years have built him into a sort of spoiled brat. And he takes it out on the world, and it’s up to our heroes to finally teach him some rules.
— Alex Hirsch, AV Club interview
it just really gets you thinking about him (these all link to different analysis posts)
theres a feeling of fleeting pensive sadness about bill. yes he deserves punishment. but it just feels like it didnt need to happen in the first place. if he had someone he could be open about his vulnerabilities to so that he doesn’t have to lie about being happy. or someone who could’ve advised and righted him in an unobtrusive way so that he had a large degree of freedom but was still being guided to grow in a positive direction. from just these glimpses you cant help but ask “what happened to you?”
whatever the “different form, different time” entails, he’s going to need someone who can immediately read past his bullshit but be tactful and patient with him about it in order for him grow into a better person.
Absolutely no idea why this idea suddenly struck me, but...
Stan dies shortly after being kicked out. Not sure how exactly, but I mean, he's a homeless teenager in the seventies. Ford takes the loss extremely bad, and can't cope with the guilt of not having stood up to their father.
One of two scenarios follows: Stan refuses to leave Ford like that and clings onto existence through sheer stubborn determination, or—unable to let go and accept the loss—Ford uses his knowledge of the supernatural and arcane to bind Stan's spirit to himself.
Either way, the end result is the same. Ford tries to continue living as if everything is fine and nothing has changed while Stan lives on as his new shadow.
My enjoyment of Danny Phantom as a series has been enriched significantly with the realization that “ghost hunter” as it’s established as a career here is basically ‘occult researcher’ and this is a setting that does have basically wizards (Freakshow) and magical artifacts.
If we pair this with the fact that the Fenton parents are uncommonly combat-ready people who are armed at odd occasions (Maddie just... has a machete in Maternal Instinct) this leads me to the conclusion that Danny’s sense of normality is probably kind of shot.
Tucker, concerned “Why do you know how to knife fight?”
Danny, “What do you mean why? My mom taught me?”
Sam, torn between judgment and envy “Your mom taught you how to knife fight?”
Danny “YES? Because people need to know these things?”
(and, if you like a side garnish of dark with your comedy, think about that in DP canon it’s pretty much a given that any part of the world is haunted with often powerful ghosts, many of which are hostile, random lake monsters, magical artifacts that can cause great deals of trouble, and the Fentons know it’s dangerous out there considering one of their old college buddies got hospitalized at great length over a lab accident, so they’d have a KEENLY vested interest in making sure their kids have survival and combat skills)