King of The Hill: Mockery of Values
King of the Hill, set in a fictional Texas town, portrays the Hills’ everyday lives. Hank Hill constantly deals with sometimes crazy issues of his family and friends, while attempting to stay true to his values. The Hills’ values are part of their personalities, which are questioned or ridiculed. Wayne E. Baker notes that “values are concepts people use to make choices, to decide courses of action, to explain and justify behaviors, to judge and be judged” . Values are behavioral choices people make in their lives. Michelle Maiese defines values as a person’s behavioral traits. “When two groups have radically different ways of making sense of human life, it is likely that actions regarded by one side as good and prudent will be perceived by the other as evil or foolish” . Maiese’s definition of values shows what choices people believe are right or wrong. Maiese’s definition acknowledges a variation of behavioral traits within society that result in different values. King of The Hill does acknowledge different values in its portrayal of specific issues. John Altschuler, King of the Hill’s executive producer, states that “some of our biggest laughs come from [Hank’s] just saying, ‘Huh?” . It is King of the Hill’s focus on characterisation, as implied by Altschuler, where the series questions and ridicules values in specific scenarios.
4. Square Peg (Season One, Episode Two)
Square Peg sees Hank and Peggy confront their sexual anxieties, after their son Bobby tells them about a school-run sex education program. Hank is particularly restrictive about showing Bobby anything of a sexual nature, even before Hank knows about the sex education program. Peggy rubs Hank’s back when Bobby walks in. “Not in front of the B-O-Y!”, Hank exclaims as he rushes to put his shirt on. Hank’s restrictiveness, even in innocent moments, underlines his apprehension of acknowledging sex. This is emphasised when Bobby asks Hank and Peggy to sign the acceptance form for the sex education program. Hank immediately rips up the acceptance form and is disgusted over school-run sex education, believing it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children. Hank and Peggy stare at each other awkwardly, creating a hilarious moment of their sex-related fears as Hank and Peggy’s values are seen as ridiculous.
Square Peg leads to repetitive scenes where Hank and Peggy have to deal with sex-related topics. Hank is continuously horrified at the prospect of sex education. “He’s only been out of yours for eleven years”, he tells Peggy regarding her womb. It is another hilarious moment, mocking Hank’s reserved nature. Meanwhile, Peggy has to deal with social prejudice as well as her own anxieties. When Peggy attends Bobby’s baseball game, she discusses sex education with numerous mothers. The mothers are very conservative about sex education. “You poor, poor woman”, Peggy responds to the mothers’ conservatism. While Square Peg creates comedy by questioning values, it also contains serious moments where sex education is argued as a benefit for children. Square Peg‘s sincere portrayal of sex continues as Peggy overcomes her own unease of sex by reading out words like “penis” and”vagina” to give herself confidence, with added humor by Hank’s shocked reaction. Hank and Peggy eventually overcome their anxieties, reflecting their change in attitudes and dissolving part of their values.
3. Bobby Slam (Season Two, Episode Ten)
Bobby Slam explores Hank’s need to fulfill the traditional father role, by vicariously living through Bobby’s wrestling ambitions. King of the Hill always portrays Hank as a father who wants to instill male gender traits into Bobby. “What a great time in a boy’s father’s life”, Hank responds when he finds out about Bobby’s wrestling. Strict gender roles are part of Hank’s values, so it is not surprising Bobby Slam mocks Hank’s self-absorbed attitude. This plot point is interlinked with Peggy becoming substitute gym teacher for female students at Bobby’s school. Connie, Bobby’s female friend, becomes interested in wrestling which challenges ideas of gender. Peggy in her typical head-strong manner encourages Connie and decides to supervise her in wrestling. This stirs sexist attitudes in Coach Kleehammer (the male gym teacher) and Hank. Kleehammer reluctantly allows Connie into wrestling tryouts. However, Kleehammer places Bobby and Connie against each other in a qualifying match.
Hank and Peggy become conflicted regarding gender. “We were so close!”, Hank exclaims disappointingly due to his embarrassment over Bobby’s wrestling, feeling it is tainted by Connie’s admission. Hank’s disappointment relates to his views on gender, which are being mocked. Hank’s behavior is further mocked when he goes to extreme lengths in training Bobby. This continues to show Hank’s vicarious attitude as hilariously pathetic. Bobby and Connie understand the flaws of gender roles and use their qualifying match to compete in the WWE style, making a mockery of athletic wrestling to annoy Kleehammer. This makes Hank realise his flaws on views on gender, that it should not interfere with others’ ambitions.
2. Aisle 8A (Season Four, Episode Five)
Aisle 8A echoes Hank’s previous sexual anxieties from Square Peg. Connie stays with the Hills whilst her parents are away on a business trip. However, Connie unexpectedly has her first period. Hank is left to deal with Connie’s predicament. Throughout Aisle 8A, Hank is the center of many hilarious and awkward moments. Hank is initially unable to deal with Connie’s predicament, so rings his mother for advice. Yet Hank is unable to tell his mother anything. “I couldn’t even tell my own mother, and she is such a lovely woman”, Hank later tells Peggy. Hank’s sombre delivery stemming from his awkwardness regarding sexual topics is meant to create a comical moment.
Hank’s values continues to create awkward humor as what would be normal for most adults to deal with, Hank’s nervousness causes needless problems. “We’re sure a long way from automotive”, Hank tells Connie as they walk towards Aisle 8A. Hank’s comment mocks his behavior in only wanting to undertake masculine activities and not deal with feminine problems, portraying his personality humorously due to his awkwardness. Hank’s attitude regarding Connie’s predicament is never shaken even after the event, such as when he deals with Bobby’s questions on the matter. “Bobby, if we’re going to get though this, you cannot ask me questions like that”. Aisle 8A continues to mock Hank’s anxieties for his reluctance to deal with feminine issues, even as an adult.
1. Yankee Hankee (Season Five, Episode Ten)
A recurring theme in King of The Hill is Hank and his friends’ Texan pride, which Hank feels is an important value. There are countless episodes where Hank and his friends are enthusiastic about upcoming Dallas Cowboy games and hosting barbecues, so it is no surprise when Hank applies for a native Texan license plate. Yet Hank faces a mystery when he cannot locate his birth certificate. Hank at first thinks he may be adopted, engaging fantasy scenarios of famed NFL coach Tom Landry as his father. “Would I have called him coach or sir?”, Hank’s fantasy scenarios are so obscene that King of The Hill is once again mocking Hank’s personality. However, Hank becomes shocked when he finds out his birthplace is New York City.
Hank becomes depressed and is unable to undertake any activities, feeling it “makes me no better than Tony Randall”. Hank’s statement makes him a source of humor as Hank seems ridiculous in his emasculated state, his ideas regarding Texan pride could be viewed as narcissistic. In a Yankee Hankee sub-plot, Hank’s father manipulates him for a far-fetched scheme and leaves Hank at the Alamo, a major part of the Texas revolution. While at the Alamo, Hank learns that Texas revolutionaries came from numerous states, including New York. Hank understands his emasculated mindset is unneeded and makes his mindset flawed, as Texas is multi-regional in its origins.
King of The Hill‘s continuous mockery of values shows why they can sometimes be flawed. King of The Hill‘s criticism of sex-related anxieties, rigid views on gender and vain pride is evident in characters’ values. Hank in particular is a character whose values are rightly questioned. This is further reflected in the Hills’ change in attitudes, such as Hank and Peggy’s realisation of sex education as positive and Hank understanding his Texan pride can be seen as narcissistic. The Hills’ ability to assess themselves and understand their flaws continues to show King of The Hill‘s understanding of traditional values as flawed.
1. Baker., W.E. 2005. America’s Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception. Princeton University Press.
2. Maiese., M. 2003. ‘Moral or Value Conflicts’, beyondintractability.org. [Online][Available From] – http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/intolerable-moral-differences
3. Richmond., R. 2006. ‘Milestone: ‘King of the Hill”, hollywoodreporter.com. [Online][Available From] – http://web.archive.org/web/20071008120722/http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002501636
What do you think? Leave a comment.