View Full Version : Luanne on King of the Hill

04-07-2004, 10:16 PM
If a TV character can count as a guilty pleasure, I think mine would be Luanne Platter (voice of Brittany Murphy) on King of the Hill. Objectively, I'm not even sure if that character should be on that show. She was not part of Mike Judge's first draft or first sketches (Judge drew and wrote Peggy, Bobby and Hank, and Hank's three buddies), and she was added by co-creator Greg Daniels primarily to bring out Hank's discomfort with sexuality. On the DVD commentary track, Daniels sounds almost apologetic for having added her, saying that she's a broader character than the characters from Mike Judge's original conception. (Daniels also created a new, broader characterization for Dale Gribble, making him a conspiracy nut instead of a laid-back beer buddy as Judge originally planned. This was to make Hank seem more reasonable by comparison.) On a show where most of the characters seem authentic, Luanne seemed more based on stereotypes -- grew up in a trailer park, mother in jail, aspiring hairdresser, trashily dressed, attends Bible-study groups. She's grown from that point, but still, she's the odd character out, so much so that when the writers stopped putting her in every episode, it didn't affect the show much. Sometimes when she does appear she's used mostly for "dumb blonde" jokes and/or animated breast jokes.

And yet. She's one of my favorite characters on that show, I was pleased this year when she finally moved back in with the Hills, and many of my favorite episodes of that show are Luanne episodes or have heavy Luanne content:

- Texas City Twister (Hank pressures Luanne to move back to her old trailer-park home)
- Meet the Manger Babies (Luanne's sweetly idiotic Christian puppet show with a "nativity scene" that includes an octopus... with only six legs, so she considers calling it a "sextopus")
- Wings of the Dope (her dead boyfriend Buckley comes back as an angel)
- Luanne Virgin 2.0 (what other show besides KotH would do an entire episode about the "born-again virgin" program?)
- My Hair Lady (Luanne and Bill -- another truly wonderful character who's grown a lot from his original characterization -- team up as hairstylists)

I guess what I like best about Luanne is her awkward, kind of sad relationship with Hank Hill -- Bobby's relationship with Hank is the core of the show, but we all know Hank loves Bobby. Hank's relationship with his niece (in-law) is more ambiguous and he can sometimes be a real jerk toward her; she, for her part, can be whiny and dependent but with surprising moments of strength, and it's been interesting how these two very different characters have developed a father-daughter relationship without ever really admitting that that's what it is. Also, especially in the first few seasons, Luanne allowed the show to deal, however obliquely, with issues of class (forgetting that Luanne is there, Peggy launches into a tirade about "trailer trash" and how Bobby shouldn't do something or he'll be "trailer trash"). The episode where her mother turns up was pretty heartbreaking, too.

But I finally figured out why I liked the character so much when watching a scene in the most recent Luanneisode ("My Hair Lady"). At the beginning of the episode, Luanne is struggling through community college (remember she dropped out of beauty school to try her hand at college, then drops out of that to go back to hairdressing). As her attention drifts during a professor's boring, wannabe-hip history lecture, she starts falling into her old habits by styling a classmate's hair. In a bizarre way, that spoke to me, because I (and many current or recent students) have had the experience of being in college but unsure of what the hell our higher education is supposed to get us, or what good it's doing us. In deciding that the things she's studying in college are not the things she's passionate about doing, she kind of reminded me of me. If I were a hot cartoon woman.

04-08-2004, 01:23 AM
I only saw a few episodes of the show when it first started to air, but judging from your post it seems to be far more dramatic and story driven than the simply comedic simpsons rip off i was imagining. Should i give it a try? maybe pick up the DVD's? I always did wonder why the show was animated....it just seemed like the concept could have been pulled off just as well with live action.
I do recall liking Luanne by the way.

04-08-2004, 01:41 AM
King of the Hill definitely isn't a Simpsons ripoff -- it's very consciously different from the other animated sitcoms, slower-paced, with fewer references to popular culture (they almost never do movie or TV parodies unless it's something the characters are actually watching on TV), and deals with a specific place and culture. It's not frequently "dramatic" but it certainly has dealt with some serious issues, particularly in the second and third seasons (in the second season, Hank stood up to a fundamentalist who wanted to ban Halloween, had a drug addict employee he couldn't fire because of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and lost his job when corporate behemoth "Mega Lo Mart" drove his propane dealership out of business). Most of the humor is very character-specific and is therefore funnier when you're familiar with the characters.

The best way to describe it would be as Mike Judge's style of humor (low-key, somewhat culturally-conservative, an odd mixture of lowbrow and subtle) combined with the style of storytelling of the early Simpsons episodes -- like season 1 or 2 Simpsons. Greg Daniels, the co-creator, says on the DVD that even though he worked on The Simpsons from seasons 5 through 7, his favorite era of The Simpsons was seasons 1 to 3, when it wasn't as wacky and the emotional pull of the show was at its strongest. So KotH accordingly usually tries to have strong story structure and some kind of emotional arc to its stories (often involving Hank learning to bond with his son or his wife).

The first two seasons are out on DVD -- I'd suggest checking out the second season, by which time the character designs were what they are today and the show was doing a lot of interesting stories.

04-08-2004, 01:44 AM
Thanks capelcleggs, i'll definately at least give the DVD sets a rent....sounds great. I leave you to your thread now

04-08-2004, 09:34 AM
My wife and I love this show. I think the key reason is that the characters are believable and so are the plots. We all know some guy with a goofy lingo (Boomhaur), a broken older man that hates his life (Bill), an annoying neighbor (Kahn), the goofy awkward kid (Bobby), etc. This show has been funnier than the Simpsons for the last few years. The Simpsons can still be very funny, the show where the kids are trapped in the school with Skinner during the snowstorm is one of my favorites, but King of the Hill has better, more interesting plots.

04-08-2004, 12:16 PM
I think one of the interesting things about Luanne is that, unlike many of the other characters on the show (or any TV comedy, for that matter), she seems to possess an understanding of her flaws and shortcomings. With the exception of Bill, almost all of the other KoTH characters have an overinflated sense of their own abilities or the importance of their interests. Luanne knows that she isn't very smart, that she has lousy taste in men, and that she's not all that good even at the things she's good at.

Yet although she has crying fits and occasional bouts of depression, Luanne is generally good-natured. She's also hardworking and interested in improving herself to the best of her abilities. That she knows the best of her abilities will probably never allow her to rise very high adds some noble tragedy to what might otherwise be a stock trailer-trash bimbo character.

04-08-2004, 12:29 PM
I thought her name was Jane?

04-08-2004, 12:37 PM
I like the contrast that she is very good at car repair, but it never occurs to anyone least of all her, that that could be a career for her. Have they ever revisted this since she fixed the damage to the truck that Cotton did?

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