Phineas & Ferb: Whatcha Dooooing?
Phineas & Ferb: Whatcha Dooooing?
I often get requests or suggestions of chapters to write about. Some are really great ideas, but don’t fit with what I’m writing. Usually, there just isn’t room in the book (printing these things isn’t cheap). Last year, before I had even started entertaining concepts for this book, one of my favorite con families approached my booth. This family has been supporting what we do for a longtime both with the books and Vincent’s art, so it’s always encouraging to see them around.
At first, the young son of the family rifled through my candles (if you’ve never seen the F&F booth, I make nerdy candles) and then he cried out “See mom! I told you he didn’t have BB-8!” The kid had seen a BB-8 mold and had thought of me to make sure I knew it was out there so I could start making BB-8 candles (which I then did). Then he got super serious and told me he had an idea for a chapter, so I pulled out my phone and said, “I’m ready.” He energetically gave me a really good pitch for why I needed a Phineas and Ferb chapter. He had some really great points, and honestly, I wish I had taken better notes. But he sold me right there. So, Retro Nedak, thanks for the inspiration.
Phineas and Ferb is one of the outright most creative children's shows ever made. When Disney decided to make it, it was supposed to be their answer to Spongebob. While it hasn’t had the longevity of Spongebob, it truly was a masterfully made piece of children’s entertainment. Beyond its own base of episodes, being in the colonizing family of the house of mouse means they were able to easily crossover to Marvel and Star Wars as well. My kids love watching it, and before I ever saw a single episode, I purchased a stuffed Perry The Platypus, just because it was cute. When I finally did start watching it with my children, I was enthralled. The theme song right out the gate comes out swinging
“There's a hundred and four days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it...”
The first time I heard that I thought, “Wait. Do we get that many days of summer vacation?” Even though that wasn’t exactly the case for my region, it did bring up a really strong point. These kids knew exactly how many days they had, and so they were intentionally setting out to use them to the best of their ability. Having a set unit of time before them helped them to prioritize and function with purpose. Most people don’t do this with their summers, or even their lives as a whole for that matter. They wait until it feels like they are out of time and try to cram things in as their clock is literally running out before their eyes, but when we operate intentionally with purpose on our time, it makes a big difference.
Look at this prayer that Moses wrote:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
This concept shows that when we actually know the number of our days and know that our time is limited, then we become focused. We gain wisdom in how we use our time. I honestly have not had a “summer” since I was 15 years old. From 1997-2010 I was in summer camps every summer. From 2010-2013 I was running youth ministries for my church that ran through the entirety of the summer. From 2013 till now, summers have become the busiest season of my life. Beyond just my pastoral role, con life with Faith & Fandom takes up a bulk of my summer with cons almost every other weekend, and whenever I'm not at a con, I'm speaking at a camp somewhere. In 2019, I literally was on the road the ENTIRE month of July.
I know going into the summer that I have to be very intentional in specific with how I use my time. I probably won’t be giving a monkey a shower or anything, but I have no choice but to be intentional. If we would apply the simple wisdom of what both Phineas and Ferb and this Psalm teaches us, we would have more productive lives and not have entire seasons of our lives where we look back and feel like our time was wasted.
The people of Israel made some really poor life choices, used their time and hearts really foolishly, and paid some heavy consequences. The prophet Jeremiah not only delivered God’s messages to them, but also pleaded to God on their behalf. They used their time and attention so poorly that they were basically destroyed. The prophet Jeremiah was left standing there, looking at what had become of them and stated this:
“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.” - Jeremiah 8:20.
We need to be intentional to use our seasons wisely, not just in productivity but in how we apply that to our relationship with God. If you manage the time to build a rollercoaster in your backyard, but still ignore God, your summer will still be wasted.
One of the frequent occurrences throughout the show is people doubting Phineas and Ferb’s capabilities due to their young age. People often approached them with:
“Aren’t you a little young to be ______?”
They would reply with as simple answer.
“Yes. Yes, we are.”
They didn’t deny that they were young, or even that it wasn’t common for someone of their age to do what they were doing, but they also never let it be the thing that stopped them from doing what they had set their goals on. They owned their youth, and then showed that being young didn’t disqualify them for what they wanted to do.
When you are a kid, it’s easy to have the mindset of, “I’m just a kid.” This does two things.
A: It relieves you of responsibility B: It discounts you from expectations normally placed on older people.
This is why the concept of a young person doing “adult things” is often so novel or humorous. When I was a kid, it was things like Doogie Howser M.D., Home Alone, and BIG. For my kid’s generation it’s things like Boss Baby, Shazam, and Timmy Failure. But the reality is, youth does not discount ability, purpose, or calling.
We have a whole culture that is constantly sliding down the age of value and responsibility. In 1920, the US Census showed that more than 1 Million children between the ages of 10-15 held actual jobs. Granted, I’m not saying we return to 1920 work ethics and practices, but when 24-year-old's don’t feel like they are empowered or are functional to be considered actual adults, it’s a harsh place to be.
If we demean younger generations and tell them that they matter less or aren’t capable of doing big things, they will start to believe us. When I graduated high school and started Bible college, the pastor of the church I grew up in offered me the job as youth pastor. I had been in that church and active for 5 years. I had been on 5 mission trips, worked for 3 summers as a camp counselor, and had been personally discipled by our pastor for years. We only had like 5 kids in our youth group, and he thought I could totally be a catalyst to kickstart things. I accepted the job, and went home ecstatic.
I literally made it the 2-mile drive from my church to my house, and when I walked in the door, the phone was ringing (this was pre cell phone days). My pastor was on the line, and apparently the minute I walked to my car, a squadron of deacons descended upon his office and told him that I couldn’t be youth pastor because I was too young. Now, I definitely was not the most mature 18-year-old on the planet, but I was serious about ministry. I was truly hurt. These people that had watched me grow up were ready to take this opportunity from me just because of my age.
On the flipside, my first job ever filled me with nothing but confidence. When I was 11, I became paperboy for my town. Not the ride-a-bike-around-throwing-rolled-up-projectiles paperboy, but my role was to walk up and down main street of our small town and sell newspapers to businesses and passerby's. I was a cute pudgy little dude with a big smile, and I sold lots of papers. But I only sold papers on Thursday when the papers came out, so I told the editor-in-chief that I needed more of a role. I could be a solid investigator, and also do office grunt work for them. So, they straight up gave me a tiny desk in the corner of the newspaper office. They showed me how to do stray jobs, and I would scribble out story ideas I thought would be suitable for my hometown. I even had a cool little name plate on my desk.
Full disclosure, looking back, I was absolutely useless to that company. I did nothing truly beneficial to them other than sell papers, but they empowered me to the point that I actually believed I was contributing. They never once made me feel like me being a kid hindered my possibilities. That newspaper has since closed down (probably my fault), but there’s not a time I don’t feel warmth when I drive by there, remembering the way they made me feel like I was valued.
Paul urged Timothy to have the same attitude and determination that we frequently saw playing out in Phineas & Ferb.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” - 1 Timothy 4:12.
Paul told his younger associate Timothy not to allow anyone to discredit him for his age, but to let his actions show them that he was truly capable. His actions could be an example not only to the younger ones around him, but to the older generations as well. I’m grateful for Phineas and Ferb for helping whole generations of kids feel a little more confident that their young age doesn’t make them matter less as a person. There will always be someone thinking you are too young, but our actions should prove our value beyond our age.
One of my other favorite things about the tiny duo is their constant display of integrity. Whenever someone asked what they were doing, be it their parents, Candace, or Isabella, they always gave them a straight up answer. They didn’t change up answers to suit whoever they were talking to. They didn’t intentionally cover things up or deceive anyone. They were just about their business and never tried to be less than honest about who they were or what they were doing. That’s solid integrity. That’s not integrity you really find in the real world, and especially not in cartoons.
When I was a kid, Alvin and the Chipmunks were staples, and that show and animated movie were literally based on, “Let’s lie to our parents and friends and see how far we can get with it.” Not only was Phineas and Ferb’s integrity a refreshing break from the trope of mischievous animated kids, but it’s a solid example of who we should strive to be. They were up front with what they were doing. It wasn’t their fault people didn’t believe them, and they also didn’t waste their time trying to convince people of their action’s validity. As we see in the book of Proverbs:
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” - Proverbs 11: 3.
Sure, most times things magically worked out to make it look like they had not even attempted outlandish shenanigans, but they never had to spend time or worry about lying or deceiving. That brings a peace of mind that is extremely hard to come by.
When you live and speak with integrity, it honestly doesn’t matter who comes against you. You’ll come out clean on the other side. One of the constants of the show is that Candace spent less time caring for and protecting her brothers and more time trying to get them in trouble. This almost never worked in her favor. An “–inator” would backfire and clear things up, or the boy’s shenanigans would just time out, but they didn’t have to try to be deceptive. Because they operated that way, Candace often found herself more and more frustrated when she tried to bust her brothers.
Peter brought up a similar concept in how we deal with people in our lives.
“Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” - 1 Peter 3:16.
We should live with the level of integrity that if people ever try to speak ill of us or “bust us,” they end up being busted themselves.
I’ve made it this deep into the chapter though, and before it’s over, there’s a question I have to ask...
I think I would be amiss to do a chapter on this series and leave our Perry and Doofenshmirtz. The one thing that I always enjoyed the most about them was their frenemy-ness. Perry and Doofenshmirtz are technically enemies, but they are also best friends (Doofenshmirtz even said so in the episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”). Sure, Perry kicked in his walls, and Doofenshmirtz trapped him on a regular basis. They were constantly on opposing sides, but they also saved each other's lives, teamed up together, put on exercise shows, and had constant other misadventures.
Yes, they were enemies, in terms of being on opposing sides of situations, but they were honestly the best people in each other’s lives. Being on opposite sides of situations or organizations should never be the reason we treat people poorly. Jesus states clearly in Luke 6 that we have to be better than that.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Luke 6:27-31.
In reality, Jesus tells us to treat our enemies better than most people in this world treat their friends. We have to be willing to show love to people regardless of how we stand in view of their views. Perry and Doofenshmirtz often did this, and even more so, Perry truly was loving his enemy by trying to stop him from making poor life choices.
Vanessa Doofenshmirtz stated this about her dad:
“You’re basically a nice guy who’s pretending to be evil. And, you know, it seems like it’s all out of obligation to your backstories, not something that truly comes from your heart.”
Perry often tried to stop Doofenshmirtz from making bad choices, not because it was his assignment, but I believe it was also because Perry knew he wasn’t truly evil. When we can stop people from making bad life choices, that’s another way we love our enemy. Not that we kick their walls in, but if by our actions and attitudes we can shift the direction they are moving, that’s love.
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin.” - James 5:19-20.
Not only do we need to love people when they treat us poorly, but if we can help stop them from wreaking havoc in their own lives (or the tri-state area), then that’s love. Using our time wisely, letting our actions validate our maturity, letting our integrity be our constant defense, and loving our enemies are big things. Bigger than creating nanobots or locating Frankenstein’s brain. These things will often take longer than a single summer to establish and build within ourselves, but we will be better off when we do them.
I hope this can be an encouragement for all of us to strive to be more like who God calls us to be, and to enjoy our lives in the process. Also, Gitchee Gitchee Goo.