Have you been watching Disney’s Phineas & Ferb? If not shame on you, because it’s awesome! In this cartoon, yes cartoons are often the most thought provoking media, two brothers plan to do something new every day of summer vacation. These are boys who will not waste time. Well, except for the day they pledged to do nothing but sit under a tree.
So where do you start? For us geeks it has to be “Nerds of a Feather.” In this episode the boys strap on the costumes of their favorite genre characters, Phineas as a space captain and Ferb as an elf, and head off to the Tri-State Area Annual Sci-Fi and Fantasy Convention. There they find something shocking, the convention is divided into two opposing fan bases, the “Speckies” support their beloved Space Adventure while the “Finkies” support the fantasy Stumbleberry Finkbat franchise. The two sides are so divided that none of them visit special effects legend Clive Addision who worked in both franchises.
As I watched events unfold it hit me, Phineas and Ferb provide great examples of behaving like Jesus by reaching out to people who are not like them. In fact they are great examples of Eric Bryant’s Not Like Me. In this book, Bryant argues that Christians should reach out to the outcasts in society, those who are the most unlike us if we wish truly behave like Jesus. Jesus did not spend his time with the religious establishment but those outside of it.
So how do the boys reach out to nerds not like themselves and attempt to preempt an inter-genre geek war?
- They invite everyone to the party: Throughout “Nerds of a Feather” the boys work to include everyone. They see the value of both genres and their commonality in the work of Clive Addison. In fact, the boys throughout the series are always inviting everyone to the party. Literary as they post invitations to all comers to their ambitious projects. If Phineas and Ferb have a party everyone in town is invited. Their posse shows this principle in action. Phineas and Ferb are smart kids so it’s no shocker that the brainy Baljeet is their friend. Yet Buford the bully seems like an odd fit for their inner circle. But then some may have wondered why Jesus the teacher associated himself with Levi the tax collector.
- They eliminate the barriers to communication: The boys are willing to put themselves out there. They attempt to break the ice and communicate the message of cooperation and toleration to their own genre, but also leave their comfort zone so Ferb can use his golden tongue to attempt to sway the Speckies to see the Finkies in another light. Phineas declares to the genre fans that they are all outcasts and then should be friends. And they attempt to force the two sides to see their common opponent to overcome a problem that threatens all genre fans (insert evil laugh here).
- They do not accept stereotypes: Bryant states, “Stereotypes exist because we do not form friendships with others who differ from us (Bryant, Not Like Me, 130).” When urged to mock his brother’s elf costume, Phineas instead compliments it. Phineas knows the person and what it means to him. He does not see the pointy ears. Going past sterotypes and seeing the whole person, such as the goldfish loving side of Buford, allows the boys to have diverse and supportive friends.
Phineas and Ferb paint us a picture of Jesus. Jesus saw past the stereotypes and saw the person. He could communicate with the common man and the scholar equally effectively. He even attended parties with Pharisees and the religious outcasts. Phineas and Ferb, and Jesus, created authentic relationships with people that are different from them. And because of this fact all three are able to pour themselves into the lives of others. Thank goodness we have two hall of fame geeks to help show us way to working with nerds not like us.