why do we like pee-wee herman? i’ve seen this movie maybe 10 times and i’ve always considered him a sympathetic character (though i’m not as obsessed about him as the burtonophiles are), but i never, until now, asked why. if you look just at pee-wee’s actions it’s clear that he’s not a very nice person (he’s got an attitude, he’s mean to francis, and he is extremely mean to his closest friend – dottie), he’s creepy (he talks to his food, he has an obsessive personality, he uses “x-ray glasses” to catch a look at an unsuspecting woman – she is visibly disturbed by this, etc.) and he lacks social graces (he tells patrons of a bar to shut up, etc.) if you look at these facts and strip away the context and the “charm” of the film then it’s quite clear that pee-wee herman is no one we should like; but context is everything.
burton creates a world in which even pee-wee herman seems somewhat normal and nice. it’s a world filled with ex-cons, deviants, thieves, devil worshiping bikers, rich spoiled kids, dead truckers, and more. we also like him for two other reasons – he’s the protagonist and we almost always like the protagonist, and he’s been wronged so we sympathize with his loss. the major accomplishment of the film is in creating a unique, often unpleasant character, and placing him in a wicked world so that we don’t even question his many shortcomings. until now i’ve never heard anyone deride pee-wee and that’s a major accomplishment for ruebens and burton. unfortunately, it’s hard for me to see this film after paul ruebens did what he did – it casts a pedophilic shadow over the entire film that is have trouble shaking, especially in the final scene when he’s watching a movie. that said, the film’s still good for a ride and a laugh.