Frog 37.3: Give a Little Biff

(This is Part 3 of Frog 37–click here to read Part 1, and here to read Part 2)

And so now then: the final Happy Box. Abbot and Abbey, who accidentally ordered two Happy Boxes, told Salsa to forego bringing them their second, leaving none other than Biff, one of Tazmily’s teens, as the final recipient.

As a refresher, Isaac seemed to want a Happy Box because he truly wanted to know if it could actually make him happy. The lonely lumberjack had been feeling left out from the rest of the town in recent days, if not emotionally confused. While Isaac isn’t a character I’ve ever thought much about before, I can’t help but sympathize with him more now that I’m older. I, as well as so many people I know, have tried something, have trusted in something, based solely on the vague promise that it might make me happy. I don’t mean to exaggerate Isaac’s position, but I sensed a believable, quiet desperation in his longing for a Happy Box, and I think his fragile mental state is emphasized by the fact that he immediately wants to become a “follower” of Fassad.

Isaac wants to be happy, but he also wants his life to have purpose.

Next, we had Abbot and Abbey, whose brand of consumerism seemed more plainly just that: consumerism. Abbot admits that he’s always loved collecting things, and Abbey, in her happy-go-lucky attitude, wanted a Happy Box as well. Mistakenly, I said that Abbey only wanted a Happy Box because Abbot did, but, as it turns out, each wanted a Happy Box, and each seems excited about having one in their home. For Abbot and Abbey, who I’m comfortable calling gullible, the promise of a Happy Box is a guarantee: if we get this thing, we’ll be happy! What fun!

For me personally, the weird thing about Abbot and Abbey (specifically Abbot) is how the Happy Box makes them so… giddy? Silly? Drunk? I wish I could say that I see this as innocent enjoyment of obtaining a desired object–there’s nothing wrong with being Happy, right? But there’s also something deeply uncomfortable for me. Abbot laughing his ass off mid-sentence when trying to discuss the Happy Box, Abbey just staring into its light… It’s as if the thing quickly has a hold on them taking a love of “collecting” and turning it into a love of consuming. Abbot seems obsessed with properly expressing how the box makes him happy, as if there’s a small part of his heart that remains skeptical, remains unconvinced, but he just can’t accept it.

But who am I to critique the love birds and their happy home?

The final Happy Box recipient is Biff, and I don’t have all that much to say about him, because I’m not 100% sure, at this time, how we’re supposed to read him. In the case of his brother, Butch, I’m confident in saying two things: 1), I think Fassad tricked Butch by praising his livestock and manipulating the young farmer’s emotions, and 2), I think Fassad exposed what may have already been a penchant for greed. I’m not saying greed is unique to Butch or anything; everybody has a price, and Butch just happened to be Fassad’s first target.

With Biff, though, there’s something that feels passive about the whole situation. He initially raises his hand only because he’s curious to see what a Happy Box is, and when he receives his box, he says, “Oh, thanks a bunch! Now I can be happy, too!” He then says that he thinks he’s feeling happier already.

I guess I just don’t know as much about Biff to make any judgments from this first interaction. With Butch, Biff, Abbot, and Abbey, I suppose it’s possible that Itoi is warning young people specifically about the dangers of blind consumerism. Teenagers and young adults are heavily marketed toward, after all. Or, maybe Itoi isn’t so much warning anyone about anything, but just saying, “Hey, if this really happened, I think a teenager would be interested in it.” Biff just seems passively interested in a Happy Box, so he got one. There doesn’t seem to be anything sus going on.

We can also note that Isaac, again, reused his empty cardboard box to put firewood inside; Abbot and Abbey left their cardboard box on the ground, empty, using it for nothing and probably tossing it soon; and Biff completely disposes of the cardboard box. I don’t think we’re supposed to read into this or anything, but I still see it as fun, small instances of characterization. The oldest adult reuses his box, the young couple doesn’t, and the teen just throws his away. Itoi and his team could have easily just removed these cardboard boxes from the scenes as soon as the characters received their Happy Boxes, but they decided to do something with them to communicate small details, and I like that.

I also wonder if Biff wanted a Happy Box as a way to bring his family together. For the past day or so, his brother Butch has been acting strange, and his father, Matt, doesn’t appear to spend much time with his sons. We know that Biff is a good guy (he helped in the search for Hinawa), and it also seems significant, ironically, how normal Biff is. He’s just a teenager who wants to be able to chill and have a good time, and now that Butch is lost to greed, I’m sure Biff, like Isaac, has started to feel a little lonely.

I mean, think about it: who does Biff have to hang out with, other than his brother? He’s probably a little too old to hang out with Lucas, Claus, Fuel, or any of the younger kids. And he’s too young to go hang out with, like, Thomas or something. Who else could he even spend any time with if not for his brother? Biff might want a Happy Box just so that he has something to have, something to do, something to… something!

Biff also appears to be the least impressed by his Happy Box. He tells Fassad that he put the box inside his house, but, as far as he can tell, it must not make you happy right away. What does this tell us about Biff and about the other characters? Well, I think we already know. Biff’s just a dude, hanging out on a farm. He’s still young, he’s probably relatively carefree, and he got the Happy Box on a whim. It hasn’t started to affect him yet because there’s not much to affect. Is Itoi saying that teens aren’t impressed by anything anymore? 😛

But really, when I think about Biff’s milquetoast reaction, it makes sense when compared to the other characters. We know Isaac was feeling pretty sad, and we know at least one villager (Linda) was worried about Fassad putting ideas into Isaac’s head. Maybe Isaac is known for easily giving way to conspiracy and mystery, or maybe other Tazmilians can recognize that he’s a lonely guy who doesn’t need something taking advantage of his loneliness. For Isaac, the Happy Box quickly becomes an answer to his sorrows. A something, an anything.

I’ve already talked about Abbot and Abbey enough, but remember that they both actively wanted the Happy Box–Biff just had a passive interest. Biff didn’t want to collect anything, or feel a certain way. He started off ambivalent, and ambivalent he has remained.

Though, we also now have a reason to worry about Biff. If this Happy Box hasn’t made him happy, is he going to be more or less likely to listen to Fassad in the future? As Butch becomes darker with greed, will Biff be pushed more and more toward anything Fassad is going to shovel out next? See, if it were, say, Reggie who wasn’t impressed with a Happy Box, I’d expect him to call it quits and go back to making art. But when Biff isn’t impressed with a Happy Box, I worry that he’ll be first in line to try, say, the Happy Box version 2.0…

Leave it to Mother 3 to make me worry about the fate of a unimpressed teenager! My heart is with you, Biff! Don’t fall for Fassad’s tricks!

So I think that’s it. I don’t have much more to say about Biff, mostly because I don’t remember what happens to him down the line. I wish he remained cautious and unimpressed, but like most of the Tazmilians, I’m sure he’ll be singing Fassad’s praises before long, if not just the praises of the Happy Box.

And hey, what is a Happy Box anyway? What do they do? Are they TVs? Computers? Sensory Simulation Devices? Maybe we should ask Itoi about this…

But we can do that next time! I’ve already split this frog into three pieces, so what’s a fourth? Besides, there are a million Tazmilians to talk to. We still have work to do!

I’ll see you tomorrow.

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