Ruby Gloom is a children’s TV show that aired on the channel YTV from 2006 through 2008. The concept for the show was based on the line of clothing Mighty Fine from illustrator Martin Hsu. Family-friendly enough to broadcast on YTV (a popular youth network at the time), Ruby Gloom was beloved by kids young and old and still holds a special place in the hearts of its viewers.
Thematic elements and characters
The series boasts 10 recurring characters. The star, Ruby Gloom, a charismatic curious girl who lives in an expansive gothic mansion with her friends Doom Kitty, Iris, Misery, Frank and Len, Poe (plus his 2 brothers: Edgar and Allen), Scaredy Bat, Boo Boo, Skull Boy, and Ruby’s treasured plushie, Mr. Buns.
Fans of the show have debated different theories surrounding the characters personalities and how they may be intentional portrayals of different mental illnesses. There has not been any official confirmation of these theories, but it makes sense that people who grew up struggling with mental illness were attracted to a show that held a firm intention to bring light out of dark places.
Without using diagnostic labels, the story of Ruby and her friends makes sure to show people of all ages that even if they feel alone in the dark, there is always someone willing to show you some light.
Scaredy Bat is one of the clearest examples of this message. He is a bat. A bat who is afraid of darkness, heights, falling, and flying. Nearly every episode contains a moment of his panic and distress. Every time he is afraid, his friends are there to help. They never mock him for his fears, only console him back to safety. He is never expected to change his behavior or personality because his friends love him for the way he is: a Scaredy Bat.
Without getting too far into the details of every character, it is sufficient to say that most people can relate to at least one of them. The magic in the stories of Ruby Gloom and her friends lies in the love they have for each other. They all have their quirks and their struggles; they do not always find it easy to be around each other and often find themselves in times of conflict. Yet it is those very struggles that pull them closer together.
Ruby Gloom is most easily recognized for its uniquely stylized art. This isn’t surprising when you know that the show was started because a production company saw so much value in an illustrator’s work that they paid him to turn it into a TV show. It is also one of the things that has adult fans continuously going back. Since this show was released in the mid-2000s, a lot of television has stopped shying away from representing some of the darker sides of life… but there is nothing that can replace the enigmatic, bouncy animation style and iconic characters.
Most of the episodes utilize a simple structure to maintain the attention of the audience. Starting with a short skit to bring the humor before the theme song plays while the characters bounce around the screen. This way of opening always stages the episode with the sense of togetherness found within the mansion. The integral foundation to every story where the point of conflict is one or more of the characters struggling to find their value in the group.
How it affected me
I was one of many children growing up in a less-than-stable household. Teetering just far enough into the lower-middle-class that I had access to cable television, Ruby Gloom was a show of comfort to me. It didn’t meet everyone’s tastes and I became nervous to mention it to other people until many years later. The gothic stylings and darker themes were not exactly welcome in my fundamentalist Christian upbringing… but I have spent many hours wondering how much better my childhood would have been if we were allowed to look into the dark side. Maybe if we weren’t so afraid to peer into the depths, I could have found the bright side a lot sooner.
Even still, I am glad I saw the show when I did. It was one of the very first things that exposed me to the reality that I was not alone in my fear, despair, or loneliness. Now that I am an adult, I can fully express myself as I please. I have found my people who support me when I self-isolate like Misery, or panic in the dark like Scaredy Bat. None of the characters in Ruby Gloom are related (besides the conjoined twins) and it is never brought up why, or how they all ended up in this mansion together. It is simply a hectic, joyful, and comforting story of a family.
Overall Score: 5/5 Scaredy Bats
Written by Forrest Friesen, Lethbridge College
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