Okay I’d like to talk about “The Hand That Rocks the Mabel” for a second because this is, I feel, one of the strongest episodes the show has to offer. It dismantles the “Nice Guy” cliche and seems to be strongly against the sexist notion that women are obligated to date men just because they are "nice."
Gideon is emotionally manipulative towards Mabel throughout the entire episode. One of the arguments victim-blamers like to use is, “Well, if the woman really didn’t want to be with him, she could’ve just said no!” What needs to be understood about emotional manipulators is that they purposely make it frustratingly difficult for their victims to say “no.” Guilt-trips, overwhelming kindness even when it’s unwanted, public proposals with an unexpected audience awaiting a happy ending—these are all tactics emotional manipulators use in order to get what they want without appearing to be the “bad guy”, making it easier to turn the blame around on the victim because hey, they were just being nice.
In this episode, Gideon refuses to accept Mabel’s rejections, even though she made it clear she didn’t want to date him. It wasn’t a matter of Gideon “not being able to take a hint” or Mabel “not being direct enough.” It was a matter of Gideon picking up on Mabel’s not-so-subtle hints and deliberately ignoring them. There’s this grossly glorified belief that there’s nothing wrong with constantly pursuing someone who has already expressed their disinterest in you. That if you try to “win over” a woman hard enough even if she’s already rejected you, eventually she’ll “come around” and everything will work out. Gravity Falls said “fuck that” and had Mabel say “no.” Mabel told Gideon right away that she just wanted to be friends, and despite his persistance (which clearly made her uncomfortable), her desire to be nothing more than friends never faltered. Gideon’s pursuit of Mabel continued even in subsequent episodes (where it was revealed that he was still sending her love letters and wanted her to be his “queen”) and she rejected him every time.
It’s also worth noting that Gideon wasn’t villainized only after he started attacking Dipper; he was villainized from the very beginning. He wasn’t a good guy who turned bad after getting rejected so many times (which would wrongly place the blame of his evil behavior on Mabel)—he was a bad guy from the start because he constantly put Mabel in the position of having to reject him so many times.
This episode is important because Mabel never “came around.” Despite how “nice” his approach was, Gideon’s emotional manipulation didn’t win the girl, and this was depicted positively. That’s why I love this episode so much, because along with the awesome anti-“Nice Guy” overtone, it doesn’t romanticize men continuing to pursue women that have already rejected them.
On a final note, you know what else is fucking amazing about this episode? Gideon is a popular, beloved icon in Gravity Falls. He’s the town darling. Everyone loves Gideon. He’s not a back-alley creep or stereotypically anti-social, nerdy stalker. To the oblivious townsfolk of Gravity Falls, he’s an adorable, charismatic charmer, a miracle-worker, a hero. And he loses in the end. He uses his fame and adoring fans to guilt Mabel into continuing the relationship, even though he’s been told several times that she just wants to be friends, and he is portrayed as the bad guy all the way through.
This is so fucking important to see in a children’s TV show, all of this is so important.