Soon after the 2007 release of Phineas and Ferb, the show became one of the most memorable animated series of the 2000s. Why wouldn’t it be? The Disney series had all of the makings of a lovable children’s show. We get to follow the titular Phineas and Ferb as they spend their summer inventing ridiculously fun machines to share with their friends. All while their sister Candace runs around trying to get them caught and their pet, Perry the Platypus, puts a stop to the plans of the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.
While the show is named after the two brothers, it’s just as much their story as it is Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s. The show interweaves Phineas and Ferb’s innocent childhood inventions with the gloomy backstories of Heinz Doofenshmirtz that drive him to create the evil ‘-inators as a way to cope with his trauma.
Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s Backstory-inator
Dr. Doofenshmirtz is already 47 years old by the time the show starts. Viewers can see that he’s come pretty far in his evil scientist career. Heinz owns his own skyscraper that serves as a headquarters for his company, Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated, thanks in part to the alimony his ex-wife gives him. Bet you heard the jingle in your head.
But despite his success, Doofenshmirtz can’t seem to move on and let go of his grudges, forcing Perry the Platypus to come back every day to curb his plans.
Turns out, he does have a lot to be angry about. Before he was Dr. Doofenshmirtz, Heinz was a frail boy living in Drusselstein, a fictional country in the show’s version of Europe. You’d think he’d have an ideal life of aged cheeses and sourdough bread, but the young Doofenshmirtz was subjected to child abuse. It sounds dramatic but think of how much his parents emotionally and physically neglected him. If he were a real person, we can only hope someone would call CPS for him.
In one of his flashbacks, Doofenshmirtz tells us that his parents were so indifferent to him that they didn’t even bother to show up for his birth. Yes, even his mother. It’s a kid’s show, let’s not think about it too hard.
At one point, he even became a garden gnome after his father’s prized lawn gnome got repossessed. Doofenshmirtz’s father forced him to stand outside the house 24/7, never giving him time to even sleep or eat. This, along with a golden child younger brother and a dog they loved more than him, destroyed any semblance of self-esteem the young genius had.
Doofenshmirtz can’t even catch a break as a bad guy. When he enrolls himself into Evil School, his Evil 101 professor, who also comes from Drusselstein, hates him for no reason. Dr. Gevaarlijk doesn’t care that he looks up to her and constantly tears him down, culminating in her failing him in her class. Whether Doofenshmirtz is just unlucky or people from Drusselstein have twisted ideas of tough love is up to you.
Heinz Doofenshmirtz has the quintessential villain backstory which makes it even more surprising when you take a moment to realize that he’s more eccentric inventor than villain.
Why Doofenshmirtz Is Not So Bad a Guy After All
Doofenshmirtz is a Great Dad
Two words: Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.
Heinz himself may not have had the best childhood but he’s determined to be the father his daughter needs. Throughout the show, we see how attentive he is to Vanessa’s emotional well-being even when she’s being a teenager. In the episode “Summer Belongs to You,” Vanessa walks out on him after working during what’s supposed to be their father and daughter vacation. Doofenshmirtz searches the world in a flying car to apologize to her.
We can see how determined Doofenshmirtz is to break the cycle of abuse in his family. Though he holds a grudge against his brother, Mayor Roger Doofenshmirtz, he makes sure he spares time to focus on being Vanessa’s dad. On her birthday, he gives her the Mary McGuffin doll that she wanted as a child, even though it’s been years since Vanessa asked for it.
As awkward as he is, Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a refreshing change of pace from the typical cartoon dad who’s often portrayed as incompetent at fatherhood no matter their best intentions.
He Actually Cares About Perry the Platypus
He keeps saying they’re enemies but when has Doofenshmirtz actually tried to kill Perry the Platypus in a way that he’s sure would kill him? Most of the time, the evil doctor just restrains him and vents about his past, using Perry the Platypus as a makeshift therapist. It sounds like forced emotional labor but it looks like Perry doesn’t mind since he doesn’t try to escape before Doofenshmirtz is done telling his story.
At one point, the friendship between the two develops a rift that forces them onto a therapy talk show. It’s like Dr. Phil but with secret agent animals. Doofenshmirtz sincerely apologizes to Perry for having hurt him ‘in the wrong way’ and promises he’ll stick to the cartoon violence. When Perry forgives him, he reveals that it was a ploy all along and that he was going to turn them all into statues.
But did he lie? Big nope. Doofenshmirtz actually fulfilled his promise that he would return their relationship to what it was before.
Believe It or Not, He Has a Moral Compass
Despite his misguided schemes, it’s clear that Dr. Doofenshmirtz actually has a strong sense of morality. Notice that he always has a reason for his schemes? It’s always due to a tragic experience that he tries to correct as an adult. Okay, sometimes it’s a petty reason like a sunburn but he still needs a reason. He doesn’t set out to do evil just because he enjoys it for its own sake.
When Doofenshmirtz is faced with the opportunity to do serious harm, not only does he not participate but he actively stops it. In “Phineas and Ferb Save Summer,” Doofenshmirtz invents an ‘-inator’ to change summer to autumn so he doesn’t have to suffer from his skin condition. When Rodney, another evil scientist, tries to use his ‘-inator’ to take over the world, Doofenshmirtz foils his plans because he finds it morally reprehensible.
See? Not so bad a guy after all. Doofenshmirtz is surprisingly good under all his evil ‘-inators’. Besides, aside from being sort of a good guy, Doofenshmirtz has some pretty solid coping skills.
Doofenshmirtz’s Surprisingly Good Coping Skills-Inator
Let’s overanalyze Doofenshmirtz for a second here because he undergoes serious character development throughout the show. While Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender is a more popular example of a cartoon bad guy outgrowing trauma, Dr. Doofenshmirtz manages to do the same even when no one explicitly provides him with emotional support.
Instead of wallowing in his despair and engaging in self-destructive behavior, Heinz Doofenshmirtz channels his negative emotions into productive pursuits. He takes up poetry in college, giving himself a cathartic emotional release from depression. Sure, it’s morally questionable that he creates ‘-inators’ but it serves the same purpose while also giving him a reason to talk to someone, Perry the Platypus, about his problems. All the practice he got from building his evil ‘-inators’ gave him the experience he needed to invent time travel.
Aside from personal lessons, Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s story teaches us the value of reformative justice over retributive justice. When given the chance to do community service as penance for his evil scientist schemes, Dr. Doofenshmirtz becomes a force for good, teaching a new generation of students at a community college to develop his love for science. 15 years later, he rebrands himself as ‘Professor Time’ and finally becomes more loved than his brother due to his life-changing inventions.
Let’s be real, though, even his ‘-inators’ weren’t that evil. Want proof? Check out The 7 Most Evil Inators of Dr. Doofenshmirtz and see for yourself.