Futurama Writers Had A Rule For The Character Of Professor Farnsworth
The cliché of the Dirty Old Man archetype, of course, is as old as ancient literature. We find lascivious old men in Shakespeare, Molière and Commedia dell’arte (in the character of Pantalone). The older man repeatedly saying scary and sexual things about young women is a trope that many writers fall back on today, and they still crop up regularly; remember Herbert the Pervert from “Family Guy?” Many TV writers – through no fault of their own – tend to fall back on traditional structures and archetypes as a form of shorthand. Once the easy parts have been communicated, the actual story can be told. Obviously, the “Futurama” showrunners wanted to avoid Dirty Old Man with the Professor, because – as Kaplan recalls – was a specific decree:
“I remember a rule that the teacher isn’t, don’t pervert young women. He can be callous and weird, but he’s not perverted. I thought that was an interesting rule.”
The teacher can indeed be insensitive and weird. He doesn’t seem to care much about the lives of his employees at Planet Express and, as mentioned, has a series of doomsday devices. He constantly experiments on the people around him, swapping their brains, advancing them in time, or raising them from the dead. While generally ethical – the Professor is at least more ethical than evil corporate superwoman Mom (Tress MacNeille) – he has few qualms about tinkering with the web of life or killing guinea pigs.