It has been said that you can learn a lot about someone's character by observing whether or not that person is rude to waiters and shopkeepers. Going by that metric, Pee-wee Herman is an inhuman monster.
Welcome back to another futile attempt to try and apply any kind of logic to the Paul Reubens creation of Pee-wee Herman, using another bout of evidence from Tim Burton's film Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The titular Mr. Herman is a creature that is pure WTF energy in a bow tie, and attention must be paid.
To be clear: everything that I am writing in this article is a judgment on the character of Pee-wee Herman and not Paul Reubens.
We've already discussed the utterly bonkers way that Mr. Herman begins his days within his baffling house — I documented the ins and outs of his "breakfast machine" and it is my opinion that this sequence reveals Mr. Herman to be a psychopath.
A sequence that follows, in which Mr. Herman gives patronage to a man named Mario (Monte Landis) and his Magic Shop, proves that he is a sociopath.
Pee-wee cares not one wee bit for his fellow human beings, even those humans who profess, by their own admissions, to be his friends. Pee-wee treats his friends like garbage — the only affection that Mr. Herman shows anything for in this movie is a bike.
Look no further than the aforementioned Mario. As Herman enters his shop, looking like a five-year-old visiting FAO Schwartz for the first time, Mario immediately greets him with a smile.
"My good friend Pee-wee!" Mario says. To Mr. Herman's credit, he does give Mario a pleasant "Hello" in return. Mario asks if Pee-wee is just browsing, but no... Pee-wee has come, and I quote, "to stock up on some supplies."
Mr. Herman's "stocking up on some supplies" begins with him going through racks of Mario's merchandise, touching it, using it, playing with it, deciding he doesn't want it, and in one case, throwing it to the floor. There's a trick mustard bottle thing that he uses, then tosses. He puts on a giant novelty ear, and pretends to be deaf for, well, his own private enjoyment? For his own personal mocking of the hard of hearing? Whatever his reason, he also tosses the ear to the floor... to the floor of the shop that his "good friend" runs and owns.
What an entitled piece of crap, and may I add, WTF?
Mario then decides to inject some WTF of his own into the proceedings. For whatever reason, Mario has waited until Mr. Herman's ruined a shelf of his products before telling him that he has "some new items" that Pee-wee might be interested in. Mario then puts the "magic" in "Magic Shop" because he performs an inexplicable magic trick where he vanishes, then reappears from the side with a box. As he re-enters, he creepily says, "Box for Pee-wee…"
Before we get to Mario unpacking the box, let's unpack the situation a little. These are "new items" and they aren't on the shelves yet. Mario has taken the time to wait for his "good friend" Pee-wee (the good friend thing bears repeating) to visit before putting any of these new hot goods on the racks. It doesn't matter that Pee-wee has come to stock up on some supplies — calling the things in this box "new items" means that Mario has not previously sold these things, and that there's no way that they can be supplies. Anyway.
Mr. Herman then continues to be one rude dude with serious attitude. Mario offers him an item, but Pee-wee already has some. How and why? Did he get this thing from a different shop? Did he betray Mario and buy online? If he is "stocking up" would he not, you know, buy more of this thing? None of this registers, because Mario is near desperate for a sale.
He offers Mr. Herman another item, and Pee-wee pretends to fall asleep. This object is so boring to him, he'd rather sleep standing up. A simple "no, thank you, Mario, might there be something else in that box?" is the proper response. It's the response of someone who cares for Mario, who cares for his fellow man. Pee-wee cares for neither, because he's a sociopath.
Mario has some fun at this point (trying to sell Pee-wee heads in various sizes, on brand), before miraculously gaining his interest. Pee-wee goes for some trick gum (almost begrudgingly), he is for whatever reason really into the headlight goggles (WTF?), and that's when Mario breaks out the item that he's sure Pee-wee will love… direct from Australia, the boomerang bow tie.
Mr. Herman isn't impressed. Instead, he asks if this wondrous object comes in his preferred color. Mario is a good friend and businessman, so of course, it does. Pee-wee snaps it up with a giggle that would scare the Marquis de Sade.
That's the shopping trip of Mr. Herman. Is it karma that while he was busy being the worst customer of all time that his precious bike was being stolen? There's just so much WTF to go around in this scene, and the movie has barely even begun. Mario himself, and his entire operation, is a giant WTF. His own magic trick (and the way it is shot) is another WTF moment. Mario, the man, the shopkeeper, the myth, is he even human at all? He doesn't show up again in the film. Was he ever even real?
Mario might not be real, but the goods that Mr. Herman purchases are. We know because he uses two of the three, with the third (and most exciting purchase, the bow tie) used in a deleted scene.
How can this bag of crap be considered "supplies" that you need to stock up on? Are you getting ready for an idiot convention? We've seen your house and your insanely wasteful morning routine, you've already let us in too much. The biggest why, what, and WTF of all, however, is the WHY... why is he such a needlessly rude customer? Mario is supposedly his friend, and he's tossing sellable items to the floor like they're trash. How does Mr. Herman act when shopping at a store that is not run by a friend? Does he just set fire to the place and have done with it?
The scene in the magic shop might bother (and pose more questions) than anything involving the breakfast machine. Mr. Herman's abnormal and psychopathic breakfast rituals endanger only himself — his sociopathic treatment of Mario shows how this giddy grotesque deals with his friends. Dottie is next on the list, and he treats her much, much worse.
I suppose Pee-wee had to go somewhere so his bike could get stolen, and a Magic Shop makes about as much sense as anything? Still, had Mr. Herman been a good customer, greeting his friend Mario with good cheer and kindness, would that have endeared us more to him? Are we endeared anyway? Why would we be endeared? WTF?
The sociopath gets a bike stolen, so justice? Mario probably went out of business soon after this. Mr. Herman never knew, and he never thought to ask. He never cared. Mr. Herman needed supplies, and Mario is an honorable man. It is a shame that Mario's "good friend" is a sociopath, and that he would sell him into white slavery if he had the chance. Look upon Pee-wee's works, Mario, and despair.