Tabby Willis (Queen of the Willis)

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Tabby Willis
Queen of the Willis character
Tabby Willis.png
First appearance "Pilot"
Created by Ava Zinn
Voiced by Ava Zinn
Full name Tabitha Andrea Willis
(formerly Timothy Rags Willis)
Nickname(s) Tabby, Tim, Tammy, Tamara
Species Canine
Occupation Supervillain (formerly), Preschool Student
Nationality American

Tabitha Andrea "Tabby" Willis (formerly Timothy Rags Willis) is a fictional character from the animated television series Queen of the Willis. She is voiced by series creator Ava Zinn and first appeared on television, along with the rest of the Willis family, in a 15-minute short on December 20, 2003. Tabby (then known as Rags) and Shushu were created and designed by Zinn herself. After the pilot was given the greenlight, the Willis appeared in the pilot episode.

Tabby is an anthropomorphic Chihualua. She can talk, generally walks on her hind legs (using her front legs as arms), has opposable thumbs. Over the duration of the series as Rags, she was depicted as thinner and smaller, the violent aspects of Tabby's personality have been toned down (most notably after Tabby's gender transition), and both Tabby and Shushu have evolved into an eccentric, friendly and flamboyant characters. They also come to have a very close friendship with the family's anthropomorphic lobster, Heather. Tabby and Shushu areconsidered to be the show's breakout character.[1] Since the seventh season, as Tabby, she is shown to have undergone a marked transformation, both in terms of a significant increase in weight and a newly subdued personality.

Development of Rags/Tabby[edit]

Tabby's voice is provided by Queen of the Willis creator Ava Zinn, who also provides the voices of Shushu Willis, Heather Willis, Ava Willis, and Anna Pamhouser as well as numerous other characters.[2] Zinn based Tabby's accent (prior to her sex change) on the voice of Craig Ferguson[3]. After Tabby's gender transition and the real-life gender transition of her transgendered daughter, Tiffani, Zinn based Tabby's accent on Caroline Flack.[4] Zinn has stated that her inspiration for the Tabby (then Rags) was based on her real-life transgender daughter Tiffani.[5] Zinn has also linked Tabby and Shushu with Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith on more than one occasion, saying she wants Cartwright and Smith to respectively play Tabby and Shushu if a live action version of the show would ever be created.[6][7]

Tabby's Role in QOTW[edit]

Tabby is a 7-year-old transgender female pet prodigy who has a very sophisticated psyche and is able to speak very fluently in an upper-class English accent with quite advanced vocabulary.[8] She reaches her 7th birthday in the season 7 episode "Ten Years To Life", and prior to her gender transition was not referred to as being more than 6, despite being seen in many episodes attending Vivica A. Fox Elementary School. Highly literate and able to cite pop culture references that long predate her birth, Tabby is also entranced by Raffi and Mister Rogers. Tabby succumbs to other childish and canine tendencies; she believes Angie has truly disappeared in a game of Peekaboo, talks to her stuffed leopard Kevin as if he were alive, is overcome with laughter when Ava blows on her stomach;[9] and has no idea how to use a toilet. Tabby also has an extreme dislike for an actress. Zinn has stated that Tabby (as Rags) is meant to represent the general helplessness of an dog through the eyes of an adult. Per cartoon physics, her ability to move objects of greater weight than herself is not surprising to other characters, nor is her ability to retrieve firearms from hammerspace, neither is her ability to talk.

Tabby's mastery of physics and mechanical engineering are at a level of science fiction. She has constructed advanced fighter-jets, mind control devices, a weather control device, a teleportation device, robots, clones, a working Transporter device from Star Trek, time machines, a Multiverse Transporter, a shrinking pod, as well as an assortment of guns including lasers, rocket launchers, and crossbows. Tabby (and to an exent Shushu) employs these to cope with the stresses of pet life [10] and to murder her owner, Ava, with mixed success at best depending on the objective. As made clear in the pilot episode and in earlier episodes, Tabby's fratricidal tendencies are a result of Ava constantly (and unwittingly) thwarting her schemes, and so she desires to kill Ava to carry out her plans without her interference. In other, later episodes, Tabby engages in other violent or criminal acts, including robbery, aggravated assault, carjacking[11] loan sharking,[12] forgery, killing off many minor characters (with a tank, guns, and other assorted weaponry),[13], and even gravely injuring other characters [14][15] particularly in the "Revenge of the Male Anchors" episodes.

Tabby eventually realizes her dreams of patricide and world domination in the sixth season two-part episode "Rags Kills Aeverine" and "Aeverine Kills Rags". The events are reverted in a deus ex machina ending, where most of the story turns out to be a computer simulation. Because of the rather disastrous ending for herself in the simulation, being shot and killed by Angie, she decides to put aside her plans of patricide and world domination for the time being.

Tabby shows a complete disdain for most people, but does show affection and even rare instances of kindness to her family. Such moments include her support for Tom (whom she traditionally called "Thomas" before his death in "Quillsville Cold Case: Albert Willis") as when she chided Heather's coke-induced hostility to her and wiped her tears during a weepy moment.

She generally thinks of Angie as an inferior –  regarding her simply as "the fat girl" and, at one point, harboring doubts that Ava and Angie could possibly be her pet parents ("RAGStory") –  but does bond with him over a shared love of practical jokes made at Ava's expense. While Tabby generally regards Deanna as a stooge, she considers Deanna her only friend aside from Heather (and later Shushu and Brynn), and even helped Deanna to assists her in dealing with bullies. In a few episodes it is shown that Tabby can love her pet father. In that episode, after Ava recovers and repairs a lost Kevin and serves Tabby a meal she likes, she rethinks Ava and accepts her as a loving father. When she becomes too dependent on her, she deliberately takes no notice of her; when she hurts herself, she tries to show notice of her again, she returns to hating her. However, at the end of the season seven finale, "And Now There Are Fewer", when Zach Mullins is about to murder Ava for uncovering his murderous revenge scheme, Tabby secretly saves Ava by killing Zach with a sniper rifle, stating to herself: "If anyone's going to take that bastard [Ava] down, it's going to be me".

In the more recent seasons, Tabby has a far larger amount of freedom from her pet parents, usually spending much of her time with Heather, Shushu and Brynn. Tabby is shown in more recent episodes to be a superfan of the late Christina Grimmie, Pia Toscano, as well as other female artists who have won their reality singing competitions (referencing a homage to Vote for the Girls, also created by Zinn, and even sets Brynn Cartelli, Maddie Poppe, Jena Asciutto, Jordan Smith, Britton Buchannan, and Nick Fradiani respectively up with Stuart, Brian, Ron, Emilie, Hillary, and Luanne on a blind date ("Valentine's Day in Quillsville, Indiana"). Tabby has had a few rare interactions with her eventual human sister-in-law Brandi Sousa. Tabby initially intensely disliked her and was one of the few characters fully aware of Brandi's nature, even called her a pervert to her face. All this does, however, is move Brandi into thinking Tabby as "feisty".

Tabby's Gender Transition[edit]

Tabby's sexuality as a male dog and since her gender transition, even though she is a five year old dog, is ambiguous. When the writers began to flesh out Tabby's character beyond being a generic supervillain in season two, Zinn and the writers began to explore the male dog's sexuality with a series of one-off gags, which hinted in "Transguy Cancer" and "We Love You, Rodriguez" that Tabby, prior to being a transgendered character could be gay.

One example is where Tabby's cellphone screensaver is of Stephen Beatty. Another is where she has a picture of Chaz Bobo in her wallet. When she plays with a a female dog or male cat, husband and wife living in a little house in the garden, she discovers he has a girlfriend or a transgender boyfriend.

On other occasions, such as when Tabby (as Rags) falls in love with a female dog, Jillian, she has been shown to be straight as a male (but a lesbian as a female). In the commentary for RAGStory, the writers describe how they were going to make Rags discover he was a gay male dog, but decided to scrap this idea in order to retain Rags' (and later Tabby) sexual ambiguity for writing purposes. Ava Zinn planned for the series' second season to end with Rags coming out of the closet after a near-death experience. The show's abrupt cancellation in 2012 caused Zinn to abort these plans, and the episode was actually produced, but never shown.

In "Quillsville Wasteland", Tabby (who plays the role of Ricky Thomas) threatens to "choke" the person in charge of the speed boat. It turns out this person is a muscular transman, whom Tiffani does "choke", but not by neck. The muscular transman states "I can breathe just fine...You're choking my-," and is interrupted by Tabby who replies, "I know." It is implied that Tabby is "choking" the tranmsman's "fake penis" as a means of grasping, suggesting homosexual action on his behalf.

However, in the revival series (and seventh season premiere), Rags quietly transitioned from male to female and becomes Tabitha Andrea "Tabby" Willis. Up until that point, Zinn opted to have Tabby portrayed as sexually ambiguous, as, in her eyes, the flexibility of Tabby's sexuality allows for much more freedom in terms of writing for the character.

It was revealed Melissa performed Tabby's sex reassignment surgery and the first such SRS on a domestic animal. Melissa performed the procedure on November 1, 2019.

As Tabby, she an Shushu are a frequent target of weight related jokes from a variety of characters in the series, in particular Brynn.

It is revealed in "[[]]" that Tabby has repressed emotions from Tom's death and her obesity and low self-esteem makes it difficult for her to find friends. In "[[]]", she seems to become friends with Dara, Lisa, Ragina and Kyla.

While Tabby and Shushu are not as active as they was in the first six seasons, she has other hobbies and interests; Tabby still has the same characteristics prior to her transition.

Zinn later elaborated:

"She originally began as a male diabolical villain, but then we delved into the idea of her sexuality as an openly transgendered female. We all feel certain that Rags n/k/a Tabby is gay, and she figured it out for herself. We haven't ever really locked into it because we get a lot of good jokes from both sides, but we treat her oftentimes as if we were writing a bisexual character like Angie."
—Ava Zinn, "FWA LGBT", [6]

When asked why she made the decision "to take Tabby from homicidal maniac to transgender little song girl dog?," Zinn answered: "It was a realatively easy decision. Characters evolve in certain ways and we found that doing the take-over-the-world thing every week was getting played out and was starting to feel a little dated. It was weirdly feeling a little 2000s and believe me, if we were still doing that, there would be no Vote for the Girls."[16]

Zinn told CBS 11 in Indianapolis in 2008 "We had an episode that went all the way to the script phase in which Rags does come out. It had to do with the harassment he took from other pets at the kennel. He ends up going back in time to prevent a passage in Leviticus from being written: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is an abomination.' But we decided it's better to keep it vague, which makes more sense because he's a five-year-old. Ultimately, Rags will be gay or a very unhappy repressed heterosexual. It also explains why he's so hellbent on killing his owner, Ava and taking over the world: he has a lot of aggression, which comes from confusion and uncertainty about his orientation."[17]

Role in Queen of the Willis[edit]

Relationship with Heather[edit]

Despite their allegedly sociopathic nature, both Tabby and Shushu does seem to have a tender side. This is particularly evident through the growing close friendship they shares with Heather, the family lobster, whom they considers an intellectual peer and Heather is the only Willis family member who pays attention to what Tabby and Shushu say; treating then just like she would any other human adult on the show while other characters choose to mostly ignore the things Tabby and Shushu says. Originally, Tabby and Shushu enjoyed taunting Heather with curt remarks and abuse; but they have developed into best friends. In the "Back Home Again in..." episodes, Tabby and Shushu often goes on adventures with Heather, usually through difficult and sometimes surreal circumstances. These episodes are generally regarded by critics and fans to be the show's best episodes. They are usually at the center of the show's deepest and most sentimental episodes, one example being where Heather admits to Tabby and Shushu that she has considered suicide. In that episode, they also admit that they love each other, not as lovers, but as very close family/friends.

Both Tabby and Shushu have shown in a number of episodes that they are sexually attracted to Heather. These moments include a scene in the Queen of the Willis DTV film, RAGStory, where Heather tells who was then known as Rags that he is drunk, Tabby responds, "You're sexy." In the episode, "The Former Life of Heather", when Tabby and Shushu agrees to assist Heather in a magic show Shushu says, "You can split me in half" (quickly correcting it to "Saw me in half"). In "Heather's Song", after Heather's boyfriend leaves her and while the room is completely dark Tabby says to Heather, "Just to get back at him, you should have sex with the first person you see. No matter who it is," then she turns on the light while she is in Heather's face smiling.

Tabby and/or Shushu has made a strong effort to cheer Heather up on a couple of occasions. In one episode, after Melissa's rant leaves Heather in tears, Shushu cheers her up by saying she likes her and letting Heather spend the night in their room. Similarly, in "Lobstered", when Heather sinks into a deep drunken depression upon discovering that humanity, including the Willis family, has no regard for the lives of animals (including herself, Tabby or Shushu), Tabby steals her necklace and plants it on a stray cat, proceeding to fake Heather's death by sending it into a tobacco store and subsequently torching the store. Upon hearing of Heather's 'death', the other Willis' realize just how much Heather mattered to them and close a friend she is to the family. Seeing this reaction, Heather is uplifted.

Earlier in the series, before Shushu's arrival and Tabby's sex change, Tabby contemptuously referred to Heather as "Crab". She similarly referred to her pet father as "Ava" and Angie as "the fat girl" until accepting them as his pet parents, reverting to this form of address when frustrated or angry.

In "Crab Bites Tiger", Tabby and Heather have a falling-out when heather chews up Kevin in retaliation for Tabby always complaining about her to the tiger, as if Kevin were alive, but the two make amends when they spread Kevin's ashes at the St Joe River in Fort Wayne.

Merchandise and appearances in other media[edit]

Tabby and Shushu are one of the show's biggest merchandising icons[citation needed], and they has been included on Queen of the Willis T-shirts and cardboard standups, refrigerator magnets, posters, and several other items.

Tabby and Shushu (along with other Ava Willis) appeared in promotions of Zinns for Relationship Choices (created by Samantha Zinn and Tiffani Zinn) on their YouTube channel criticizing Jessica's Policy, a longstanding family policy of creator Ava Zinn in 2011.

Understanding Tabby and Shushu[edit]

There is much debate over which characters in Queen of the Willis can understand both Tabby and Shushu. In an interview, Zinn said that everyone can basically understand them, but they ignore them or just think to themselves "oh how cute" when they talks.[18] However at the 2018 panel, she compared this to Garfield and Odie in the cartoons. Zinn went on to say that Heather always hears Tabby and Shushu, and more recently so does Ava, Deanna, but the writers usually strive for Angie, the sextuplets, and Tom not to hear them. Once Tabby and Shushu leaves the house, the question of who can hear them depends very much on the story.


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  9. "Hey, Hey, Hayes Quillsville". Queen of the Willis. First-run syndication. 2022-11-04. No. 9, season 11.
  10. "Ava's Laptop". Queen of the Willis. First-run syndication. 2006-08-19. No. 2, season 1.
  11. "Back Home Again in Kevin's Arms Again". Queen of the Willis. First-run syndication. 2012-04-20. No. 12, season 6.
  12. "Therapist Hopping 2". Queen of the Willis. First-run syndication. 2011-04-01. No. 31, season 5.
  13. "Revenge of the Male Anchors 5: The Fatal Frontier". Queen of the Willis. First-run syndication. 2020-04-24. No. 15, season 8.
  14. "Revenge of the Male Anchors". Queen of the Willis. First-run Syndication. 2007-12-03. No. 3, season 2.
  15. "Revenge of the Male Anchors 2". Queen of the Willis. First Run Syndication. 2009-09-04. No. 8, season 4.
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