In Gravity Falls S2E16, Roadside Attraction, one of the show’s twin protagonists, Dipper Pines, is trying to get over an unrequited crush on a significantly older girl. His friends recommend he try to date someone else, and his great uncle Stan, a professional con artist, gives him vague and confusing advice about talking to girls that eventually gets boiled down to the three Cs: Confidence, comedy, and something else that starts with C. Stan also advises Dipper to practice flirting with lots of different girls, particularly since they’re on a road trip and he’s unlikely to ever see any of the girls again. Dipper takes his advice and sees initial success, but it so happens that every girl he’s talked to shows up at the final roadside attraction on the trip, stumbling across him on his latest date and demanding an explanation. Dipper runs away, leaving them all fuming, one thing leads to another, and they end up fighting a drider. Dipper learns a valuable lesson about respecting women and erases all the phone numbers/email addresses he collected.
Except, uh, that’s bullshit. Gruncle Stan has his redeeming qualities, but none of them really apply here, so we can safely assume that he’s sleazy with women and would’ve encouraged Dipper to be the same, playing the field long past the point where it would’ve been disrespectful to do so. But the narrative acts like Dipper actually did this – he never even got within the same zip code of it. The one interaction with a girl we see outside of montage is a thirty second mildly flirtatious conversation that ends with her giving him his email. Even if we’re really generous with time compression for the sake of a twenty-two minute runtime, this is one conversation that ends with an invitation to a date, not even an actual date, let alone some kind of real commitment. Just because Dipper has been invited to go on a first date with one girl doesn’t mean he’s not within his rights to go on a date with another girl, or even that he’s obligated to tell the first girl (who he’s shared all of one conversation with) about the second.
If Dipper’s done anything even close to wrong, it’s that he doesn’t text or email any of the girls, when accepting their numbers/emails might suggest an intention to communicate more, but 1) his lesson-learned moment at the end is erasing them all, so apparently that’s the opposite of what the show wants from him, and 2) even that’s pretty presumptuous. If it were a boy giving his number to a flirtatious girl and later acting like he’s entitled to communication, we wouldn’t hesitate to call him self-centered and controlling.
Particularly since Dipper wasn’t even particularly flirtatious in the one interaction we actually see entirely. He suggests she pose for a funny picture and then he pretends to drop her phone, which is kind of dickish and the girl would’ve been justified in being mad about that, but instead she takes it in exactly the spirit Dipper intended it and gives him her email address with only a subtle prompt – an email address which Dipper goes on to ignore, so even if she felt that gentle nudge was obligating her to give away contact information she didn’t want to, Dipper never even used it.
Even when Dipper does accept a date from recurring character Candy, who he has no interest in (Stan convinces him he shouldn’t be picky – the one piece of truly bad advice Stan gives to Dipper), he’s showing poor judgment but hasn’t done anything wrong. Candy is the one being more intimate than Dipper is comfortable with (although we can’t hold Candy at fault either, because Dipper has been pressured by someone else entirely into pretending this is what he wants).
It’s realistic that a twelve-year old would lack the maturity to recognize that he hasn’t made any commitments and therefore can’t be held responsible for breaking them, and that his twelve-year old would-be dates would likewise lack the maturity to recognize that just because they feel jealous doesn’t automatically mean that feeling is Dipper’s fault, but the narrative doesn’t treat this like Dipper being buffaloed into thinking he’s done something wrong when he hasn’t. It acts like Dipper has been dating all of these girls steadily without telling any of them he’s seeing other people, or has been making out with them before riding off into the sunset to do the same thing at the next stop, or that he’s directly lied to them about how seriously he’s taking the relationship. The episode wants to make a point about pick-up artists being scummy, but the problem is that actual scummy behavior would be out of character for Dipper, so instead this is an episode about how if you ever crack a joke to someone, they now own you and you’re not allowed to talk to other people without their permission.