Sunday, July 25, 2010
As For Film: Beavis and Butthead Do America
I was a junior higher in the mid-90s', at the height of Beavis and Butthead's popularity. At the time, I didn't get the show at all. We didn't have MTV in our house, and most of the lines from the show I was familiar with were the ones mimicked by my classmates. Trailer park neighbors would "huh huh" and "I. Am. Cornholio!" to no end. 12 year olds actually started wearing Metallica shirts. It was one of the cool shows at the time, because Beavis and Butthead were as idiotically blunt about what they believed to be "cool" and what "sucked," and the discernment of a junior higher can't do much better than that. Violent accidents were "cool." Anything that could have possibly been associated with homosexuality "sucked." Welcome to the Beavis and Butthead junior high 90s'.
But none of these junior highers (I'll bet) enjoyed Beavis and Butthead as satire. These kids actually thought that shouting "FIRE! FIRE!" and turning any simple phrase into a masturbation joke was what they should aspire for. Herein was the danger of Mike Judge's earliest satire. The stupid youth he ridiculed for being products of an oversexed television culture without parental supervision had turned to gods among the ignorant. And just try explaining satire to a child. They'll chuckle and say, "huh huh. Sat on yer butt!"
As adults, we can now appropriately laugh at Beavis and Butthead. But not because of the weiner jokes they make. We laugh with a reserved sorrow for the state of education in America. We laugh at the absurdity of growing up with no responsible adult role model, but only a TV for guidance. It's not the bathroom humor that makes Beavis and Butthead funny, it's the terrifying truthfulness we can see in modern America via their sheer idiocy. Judge's satire shows us what it looks like to be a product of entertainment culture. Illiteracy, social retardation, unhealthy living (nachos...) and perverted violence are the result of a Beavis and Butthead lifestyle. (I wonder how those junior highers at my old school turned out...)
By the time Beavis and Butthead Do America was released, Mike Judge had pretty much exhausted his best ideas for the duo. The film isn't nearly as funny as the show was, but it's still a valuable relic of the Mike Judge canon. His first film was adult animation, the likes of which hasn't been seen ever since. The 70s' were big on animated films for adults, but it all halted sometime during the Reagan 80s'. And even Beavis and Butthead couldn't resurrect the genre during the Clinton years.
But the film's mere existence leads me to two important questions. First, why are more Beavis and Butthead episodes being made in 2010? This product of the 90s' was a satire of its time. Do kids even act that way anymore? I think if Mike Judge wanted to mock teenage outcasts today, he should turn Beavis and Butthead into juggalos. Nobody cares about Metallica anymore. But clown metal, now there's a Mike Judge ready-made lampoon-fest. That's the only way I'm watching these new episodes. Otherwise, it feels like a miscalculated move to remake this 90s' time capsule.
My second question is if animation will ever be made for adults again. And I don't mean PG-13 Simpsons movies. I mean R-rated, made for adults, feature-length works of animation. That's all CGI is, after all. Adults might not always realize it, but we love animation. I don't see why I must be subjected only to Pixar films for the rest of my life. Where's the Fritz the Cat of the new millennium? The Fantastic Planet of the 00s'?
Let's hope that Mike Judge's next film is another animated one. A satire, as well written and executed as Office Space, only drawn with artists' hands. And Mike, please, not another Beavis and Butthead film. Give us something original. Something we all know you're capable of. Something that will outrage naive parents and be misunderstood by children. Until we're older, when we can look back at the irony and see the folly for what it is.
Remember how awful it was when Step by Step tried to turn Beavis and Butthead into live action characters? It didn't work. There's something about animation that can engage the soul's imagination more directly, and I think it's time for Mr. Judge to prove it. Hell, I'm sure he could do 90 minutes of brutal juggalo comedy.
(I guess ICP has been self-satire for a while now, but I'd still like to see Mike Judge's take on that horrible, despicable subculture)