[11 October 2011]
Ladies and Gentlemen, after 13 years Beavis and Butt-Head are back, and to celebrate its new season return on 27 October, or as a warning to those who were horrified the first time, creator and head writer Mike Judge has decided to put together his all time favorite Most Wanted collection out on DVD.
Perhaps to understand the cultural groundbreaking phenomena of the show is to go back to its inception. When Beavis and Butt-Head first hit the scene in 1993, there was no Columbine tragedy, for the most part, kids did not act out on their impulsiveness, at least not to the magnitude that Beavis and Butt-Head did on a daily basis. Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain was just starting to make teenager’s words mean something, but his death wouldn’t happen for another year.
No one knew what to exactly make of Beavis and Butt-head. They were repulsive 14 year-old boys, who got pure joy out of anarchy, the possibility of scoring with chicks, and fire. Some people turned their noses up at the 30-minute show when it first broke ground on MTV, seeing it nothing more than a childish, passing fad. Overtime Beavis and Butt-Head proved that there was an audience that grew from week to week, and their slapstick jokes and grotesque behavior was welcomed and became a staple amongst the grunge groove. What the perfect marriage between Judge’s show and MTV proved was that the primitive thinking of the two characters spoke to an audience that needed to hear its own thoughts out loud by people its own age, and even though two cartoon characters were speaking their thoughts and words, a subversive generation of teens was heard.
The structure of a Beavis and Butt-Head episode is simple. It starts out at the source of learning or observance, in their case a high school classroom or in front of a television screen. An idea, usually prompted by Butt-Head, is misinterpreted from the teachings at hand, and the two characters harmlessly wreak havoc on each other.
For example in an episode entitled “Plastic Surgin”, after seeing a story about breast implants the boys decide to get penile implants. Of course they end up going to the wrong doctor and as he’s poking and prodding their noses and misinterpreting which “bone” they want to have enlarged, Beavis and Butt-Head are practically giddy with excitement, thinking that this is going to be the best way to get chicks. The funniest exchange by far is Butt-Head’s astute commentary when the doctor asks Beavis if he’s experiencing any discharge, and to this question he answers yes. Butt-Head proudly tells the doctor that, “Beavis is becoming a man,” much to the doctor’s confusion. A scene later and the boys’ noses are bandaged up and they survey their penis’, marveling at their growth.
Another gem this structure allows this show to have is the comic misscommunication between their hippie tree-hugging of a teacher Mr. Van Driessen and the boys. By far one of the most good intentioned characters on the show, Mr. Van Driessen presents a green solution to whatever troubles him, and instead of actually catching his over the top soliloquies, Beavis and Butt-Head spin a new hilarious take on what Mr. Van Driessen is trying to convey. In “Animation Sucks” Beavis and Butt-Head ironically learn about the wonders of animation from Mr. Van Driessen. Not only does Judge poke fun at the unpolished cartoon in this episode, but the boys are congratulated by the teacher, who sees their joy of death in drawings as a social commentary on “the primitive thinking, impulsive and fragmented modern society.” Irony at its best.
Is it ridiculous in its context? Yes, but it isn’t without commentary on our society. Think what you like, but Judge’s simple-minded characters speak on a sublevel of how some teens function, and presents a possible maladjusted future for said teens if the parents don’t wake up. The best example of this is in “The Great Cornholio”, an episode that would catalyst teens using the catchphrase “I need TP for my Bunghole” for years to come. In the episode Beavis raids the kitchen of fellow but much younger dork Stewart. In the next scene Beavis is in the classroom screaming in a Spanish accent and shouting prophecies of doom throughout the hallways. As a clever pun on a news piece that ran about sugar not causing hyperactivity in children, Mr. Van Driessen is a mouthpiece of irony as he says how he read a recent study that sugar isn’t supposed to cause hyperactivity.
The gem of this compilation on “Mike Judge’s Most Wanted” is in the special features. The most enjoyable are the previously unseen footage, including the very first short entitled “Frog Baseball” that started Bevis and Butt-Head’s inception. In the short you see the potential of the characters, featuring an even more so minimalist look, and a bare bones insight at the undeveloped voices of the characters.
The “Taint” featurette has been featured on other Beavis and Butt-Head compilations, but it’s still great to watch as Judge and his team of writers reminisce about the characters, the scandals surrounding them and the influences behind the two knuckleheads. The most prized special feature on the disc is scenes from the new episodes that have only been previously seen at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. Instead of a hate/love relationship with music videos, we see a unique spin that only Beavis and Butt-Head could provide on the reality show Jersey Shore. Highlight line? “If they did this [hook up] chart long enough they can find out where herpes began.” This shows great promise for the upcoming season.
Yes, now we have a multitude of social satiric shows that Beavis and Butt-Head inspired, like Family Guy and South Park, but perhaps Beavis and Butt-Head can bring a new humbled beginning to a generation that barely missed the show’s glory. Either way, MTV’s strategy of bringing back their staple show is something to talk about, and whether you like them or not, their power to influence the minds of the young for better or for worse is something to be reckoned with. Will it work with this generation? Maybe not, but with the cast of Jersey Shore permeating the minds of the current youth, we can only hope there’s some room left for some harmless ‘toons.