[24 October 2005]
The last time we saw reality TV’s most subversive stars, they were careening out of control in an exploding helicopter. It was a fitting closer to a laugh-a-minute whirlwind of a season for Drawn Together. Parodying everything from The Real World to The Apprentice to The Bachelorette, Drawn Together mocks self-serious, unscripted television, emphasizing close-up zooms and hyping the “big twists” to come.
Drawn Together typically outstrips reality shows’ famous “drama.” It makes full use of the advantages that animation affords, spinning off into hyperbolic set pieces and characters. The show lampoons the overbearing black woman stereotype in Foxxy Love (Cree Summer), the privileged white girl in Princess Clara (Tara Strong), and the “gay guy” in Xandir (Jack Plotnick), who can swallow his sword sans gag reflex.
In its new season, Drawn Together picked up exactly where it left off, and though the sheer volume of vulgarity began to wear thin, it hasn’t yet lost its ability to amuse the viewer in spurts. In the first 10 minutes, we got a suicidal tribute to The Shawshank Redemption, a pedophile joke, an anti-Semitic reference, and a crack at the expense of interracial relationships. That’s not including the main storyline, which dealt with the genocide of a Spongebob-like race of cartoon characters by a girl who looked suspiciously like Strawberry Shortcake, a clear mockery of the Holocaust.
These over-the-top portrayals, however, remain merely shocking. Unlike South Park, it makes no attempt to justify its spectacle. Stan regularly redeems South Park‘s abrasiveness, such that the series evinces a consistent libertarian philosophy, distinctive vision, and sense of purpose. Drawn Together, however, is brazenly unconcerned with anything beyond laughs. Particularly in the current, just-started season, it’s clear that characters will never “develop,” even in the two-dimensional reality-show sense.
The eight house residents on Drawn Together are growing tiresome; they’re always the same. Each character only exists to offend the audience he or she “represents.” It was a sly reversal of expectations at first; rather than diversifying to appeal to different demographics, as most tv shows tend to do, Drawn Together diversified to upset the greatest number of people. It seemed almost bold to target all corners of its target youth demographic.
But repetition has flattened the irony and the insults. Formerly, one could argue that a character like Asian stereotype Ling Ling highlights the absurdity of such labeling. However, the aggressiveness with which the stereotypes are portrayed defeats this point. The show offers no Stan-like voice of reason to contrast the boorishness.
So where does that leave Drawn Together? Parts of the new season’s first episode were funny. The multiple culture references—from Lost to Survivor to Mortal Kombat—were enough to keep a pop guru waiting through the commercial breaks. But how about some new gags? Foxxy Love’s abortion jokes are redundant. We get that Xandir is gay. Princess Clara’s Anti-Semitism is old news. The six-episode, first season run was terrific, because the writers had just begun to explore new themes. But now they need to give the characters more depth or find greener pastures to exploit. It might make some farcical sense if the Achilles heel of reality TV—predictability—dragged down its copycat parody as well.