Monday, 31 October 2011

Does Today’s World Need Beavis and Butt-head?

I have a confession to make…I never really liked Beavis and Butt-head. I know they’re animation icons of the 90s, but something about them never really clicked with me growing up. I’m a fan of Mike Judge’s other well-known animated sit-com, King of the Hill, as well as Daria, which spun-off from Beavis and Butt-head. But I don’t know. Maybe it was the sheer stupidity of the main duo, or maybe simply I couldn’t stand their grating, inane chuckles. But for whatever reason, I just couldn’t jump onboard the Beavis and Butt-head bandwagon.
 
And now here we are in 2011, and they’re back on MTV after ending their initial run of 8 seasons from 1993 to 1997 and a feature length movie in 1996. But times have changed since the 90s. The world has changed. MTV has definitely changed. And hell, the two were pretty much poster characters for both MTV and the 90s! So is there still a place in this world for these characters? Or are they just forgotten animated relics out of their time period and element?
The first episode of the 2011 revival features the show’s typical structure of two shorts mixed in with bits where the duo gives their “unique” commentary on videos. The animation remains looking largely the same with its simplistic, limited, hand drawn look from back in the day. Art wise, it still has that “grungy” look that it had before; it’s like these are doodles someone sketched in their high school agenda while they were supposed to be paying attention in class. It’s all very reminiscent and nostalgic of the old series, and hasn’t changed all that much, but what has changed are the topics the show tackles.
Right away you can see Mike Judge has a wealth of new material in which his signature nitwits can interact with. The first short, Werewolves of Highland, directly dives into one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of present time, and is also quite a popular franchise to lampoon presently, the Twilight saga. I found I enjoyed myself as Beavis and Butt-head tried to understand why girls go crazy for these stories about undead lovers. This leads to their idiotic idea of turning into werewolves to “pick up chicks.” The idea of this kind of parody isn’t exactly new, but the sight gags were certainly creative, and they took this idea to places that truly only these characters would go.
But while Twilight is an easy target, what I was even more interested in was what the duo would do in their random “TV watching” segments that they became famous for. Would they still be watching music videos, like they did in the olden days? Do teens even watch music videos anymore? Cause MTV certainly doesn’t play them anymore. Well, hey then! Problem easily solved! They’ll just watch MTV anyway! Don’t worry, B&B still comment on modern music videos (including some dubstep) but they now also watch many of MTV’s popular shows, including Jersey Shore. And it was during this segment in particular did I have a revelation about this show.
It was when a guy on Jersey Shore (I’m sorry, I’m not doing the research to find out which guy) made a dick joke, and Beavis sarcastically noted the cleverness of it…Beavis did that. A character who has spent most of his animated career making and laughing at dick jokes proved more mature then Jersey Shore. It was then it all became clear to me the depth of this show’s ability to satirize. It uses the characters of complete morons to openly mock everything else that’s wrong with pop culture through comparison. And there is a lot, a lot wrong with pop culture nowadays. 
Looking back with that in mind, it makes total sense. Judge has always been kind of like that jerky street artist who will draw a characterture of someone, but will exaggerate that one feature of their’s they’re ashamed of. He does this both with his design, and his writing. He creates characters that you mostly laugh at, not with. And through that, he’s been able to create some truly complex jokes and jabs. I’ve since gone back and watched some older episodes of Beavis and Butt-head, and sure enough, it’s there too. I think it may have just slipped over my head growing up, and I passed these characters off as just plain moronic. It’s remarkable how as I’ve matured, these immature characters seem more appealing. 
So do we need Beavis and Butt-head in today’s world? Well, in a world with so much crap in pop culture (particularly from MTV) I’d say that these two are more needed now than ever before. Coming back to some of his oldest and most cherished characters, Mike Judge’s writing has only become sharper and more clever throughout the years. I’m very interested to see what the duo will do next. So am I officially a Beavis and Butt-head fan? Well…getting there. I’ll have to still get over the duo’s irritating, yet iconic laughs first. 
-Moo