I had an interesting evening a few months back, after receiving a preview of the Beavis and Butthead DVD set in the mail and popping it into my player. The ensuing reverie reminded me just how strange and surreal my adolescence, as well as that of any teenage male in the mid-nineties, truly was. Our generation got to enjoy the Simpsons as the show entered its irreverent prime, but beyond that, we spent evenings watching back-to-back (and on occasion, -to-back-to-back) episodes of Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. I don't recall seeing it, but I have no doubt Mom would go snort pounds of Xanax in the kitchen whenever she happened upon me engaged in the sophomoric, frenetic world of mid-90s teen television programming.
But whereas Ren and Stimpy took place in some surreal, psychedelic world filled with a very colorful assortment of excretory matter, Beavis and Butthead could've been any pair of American teenage males""males who had endured Roethlisbergerian head trauma or astoundingly bad parenting, sure, but ones who were in the mix with us nevertheless. We all worked at a fast food joint, we all had some strange obsession with fire and blasting our buddies in the nards, and we all watched the same bizarrely amazing music videos (Safety Dance, anyone?), wondering aloud what the crap was happening. Did afternoon marathons of Beavis and Butthead set the average loss-of-virginity age for our generation back a full three to fourteen years? Hell yes it did. But we were too busy watching the boys talk about scoring with chicks to realize that with each episode, our likelihood of doing just that was rapidly diminishing.
So the question now is: how should we, as educated, sophisticated members of the college-and-above set who visit CollegeHumor for the articles, regard Beavis and Butthead""a show that featured two functional retards obsessed with fire, boobs and destruction? Do we move on, ignoring the monumental impact the show had on our development, and spend our days engaged in highbrow activities like reading People and watching CSI: Somewhere? Or do we follow the model of 25-year-old roommate TBone, he of perfect SAT score, Dean's List in economics and one-time Fortune 500 employee, and DVR an entire weekend marathon of the show, then watch it the next?
Beats the hell out of me. All I know is this:
- - I cannot hear the words "dumbass" or "bunghole"""words I still encounter at an alarming clip""without thinking of 7th grade best friend Matt Durkee, circa 1994, with his appropriately generous forehead and gummy smile, spending entire weeks talking like Butthead. It is one powerful, vivid association.
- - Similarly, any mention of frog baseball, lesbian seagulls, riding lawnmower road trips and / or Gwar sets me adrift on memory bliss. This doesn't happen as often.
- - The entire decade of programming that followed has the fingerprints of Beavis and Butthead all over it. From the pop culture references in Family Guy to the inane debauchery of Jackass, Viva La Bam and really anything else that crew does, all signs point back to the B boys. They were early members of the lowbrow 40 / 40 club: wildly moronic yet brilliantly hysterical, all at once. Mike Judge, who would go on to write and direct uber-quotable Office Space, knows a thing or two about comedy and how to entertain viewers. He also knows we are all inherently very, very dumb.
So that's where we find ourselves: recovering viewers prone to relapse. Girlfriends may hate it. Wives may hate it. Moms definitely still hate it. But it remains that Beavis and Butthead, however low its brow might be, is undeniably intelligent and hysterical. It was both of those things when I watched it on TV for hours at a time as an early teen. It is still both of those things as I watch the DVD . . . for hours at a time . . . a decade later.
And I, (ladies), am still single.
Neil writes more at his bi-annually updated website. He is also an RBI machine.