Cartoons as social satire: Beavis and Butt-head and South Park

featurebnbI did previously mention that the television of today basically sucks and dumbs the nations down. Tons of TV series are produced for the sole purpose of providing lousy entertainment to the masses who for inexplicable reason buy it, no questions asked. On the other hand, once in a while we can see a show pop up which will only point out how we’re getting more and more thick-headed. I would say South Park is the leading example of the latter. This adult-themed cartoon, full of crappy graphics, toilet humor and vulgar dialogues, is simultaneously the quintessential social and political satire of our times.

Unfortunately, many people see South Park only as an immoral, stupid and unethical animation – intended for older kids, so they watch it in secret from parents and feel cool about hearing the words ‘fuck’ or ‘vagina’. Large number of folks miss out on the deeper meaning (maybe not in every episode, maybe not in every other episode, but it is there), which usually is hidden below the layers of Jew jokes, angry rednecks, fishsticks and shit (literally). The other thing is, the critique is disguised as a cartoon and as such, it works two ways. One, as I mentioned earlier, it’s often not treated seriously.

fishsticksSecondly, Matt Stone and Trey Parker really indulge themselves in creating obscenities for South Park, and they’re continuously getting away with really repulsive stuff, only because it’s not real. I’d argue that the infamous conclusion of the fight between the Viper and the Mountain in ‘Game of Thrones’ is one of the most recent horrendous scenes shown on television and it caused quite an uproar (hell, it was sickening!), but guess what, South Park’s goriest scenes are far worse and I can’t envision them played out by actual actors, like ever.

chilliI think it was Ricky Gervais, or wait, maybe one of the elders from the REACT channel (can’t remember, sorry for my sclerosis), who said that through animation you can show people whatever you wish, and this medium kind of lessens the blow, so the stuff you preach stops being offensive and just starts being funny instead. Whoever said that was definitely onto something. I do find such approach disturbing but I blame our childhoods, as the cartoons were always cutesy and heartwarming and we can’t judge them properly anymore, even if it’s a show like South Park (I love it by the way).

If we go back several years before South Park, we will discover that there was another cartoon, somewhat similar to it. Beavis and Butt-head were the reasons for kids going off-path in the early to mid 90s. Can the main characters be considered role models? Definitely not. Were they two improbably dumb teenagers? Sure. Were they only thinking about scoring with chicks and watching cool music videos? Yeah (honestly, what’s wrong with that for heaven’s sake). Was there a big lesson to be learned by watching this sitcom? Possibly yes.

wheredawhitewomenatThe premise for the show was very simplistic – Beavis and Butt-head were a pair of high schoolers living by themselves in Highland, a city in Texas and engaging in all sorts of mischief. Lack of parents can already give you a hint about their delinquent behavior patterns, but in addition to that, they were the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ duo done right. Not sure if the boys’ IQs totaled at 100, although they sure had few (unintentional) moments of enlightenment, in particular Beavis who would suddenly rant vigorously about some issue using difficult words as if in trance, and a second later not remember anything about it.

They spent the majority of their time watching actual music videos and providing live commentary to them, mostly by saying ‘these guys are cool’ and ‘this sucks, change it!’, or getting excited at the sight of good looking girls. They would also giggle unconditionally upon hearing sexual terms or words which sound similar to these. Other times they would participate in endeavors which usually were against common sense, but in line with their desire to pick up chicks, or money for getting them.

HapenisWhy do you think they call it ‘happiness’? If your wiener is happy, you’re happy.

Beavis and Butt-head have quite a violent relationship, yet they are pretty much inseparable, despite some harsh words being thrown around. In one of the episodes Butt-head calls Beavis’ mom a whore, to which Beavis simply replies that she’s a slut not a whore, as she doesn’t charge any money and chuckles, like he always does.

People around the boys don’t exactly know how to deal with them, and the several attempts to straighten up their ways more often than not end up badly for the people involved.

I would definitely put South Park and Beavis and Butt-head into the same category of comedy. Both shows feature characters with antiheroic qualities and very weak moral backbones (Cartman doesn’t have one at all). They take part in dangerous activities which tend to be unacceptable socially. The differences start here, as the boys from Highland affect their micro-environment only (because they’re no-brainers), while Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny’s shenanigans usually exceed their small town in Colorado. They end up dealing with celebrities, aliens or crab people. The metaphors here get blown into grotesque proportions (come on, calling Bono the biggest crap ever taken must symbolize something) and it’s great. Man, I’d have a hard time (and I said ‘hard’. Huh, huh, huh) choosing which show I like more.

Beavis and Butt-head operate on a smaller scale, but as I like to say, the less is more. At the end of the day, if you’re a teenager, or a man of any age for that matter, all your needs come down to boobs, booze, explosions and rock n’ roll. Both cartoons are fiction, as everything on television apart from news reports (on second thought, not sure about this either), but they’re rooted in reality, and as much as I laugh while watching South Park and Beavis and Butt-head, I pray to God we don’t end up as the real life caricatures of human beings.

Girls and machine guns… What more do you want?


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