So how am I so down on the reincarnation/relaunch? Let me start by saying this, it has less to do with them, and more to do with our current culture.
So often now we hear the term "jump the shark." This is a reference to a "Happy Days" episode where Fonzie improbably jumped over a shark on waterskis, and everyone immediately became disinterested in the once popular show. Now, the phrase represents any time a singer, show, series, film, or any other popular media goes from being good to being bad. I think too many times a show is accused of doing this, while in reality, it isn't guilty of "becoming bad," but more accurately, a change in taste occurs in our culture.
But before I go on, back to Beavis and Butthead. The show will fail for one simple reason. When it was announced that the show would be returning, a major detail was released. Beavis and Butthead would no longer be watching music videos, but instead, would be watching reality shows, YouTubes, UFC, etc. - in other words, what a typical 15-25 year old watches now. At first I said, "this makes sense," as no one watches music videos as they did in 1994, at the height of B&B's popularity. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize this is the reason the show will fail.
My generation, the millennial generation, and the generation which preceded me and followed me (Generation X and Generation Z - really clever with these names, I know), are sarcastic, self-conscious, self-aware, and reflective. While I can spend more than an entire blog discussing the traits we share and why thats both awesome and shitty, I would like to limit my discussion simply to the media we consumed growing up. Think about the most popular shows as you grew up, and the most popular media in your life now.
Undoubtedly, "Seinfeld" and "Friends" were the most popular sit-coms of the 1990s. The shows featured sarcastic characters, usually poking fun at others or commenting on social dynamics. While "Friends" may have been a bit less sarcastic than "Seinfeld," it is very self-reflective, as all of their episodes are entitled "The one.....", an allusion to how people always ask in regards to a series if you've ever seen "the one...." This is very clever, and shows an awareness and appreciation of things past.
From 2001 until the present, where have most of us gotten our entertainment? From a) YouTube/The Internet, b) Reality TV. Neither of these mediums are "scripted," (at least in the way "Seinfeld" was), but they offer the viewer one major satisfaction. We can make fun of the thing we are watching. We didn't make fun of "Seinfeld," (but the characters made fun of other characters). But now, we can take on the persona of Jerry Seinfeld, Chandler Bing, or, you guessed it, Beavis and Butthead, and watch reality tv and make fun of the characters. We can watch any reality show, and say "look how dumb that person is."
Think of both sides of the spectrum - the most popular shows, and the absolute worst shows ever from the past 10 years. The Hills, Jersey Shore, Laguna Beach, Keeping up with the Kardashians, The Bachelor(ette), The Show where two of the three Kardashians take Miami, Bridezillas, Bad Girls Club, Wife Swap, I Didn't Know I was Pregnant, Toddlers & Tiaras, and, every single talent show, including American Idol, X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance, Americas Got Talent, and whatever the hell else.
What is so enjoyable about the aforementioned shows? They're not educational. They're not very funny. They don't have a good cast of characters. They're not clever. The thing that is so enjoyable about them is that we can make fun of them. This seems so obvious, but it bears analysis. We don't watch Kardashians or The Hills to get inspired, cry, or learn something.....we watch so we can make fun. Many people enjoy the talent shows until they "get good" - i.e. the final 10, and only enjoy when wannabes embarrass themselves in front of the judges. Why? I would guess that it makes us feel better about our lot in life - that while we may not be a multi-millionaire, at least we have a brain unlike Kim Kardashian - while at the same time "Kardashians" depicts the life of a 'celebrity', which will never go out of fashion. Or, while we may be a terrible singer, at least we aren't "that bad" - as bad as the guy that makes Simon roll his eyes.
That is an important question, but not necessary for the purposes of this blog post. For the time, I think that we can agree that the plots of the episodes of any reality show such as Kardashians, Ice Loves Coco, the TO show, the Gene Simmons show, etc, are all so radical and sensational that they lend themselves to be made fun of. Every episode has the main character acting dumb, doing dumb things, getting in dumb arguments, participating in seemingly traditional sit-com plots (such as getting a pet and realizing it requires a level of responsibility they do not possess, or having two dates on one night). The point is, we watch to make fun of the celebrities.
The same goes for YouTubes. I don't watch YouTube for the same reason I watch Ozu's "Tokyo Story." I watch for a 2-3 minute diversions. I watch to see a dumb news report. I watch to see someone fall out of a grape mashing pit. I watch to see a girl fall on her ass imitating Tom Cruise in "Risky Business." I watch to see a news report where the victims brother says "hide yo kids, hide yo wife". I watch for every reason that my man Rick has outlined in his website. His website is a great example of our generations' love for YouTubes - and more specifically the 2-3 minute video clips we can all make fun of.
Does this sound familiar? Where else have we seen people watching something for 2-3 minutes at a time, and pointing out all the funny things about it? Yup, we saw it in Beavis and Butthead in 1994. But there is one major difference between what they did and what we are doing.
B&B watched music videos that were either contemporary or up to ten years old. Whichever the case was, however, the video was not intended to be a joke (99% of the time). So in the case of the Journey video above, the band didn't mean to look like a bunch of "fartknockers," but it is immensely funny that they do. No one had really made fun of them when B&B did it in their episode. Now, when they watch an episode of Jersey Shore, or a well known YouTube, the media will have been analyzed and dissected to every end possible. This will lead B&B to be not as funny.
And that isnt their fault. It is ours. It is our culture. In a lot of ways, we have all been bred to be a bunch of Beavis' and Buttheads. "Mystery Science Theater 3000," is the same show/idea. As is the current program "The Soup." Every Friday night, Joel McHale gets on and makes fun of the shows on TV for 30 minutes. Now, B&B are going to do the same thing. Just not as original as they once were......
Similarly, any of us can get together with friends and watch Rambo First Blood Part II, or any other action film of the 1980s, and rip it apart. Or any of the "Friday the 13ths." Or, better yet, "The Room." We have a thirst for shitty or "campy" material, simply for the reasons that we can rip them apart the same way B&B ripped apart music videos in their heyday. This argument isn't to say that any of us are as smart as Mike Judge, or B&B, but it is just to say that the characters' behavior is more commonplace now. The writing still may be sharp, and the observations may still be funnier than anything your friend down the hall may have said during the latest episode of "Glee," but the fact that we are now all a society of sarcastic Beavis and Buttheads takes away from their charm.