I officially made it! I was on Beavis & Butt-head recently, released on June 1st (“The Warrior/Vasectomies” S2, E8). Originally launching in 1993, this show is a satire that will always have material. As long as humans exist, there will be worthy targets to parody. Let me explain.
Beavis & Butt-head is a show from the 90s about two dumb Texas teens criticizing music videos and mocking Texas life. The show lasted 8 seasons, had a full-length movie, and produced two successful spinoffs (King of the Hill and Daria). Contextualizing the show is nearly impossible because so much has happened since it was created. The show paved the way for many other adult animated shows. Many of the episodes still hold up to this day.
To understand where Beavis & Butt-head is coming from, you need to understand the sugary and wholesome TV lineup at the time. In the 90s, TV had no swearing, the content wasn’t insensitive, and everything was cheery, wholesome America. Considering this setting, B&B was downright edgy and flipped TV on its head. Beavis and Butt-head were rude, stupid, and like amped-up versions of kids you knew at school.
B&B was a product of its time when teens either hung out at the mall or sat on the couch and watched MTV music videos. B&B is a great observational comedy, with more happening than simply toilet humor, bad behavior, and poor life choices. Their stories involved lawlessness, rebelliousness, and the music from some of the coolest bands at the time, where they talked shit about those bands and their songs. This wasn’t done then – TV praised products, not ripping them apart. B&B was chaotic and amusing, considering the 90s climate.
The culture back then was much more rigid, and here enters a cartoon about two teens constantly rebelling obnoxiously and unapologetically. Another point is that B&B was not long before the first Bush berated The Simpsons for being a terrible societal influence. Edgy and crude animation may have currently taken its course and may not be novel anymore, but at that time, B&B was different. Even The Simpsons was edgy! Keep in mind B&B aired long before South Park, Adult Swim, and Family Guy.
B&B was defiant at a time when that wasn’t usually done. Viewers may not understand the appeal of B&B if they didn’t live through that time, so B&B may look a bit trivial from today’s perspective. Think about it: the 90s was a simpler time with fewer choices. It was a time with no internet or smartphones, no YouTube content, no reaction videos or critical media, and no shows commentating and making fun of anything (in this case, music videos on MTV). B&B pioneered as one of the first animated shows not targeting young kids. Putting B&B into perspective, nothing like that show was available.
Looking past the juvenile humor and instead zeroing in on Mike Judge’s writing, viewers can see his criticisms of society by analyzing pop culture and the perspective of two misfit teens. But even then, sometimes, his writing went over the heads of the average viewer. And on a side note, Mike Judge got screwed by his MTV deal. So, he tried again with King of Hill with more mainstream success, Office Space, and Idiocracy.
Beavis and Butt-head themselves did not grow as characters. This lack of character development was a core tenant (and still is) of B&B. They were relatable and very judgmental, pretty much about everything. Sure, the show was dumb at first glance, but the messages were so much more if you looked beyond the surface.
Many would say that the music scenes were one of the best parts of each episode. Viewers could discover some cool and obscure videos MTV would not typically play (at least not during the daytime). Long before there was Asmongold and Hasan Piker, Beavis and Butt-head were reacting to content. B&B also spearheaded the success of bands such as Ween. That said, the reruns that cut out Beavis and Butt-heads’ video commentary aren’t as good.
So, as you know now, the show has returned, and it is as moronic as ever. The show’s feel has not changed, but instead of music videos, producers are finding YouTube videos, TikToks, and social networking for Beavis and Butt-head to comment on (enter Alpha M.) – making the show somewhat timeless. The media landscape may have changed, but B&B can still cut through hype like in the 90s – just from online content instead of MTV music videos. Interesting, they will not dive into politics (good move, IMO).
The charm of B&B is the ludicrousness of it. The show’s appeal was (and still is) the tactless behavior and contempt for practically everything – a negative viewpoint that everything sucks, is bullshit, and doesn’t matter. I wonder if B&B will find a connection with Gen Z. So far, few shows from the 90s have been embraced. But if it makes critics turn their noses at it, then it’s safe to say that Beavis and Butt-head are truly back….again!