Nirvana had just fallen in utero, the rousing third studio album that would prove to be their last. A film as sane and absurd as Mrs Doubtfire absolutely smashed it in theaters. And people were, well, frankly, dressed exactly the way they are dressed now: crop tops, ripped jeans, and platform shoes in matching color combinations. But perhaps nothing captures 1993 more poignantly than the introduction of MTVs Beavis and Butthead, a show with a nihilistic urge to prove that sitcoms don’t need to focus on charismatic leads to be successful. You hardly need jokes anymore.
Started a few years laterThe simpsons, Beavis and Butthead was one of the defining cartoons of the time, although mothers in the US and UK forbid their children to watch it. It was rudder than The simpsons and pointless too. Then there was her obnoxious laugh, an unsympathetic guttural noise that was her automatic reaction to everything and nothing.
I suppose I should say “is” their automatic answer. Yes, the beloved and loathed animated duo Beavis and Butt-head have joined the ranks of characters rescued from the dark waters of television history and rebooted because, well, that’s what we’re doing now. In Paramount+’s new 12-episode series, the boys – dumb, awkward, and youthful as they always were – are now wearing the same band t-shirts (AC/DC and Metallica) and sitting on the same scruffy sofa, hurling insults at them upgraded the TV to a flat screen.
It’s the world around us Beavis and Butthead that has changed. They used to be amateur rock video experts, but since we last saw them – there was another brief revival of Mike Judge’s hit in 2011, as well as two films – their cultural remit has expanded to include videos to record to college (cringe), prison TikTok (oddly informative), and ASMR content from YouTube star Gibi (more on that later).
I didn’t watch the show much during its original seven seasons on MTV. My mom, who found adult cartoons unsettling, was among those who banned them — a lame choice that’s aged poorly (sorry mom). Along with The simpsons and MTV’s sci-fi cartoon eon flow, Beavis and Butthead was part of an early wave of animated sitcoms mature enough to air in the prime-time block. The productive judge would go on king of the hillwhich premiered in the same year as family Guy and South Park. Before that was the heartbreaking pathos of Bojack rider or the bitter joke of archerthere these two idiots talked – in vain – about how they would like to score with some “girls”.
Judging from the first two episodes of the new series, I’m tempted to say that Beavis and Butt-head were ahead of their time. They were internet trolls before the internet was public. They were frustrated virgins before the incels were invented. They were the OG shit posters of real analog conversation.
Never is this more apparent than in the interstices of the series—the odd breaks between and within the two longer sketches that make up the bulk of a Beavis and Butthead Consequence. In the most telling episode yet, the two sit down in Beavis’ living room to watch an ASMR video.
For the uninitiated, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and refers to the pleasant tingling sensation people can experience when hearing soft sounds like knocking, scratching, and whispered plosives. The guys watch a video of a real ASMR artist named Gibi who has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube. In the extremely unsexy clip, Gibi strokes a plastic hairbrush with her painted nails and repeatedly opens a cardboard box with children’s pencils. To give you a sense of ASMR’s popularity, this one video – out of the 946 Gibi posted – runs for 30 minutes and has 1.3 million views. Beavis and Butt-head are immediately seduced by her actions. Their voices soften as they reflexively mirror Gibis. Her gratingly obnoxious laugh is downgraded to aggressive. Of course, Beavis ruins the moment by mentioning his “hard-on.”
But it stands out because Beavis and Butt-head typically hate what they see, from sloppy country music videos to cheesy clips of kids learning they’re at Harvard. As a viewer, it generally feels okay to hate what Beavis and Butt-head hate. But what does it mean that this is the part of contemporary culture that these two jerks like?
The original Beavis and Butt-head was (sometimes) hailed as intelligent satire, even if moms didn’t get it. To be fair, it’s also been called “crude,” “ugly,” “self-destructive,” and “socially harmful” — criticisms I doubt we’ll repeat. Because when Beavis and Butt-head insulted Korn videos in the mid-’90s, they came across as ineffective little punks. Who cares what they like? Certainly not the MTV program director who decides which band will be put on rotation. But culture is now directly democratic: we vote with our clicks. Online, two virgin losers with questionable hygiene are as important as anyone else.
For better or for worse, the milieu in which we find ourselves Beavis and Butthead demands that we pay more attention to the idle thoughts of teenagers. Teens grew up on the internet, and now they’re making the internet. They decide what’s cool on TikTok, and if they spend half an hour watching a pretty stranger run her fingernails over plastic markers like she’s playing a barely audible harp, then we get more of it.
Who cares what Beavis and Butt-head like? In 2022, the answer is Everyone.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/beavis-and-butthead-paramount-review-b2138470.html Rebooted Beavis and Butt-head love ASMR and TikTok. We should probably be worried