x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Beavis and Butt-Head are back and no one's bothered

An animated show that provoked outrage across America when it first aired in 1993 has been revived and now looks almost quaint.

Beavis and Butt-Head
Beavis and Butt-Head

Beavis and Butt-Head returned to screens on Thursday after 14 years and clicked on their TV to a very different world.

While they're still the same age, with the same clothes and overbites as when they disappeared in 1997, the format of the show (inane capers interspersed with sequences of the two characters making inane comments about music videos) now extends to their making inane comments about viral videos, movies and trashing other MTV programmes. The world has moved on, even if they have not.

But back in 1993, the lifestyle of these two archetypal dropouts - bad haircuts, bad attitudes and prone to bouts of extended sniggering - was an affront to many Americans' sense of decency.

The radio host Michael Medved decried the duo's antics as "the epitome of mindless and amoral entertainment".

Meanwhile, Beavis's delight in pyrotechnics and his excited screams of "Fire! Fire!" were canned after the first few episodes, amid concerns that the pair were promoting dangerous behaviour. (This only inspired the writers to come up with colourful ways they could get around the word ban.)

Was the show really that dangerous, or even entertaining? It's definitely part of a legacy (like The Simpsons) that redefined what cartoons could do and presented animation as a great vehicle for social critique.

But watching the first episode of the new series is a reminder of how different US pop culture is now, and it seems extraordinary that two MTV-watching slackers speaking in a Nirvana-inspired drawl could rouse modern America with their stupidity and cynicism. Incidentally, Beavis is free to yell "Fire!" in the new series.

Seeing them attempt to get bitten by a vampire because it'll help them to "score chicks" is great nostalgia, but now seems almost quaint.

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