Beavis and Butthead was one of my favorite shows as a kid. I watched it diligently, and I still think it’s hilarious, though perhaps not as genius as I once thought it was.
Here’s the thing. Every time I tell someone that I miss Beavis and Butthead, or that I enjoyed it as a child, people look at me as if I’ve said something distasteful, like I admitted to singing spirituals in blackface in my youth.
I am tired of those looks.
Here’s the thing with Beavis and Butthead. That show was brilliant satire. We have two teenaged boys who were basically feral, raised by their TV. They were from impoverished, neglectful homes. Several well-meaning adults parade in and out of the boys’ lives, all attempting to fix the kids and turn their lives around, all failing miserably.
We had Van Driessen, the hippie who tries to heal the boys with love and art. There’s the old proto-Hank Hill character who tries to teach the boys good old-fashioned work ethic and traditional values. There’s Buzzcut, the hyper-masculine gym teacher who tries to fix them with military style discipline and shouting.
None of these characters is able to reach the kids, and we as the viewers must ask why. Why is our society so poorly equipped to reach kids like these?
Richer people did not grow up with Beavises or Buttheads, so the satire was lost on them. They never had to be lab partners with Beavis, or sell slushees to Butthead. To them, B&B were just idiots, and the show was trashy and gross and unrealistic. But I knew several Beavises and Buttheads, and watching Mike Judge point out all the ways society was failing them was deeply gratifying for me, as a viewer.
But it wasn’t just rich people, culturally removed from the B&B lifestyle who missed the satire. There were plenty of people who honestly believed that Beavis and Butthead were characters that kids would want to emulate. There was even a minor hysteria over the fact that Beavis liked to yell “FIRE” and parents everywhere banned the show from their homes, thinking it would turn their children into arsonists. I am not making that up.
It’s hard to understand how anyone could misinterpret the show so badly, but I suppose where there’s a will to be offended, a way will be found.
I guess my point is, Beavis and Butthead wasn’t some garbage show for garbage people. It was a highly intelligent piece of satire, and it captured the essence of a certain segment of American culture in a way that no other show did at the time.
I love Beavis and Butthead. I miss Beavis and Butthead. And if there is a reboot, I will watch the shit out of it, and I will not apologize.