Friday, October 28, 2011

What October 28th Means To Me: Beavis and Butthead and Getting Older

YESSSS YESSSSSSS!  Krokus rocks!
Nostalgia can be a wicked motivator.  That was the prevailing thought I had while watching the Beavis and Butthead reboot aired last night on MTV.  From the ages of 14-17, I fucking loved Beavis and Butthead.  I had seen all the episodes multiple times, in fact, my brother and I had every single one recorded on a few VHS tapes.  Beavis and Butthead was a unique show that captured something incredibly simple:  simplicity.  At the time of it's original release, the world was on the brink of complete complication.  The internet was taking hold of society, propelling it into a deep abyss of possibility and information that no one had the capacity to navigate.  We were suddenly on the precipice of this world that would not look anything like the one we had become accustomed to.  Generally when these sorts of things occur, generations take hold of cultural symbols to preserve identity.   One of ours was a show about two sexually stimulated slackers who loved to laugh and and break things. 

Beavis and Butthead, for me, aired right as my teenage years began and it, for many reasons, was the ultimate rebellion (not just for me, but for my generation and definitely the one directly above us.)  It was counter culture, it was something our parents didn't understand, and it could be inflammatory (literally...if you recall that case in Ohio (I think Ohio) where some mother blamed Beavis's pyromaniac tendencies for inspiring her son to burn down their trailer).  Here was this show that featured two slacker, unintelligent kids saying and doing a bunch of stupid shit.  It was simple.  It was hilarious.  It was awesome.  Older generations constantly look to younger ones to be "better" than they were, and it's not that our generation refused to learn or accept complexity, but our embracement of Beavis and Butthead was an ironic statement that showed that we can also appreciate the incredibly simple as well. 

Now, 15 or so years later, the show is back, Beavis and Butthead haven't aged a day, but the rest of us have.  To Mike Judge's credit, the spirit of the show hasn't really changed much.  And despite the homage of Beavis's "fire! fire! fire!" chants during videos (and the fact that they sometimes comment on MTV shows instead of music videos), the show feels relatively the same as it did in the 1990's.  But, unfortunately for the show, I believe those past 15 years are insurmountable for a few reasons.

Though getting older obviously involves body change and both emotional and mental maturity, it also features the accumulation of memory and the canonization of "good memories."  When we experience events or emotions in the present, we are hyper aware of every detail that comes along with them.  If we engage in something entertaining, we also are aware of the moments of boredom or negativity that fill in the cracks and gaps.  Obviously, our experiences in the present don't exist in a vacuum, so external forces that have zero to do with said experience affect the way we view or enjoy a piece of entertainment at the time of consumption.  But as years pass and much of the memory is lost, we start associating these experiences with the time periods in which they occurred, and view them through a much different prism that doesn't take into account every detail of the experience. Being a teenager is never fun for anyone when you're going through it.  Its the first time we are really confronted with social pressure and all the insecurities born from it.  Some of us deal with it better than others, but for the most part, its a time of transition.  But when I look back on it, it is obviously from a safe place because my teenage years and memories are etched in stone. I can't remember all the worry and insecurity, I just remember the things I enjoyed, even if they weren't so enjoyable at the time.  I have vivid memories of watching Beavis and Butthead at two in the morning on random weekends after a night out.  At the time, I'm sure I wasn't excited to watch them, I was probably bored out of my mind, couldn't sleep, and was more than likely worrying about something else.  But when I conjure the memory, I don't remember the negative, and I think it'd be fun to transport myself back in time so I could experience it again. It all seems so simple and innocent now.  That's nostalgia for you. 

And that's why watching the new Beavis and Butthead isn't and will never be a transcendent experience.  The episodes could be similar, hell, they could even be better, but no matter what they do, they will always be missing the essence of nostalgia that will push my generation to turn on the new episodes in the first place.  My best guess is that most people my age who watched it smiled a few times, shrugged their shoulders, and spent most of the broadcast remembering what it was like to be younger.  Because that's what aging does, it makes us hyperaware of our past and our future.  And the older we get, the more we compartmentalize thoughts of both.  So when a piece of entertainment comes out that is meant to stimulate a memory, the thought of the memory severely outweighs the value of the present entertainment.  And, unfortunately for the show creators, our interest in the updated product is short lived because we'd rather have it as a memory than as something new.  Who wants to ruin their past, after all?

So, while I suppose I enjoyed the Beavis and Butthead reboot, and was glad to see that they were still enjoying their teenage years at Highland High, I unfortunately am long past those years of my life, and will always enjoy Beavis and Butthead more as a relic of my past than as a new form of entertainment.

And I'm sure current younger generations will also reject Beavis and Butthead because kids are assholes and want their own thing (kidding, sort of :)


  1. Interesting thoughts, Brett. And just as the nostalgia we feel for times past is clouded by our inclinations to only remember the positive, what we are experiencing right now will, 15 years into the future, likely bring back memories that are a an unrealistic representation of our current life.. ah, the "good ol' days."

  2. Absolutely. 100 percent agree. And, ugh, that's a sad thought :)