The stupid and ugly have one advantage in life: Teachers expect nothing from them, so they can fly under the usual indoctrination that accompanies education. Thus the stupid and ugly — if they aren't entirely stupid — have a greater chance of being original They are allowed to speak the truth because no one cares what they say. Because they are stupid, they are free. The major disadvantage, among many, is that uneducated behavior is often just rotten.
Beavis and Butt-Head, two thunderously stupid and excruciatingly ugly pubescent males who live somewhere in the Southwest, do rotten stuff all the time. They are cruel to animals. They vandalize their neighbors. They torture their teachers. Their libidos rage unchecked, except by the uniform unwillingness of the female sex to associate with them. And they are the biggest phenomenon on MTV since the heyday of Michael Jackson. Where a normal video draws a 6 rating, Beavis and Butt-Head draw up to a 2.4. Kids are memorizing their dialogue and throwing Beavis and Butt-Head parties. Their laugh — low and breathy variations on "huh-huh" — has superseded Wayne and Garth's "Not!" as the comic catch phrase of the moment. An album and a movie are in the works, and their merchandising campaign is sweeping the malls. Yes, Beavis and Butt-Head are America's Inner Teenager. Because they are free, we will make them rich.
Every weeknight at 7:00 and 11:00, they set out on their mundane, sordid adventures, usually inspired by a commercial or soap opera plot that no non-stupid person could take seriously. Simultaneously they have become the most acute commentators on TV. For half of their 30-minute show, they sit on the couch and tell the truth about music video. They are the complete viewer service, right down to channel surfing for you. Butt-Head's philosophy of aesthetics goes thusly: "I like stuff that's cool" and "I don't like stuff that sucks." For Beavis, it's even simpler: He agrees with Butt-Head. What's cool is explosions, loud guitars, screaming and death. Who are cool include the Butthole Surfers, Corrosion of Conformity, Metallica and babes. What sucks is everything else. And they say so, suggesting that aging purveyors of pop metal like the Scorpions join the Hair Club for Men and that Edie Brickell, when bent over and straining at her deadly serious lyrics, looks like she's "pinching a loaf."
That Zen perfection — stuff that's cool being good and stuff that sucks being bad — has caused an earthquake in critical circles. Kurt Andersen, in Time, says Beavis and Butt-Head "may be the bravest show ever run on national television." And Chris Morris, in the L.A. Reader, sees them as the wonder drug to dissolve the great clot of semiotic theory clogging contemporary rock criticism, as capturing the true essence of rock: "volume, abandon, radicalism." Seeking even deeper wisdom, we caught Beavis and Butt-Head on their couch for their first in-depth interview. Because they're going to be rich, we must study them. Series creator Mike Judge and writer David Felton joined in for interpretive purposes.
You're selling more posters than Jurassic Park. You're getting all-time high ratings on MTV. What does your success say about the current culture of American teenagers?
Butt-Head: Huh-huh, huh-huh.
Beavis: He said "suck." Huh-huh, huh-huh.
Butt-Head: Huh-huh. Uh ... could you repeat the question?
What I'm getting at is, there's a whole new group of kids in junior high now, and your success—
Butt-Head: Huh-huh. He said it again.
Beavis: Yeah. Huh-huh, huh-huh.
Let me put it another way. Just this morning I watched a psychologist on TV talk about the horrible effect that heavy metal has on kids. Do you ever consider the influence you're having on today's youth?
Butt-Head: Uh ... uh ... well, I like to burn stuff, but that doesn't mean —
Beavis: I like it when stuff blows up and knocks people over. Huh-huh.
Butt-Head: [Smacks Beavis on the head] Shut up, Beavis. I was saying something. Huh-huh. Uh . . . what was I saying?
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