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The End of Western Civilization, Cont.

September 26, 1993

Regarding David Kronke's article on "Beavis and Butt-head," and the accompanying commentary by Joseph Turow ("Just Boys or Civilization Destroyers?" Sept. 12):

I am amazed by the amount of ink spent recently in the debate over whether or not "Beavis and Butt-head" is a sign of a society in decline. With so much real news going on, both in the world at large and in the entertainment community (and by the latter I do not mean the continuing Heidi Fleiss soap opera or the trial by media of Michael Jackson), how is this even an issue?

Dumb, unlikable buffoons causing damage by their stupidity has been a leitmotif of popular culture since the first Punch and Judy puppet shows in medieval Europe. It has been a staple of animation since its inception.

Did all the mallet blows and flying anvils, safes and pianos seen in "Popeye," "Tom & Jerry" and the Looney Tunes turn us into violent savages? Did all those megatons of dynamite, shotgun blasts and frying pans make us want to blow up our playmates? Kids are far smarter than we adults tend to give them credit for. They didn't need "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" to let them know something that Terry Rakolta and her shrieking harpies don't seem to get even now: Anything can happen in a cartoon.

You want to report on a real cartoon atrocity? This month marks the first anniversary of one of the darkest days in animation history: the "great grab" of the wildly innovative series "The Ren & Stimpy Show" from its creators and guiding lights at Spumco Studios by Nickelodeon and MTV Networks. Now that , to me, is far more offensive than anything I've seen on "B&B."


Van Nuys


Cartoons can destroy young lives. My own tragedy is a perfect example.

One day, after a steady diet of cartoons, I walked into the kitchen, ate a can of spinach and then dropped a safe out the window on top of an evil fat man with a beard. Thanks to a crafty lawyer, I was found innocent by what is now known as the "Popeye" defense.

To this day, if you use a safe or a weapon manufactured by the Acme Co. in the commission of a crime, the police will say you are "Looney Tunes."


Los Angeles


In writing about the cancellation of two episodes of the series, Kronke quotes "Beavis and Butt-head" critic Dick Zimmerman as saying, "This is exciting--it indicates they're taking responsibility for the power of Beavis and Butt-head."

Perhaps Zimmerman should consider that MTV canceled the episodes not out of fear that children would imitate the on-air shenanigans but out of fear of backlash from reactionary critics. It's the same tired, old muckraking--the whole idea that the media are corrupting the minds of today's youth and undermining society's values. What the article shows is that critics are so badly out of touch with today's youth that in their speed to condemn "Beavis and Butt-head," they can't even get their facts straight.

For example, Beavis and Butt-head go joy-riding in a Corvair they were paid to wash. Instead of trashing the car and setting another on fire, as Kronke writes, they stop in the middle of an intersection after seeing a red light, where they are hit by an oncoming car, which ignites into flame. Hardly the juvenile delinquency the critics imply; instead, we see the hapless pair as victims of their own stupidity. The episode was, in fact, a satire of Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed." Fools that they are, Beavis and Butt-head take the Corvair out, not knowing it is dangerous.

One shouldn't be surprised by the monumental stupidity of Beavis and Butt-head, since for years now we have been going through a crisis in education. Is it surprising that these characters reflect what Steve Allen has called "the dumbing of America"?

Though the critics are quick to condemn the stupidity of these characters, they do not mention that it is the older generation that was responsible for their education. MTV is simply giving adolescents characters they can identify with and throwing the failures of their parents back in their faces.

Indeed, Beavis and Butt-head are the definitive latch-key kids. What is suspiciously lacking in all "Beavis and Butt-head" episodes is one thing--their parents.


San Diego


Every time an article appears regarding objectionable television subject matter, it will include a quote from a "concerned parent" expressing displeasure or even outrage that such material is being broadcast.

Rather than blame the program producer, let's look at the root of the problem: a lack of parental supervision. At any given time of day or night, a parent could probably find something objectionable on television. How do we solve this problem? Try turning off the television. After all, whose responsibility is it regarding what our children watch?

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