A quarter century removed from their debut, Beavis and Butt-Head remain ace parodies of screen-induced idiocy and middle American vapidity. Their 1996 feature, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, is slackerdom’s capstone, a road movie about couch potatoes. Forced to wander out of doors after their television is stolen, the duo amble into a terrorist plot when they’re promised a hefty sum to “do” a low-rent criminal’s wife. From there they join a senior citizen’s bus tour, grunting and cackling from Las Vegas to Washington D.C. in search of their well-endowed prize.
Satiric ambitions aside, Beavis and Butt-Head are also disconcertingly accurate portraits of the adolescent male made senseless by his ache for sex. The heavy metal t-shirts and stoner chuckles mark them as archetypal burnouts, congenital idiots a few evolutionary rungs down from hip audiences in on the joke. The two crystallize the monomania of adolescent male sexuality, the way half of America’s future becomes a mouth-breathing husk at the prospect of real, live breasts. They are idiots to be sure, but most men have that idiot inside, and not too far from the surface.
In the two decades since Do America, the culture has become less forgiving in its consideration of young dude entitlement, and the world is consequently a far better place. Beavis and Butt-Head’s shared obsession stops shorts of entitlement, remaining locked in a hapless lust that short circuits all but the vital life functions. Their quest is idiotically short-sighted but just shy of predatory. It’s close enough, however, to nullify the thought of Judge getting the show made today.
Creator Mike Judge’s genius is in the way he forces the recognition that our highest capacities are merely awkward grafts atop an atavistic layer of shit, piss and semen. The best joke in his recent HBO sitcom Silicon Valley involves a team of engineers working a series of equations involving thousands of handjobs. Do America’s funniest moment toes the grammatical minefield of titillating prepositional phrases such as “whack off.” The intricacies of language and calculus provide fantastic pleasure and better us in the process, but nothing feels better than coming and nothing’s funnier than a fart.