Jun 5, 2015

Alternative to What: "Beavis and Butt-head Do America" (1996)

Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified. 

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
- Alternative To -
Entourage (2015)

Let us cut around the pretension: Entourage is not something you're likely going to see unless you are a fan of the show. Let me take the general populous view on the show and share the inspiration for this week's selection. If you have been watching the trailers, you may be prone to think that the HBO Film is crowded with idiots doing stupid things while remaining loyal to each other. Where I could easily tap into the well of great films that are about making films, I have decided to take the Entourage approach and pick something a little more lowbrow. For this particular recommendation, I am going to suggest a film based off of a TV series that is about two loyal idiots that seems dated by today's standards: Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
There is a chance that Beavis and Butt-Head is now two generations removed from its target audience. It was a time when music videos were capable of being art and that watching two kids riffing on them could be considered funny. For creator and voice actor Mike Judge, it was a launchpad for controversy in a pre-Jackass era for MTV. There's a large chance that in its short run, it garnered more attention for its poor behavior than Entourage has or likely will. It could just be that unlike the HBO series, these two and their minimal approach to thought taps into an ideal that defines 90's culture better than most cartoons bar-The Simpsons.
Which is why it makes sense that the show was eventually made into a movie that even at 81 minutes felt like an epic. It was a cross country trip to the White House with the catch being that they just wanted a new TV. They became fugitives in the process. Sure, the film is missing the magic of an average episode's brevity, but it manages to unleash the characters and let them wallow in someone else's backyard for awhile. The results are just as limited as you'd expect from characters whose answer to bad situations is to say "This sucks." It could be that by removing the pretension and playing to the core infantile male that the movie inevitably captured something greater about the characters and even got Roger Ebert to give it a good review.

Another reason that the film works is because it is so inherently 90's that it creates its own time capsule. As Ebert was wise to point out, the lowbrow characters were actually commentary on the times, choosing to badmouth consumers and bad behaviors in the process. It just helps that their iconography, for better or worse, is so integral that by the time that a fictionalized Bill Clinton shows up, the film has covered all of its bases. It may have trouble appealing to newer audiences or even older audiences - just like Entourage. However, if you are in the sweet spot when you first discover them, there's a good chance that their approach to comedy and reality is something that will grow with you and stay. You may eventually find higher art one day, but this film knows what it is and does it so confidently that it should be accepted.
I am unsure if Entourage will have a legacy or that it will be any good. I am confident that it will never be as influential as Beavis and Butt-head ever was. In the end, these two shows are both focusing on a typical male figure of whom has become outdated by our modern culture. It just so happens that in the animated version, it is somehow more tolerable and gets away with songs like "Lesbian Seagull." It is nonsensical yet subversive in manners that we have outgrown almost 20 years later. I am only sure that Entourage will fall victim to this as well, as their primadonna behaviors become a thing of the past as the title of celebrity fades in an era where franchises will get you more box office than face recognition could. Yet still, it doesn't become more symbolic than the characters having the opportunity to view a natural geyser blow in all its glory, but find more awe in the motion censor in the bathroom.  

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