A number of months ago, Darren Robbins posted a column discussing how brazen arrogance seemed to be the most valuable asset in a playboyâ€™s pickup arsenal. If this is true, then how come neither Beavis nor Butt-Head has ever scored?
I don’t want to sound pretentious here, but the seduction approaches of this dramaturgical diad are actually diametrically opposed. Butt-Head takes the proactive approach of the alpha male, making demands under the expectation that his (imagined) status and audacity will ensure their fulfillment. Beavis, on the other hand, creates a totally outrageous paradigm by adopting the more relaxed stance of the beta, trusting that his good nature and casual self-deprecation will win sympathy, and thus boobs. Neither has ever worked, and in a magnificent outpouring of angst at the end of the film, after they had traveled “a hundred miles” across the country in a desperate attempt to score, Beavis insists that both of them are “just gonna get old,” but that “it’s just not gonna happen.”
Butt-Head epitomizes the arrogance envisioned by Darren, that severe narcissism bordering on the delusional. Of course, as is summarized brilliantly in Beavis’ final speech, neither of them is ever going to score, or else one of the major driving forces of the show would be destroyed. But how would things work out for Butt-Head if he existed within the real world? Would his supreme arrogance trump his braces, and lisp, and slouching posture? My own experience has taught me that absolutely nothing matters more than self-confidence. But self-confidence can’t be feigned – when it is, it becomes that which Butt-Head dispays – bravado. The difference between the two can sometimes boil down to a simple question: do you truly believe your own bullshit?
The Film: Beavis and Butt-Head Do America
The Song: “Two Cool Guys”
The Artist: Isaac Hayes
Who’s Who: Isaac Hayes’ ultra-cool image and breezy self-confidence certainly seemed to be genuine. A large amount of his depth as a musician was self-taught. Hayes was a singer, a songwriter, a producer, an arranger, a composer, and at times, an actor. His work for Shaft (1971) earned him an Academy Award for Best Song and two Grammys, and by 1974 he was acting as well, making appearances in the blaxploitation films Three Tough Guys and Truck Turner, as well as writing the soundtracks for both.
Isaac Hayes – “Three Tough Guys”
After a disastrous bankruptcy in 1976, Hayes lingered in relative obscurity for twenty years, only occasionally producing new material and making appearances in film and television that played to an image of coolness that was crafted during the Shaft era. His true return to the public consciousness occurred with his critically and commercially successful comeback album Branded (1995) and his voice work on the South Park series, which ended in 2005 after a controversial episode about Scientology.
Mike Judge, the creator and voice talent behind Beavis and Butthead, modeled the fictional Highland, Texas after his own hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Judge is an interesting phenomenon in Hollywood, quietly churning out moderately popular material, most of which consists of withering social commentary dressed up as satire. Although most famously known for his animation and voice work on Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill, Judge also directed the live-action films Office Space (1999) and Idiocracy (2006). Both of these films were box office flops (particularly the latter, whose theatrical release was viciously sabotaged by Fox studios) but have enjoyed substantial success as cult hits on video and DVD.
Why it Works: Last week, I wrote about Brick (2006) and how the film takes characters from 40’s detective novels and translates them into their high-school equivalents. The opening sequence from Beavis and Butt-Head Do America does a similar thing, but even better, as the titular characters are inserted directly into the seventies. The guitar lick that opens the sequence is the exact same sound that made the theme of Shaft so unforgettable – but the notes have been changed to match the theme from the Beavis and Butt-Head television show. And the images of Beavis and Butt-Head racing around San Francisco in a 1974 Ford Torino are taken directly from the television show Starsky and Hutch. Every time I see Beavis tucked behind the wheel of a plainclothesman’s car, red light flashing, a grim pebble-toothed smile on his face, I go to pieces. Every time I see Butt-Head catch the backside of a hand from a girl in a turquoise tube top, I can’t help but smile. This is my favorite opening sequence for a film. Ever.
What Goes Wrong: Nothing. It’s flawless.
Other Stuff: A movie that consists of such rudimentary animation is forced to rely on both the strength of its script and the considerable (if inexplicable) charisma of its stars. When a filmmaker manages to entice the likes of Cloris Leachman to tell an eager Beavis that “there’s so many sluts in Las Vegas you won’t know where to begin,” you’ve achieved a piece of cinematic glory. How can an exchange like “something’s wrong with my butt,” and “your butt sucks” be so absurdly hilarious? Beavis and Butt-Head seem to fit nicely into the theory of comedy posited in Eric Idle’s book The Road to Mars, as a red nose and white face, respectively, and the commentary provided by the pair during music videos showed that Mike Judge is a lot more cerebral than his creations would have led us to believe.
An interesting piece of trivia that reconnects back to Isaac Hayes – Mike Judge provided the voice of Kenny in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.
And finally, just for fun: Three Tough Guys Radio Spot