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MTV's Beavis and Butt-head: This Book Sucks

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When they are good, they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are boring. Poorly drawn, chintzily animated, virtually indistinguishable, and guilty of peppering their incisive critiques of rock videos with the most stupid catchphrases in TV history (”Heh-heh” and ”Huh-huh” respectively), Beavis and Butt-head get away with a lot, which is, of course, their raison d’etre. Besides the outrageously shameless show-a transparent ruse to recycle moldy MTV videos stitched together with cheapo programming-the Beavis people have gotten away with releasing a top 10 album and this new 96-page cartoon book, MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head: This Book Sucks , for which they reportedly nabbed an advance of approximately $86,000 per page.

If Beavis and Butt-head did not exist, it would not be necessary to invent them; all you would have to do is look around any high school cafeteria in America. Most pubescent males share the dumb duo’s passions for air guitar, frog baseball, bloody train wrecks, complaisant video babes, cool things that do not suck, and smutty puns. That’s why it is necessary to preface This Book Sucks with this warning: ”Beavis and Butt-head are not role models. (T)he things they do would cause a real person to get hurt, expelled, arrested, possibly deported. To put it another way: Don’t try this at home.”

B&B are up for trying anything-insects, for example, which they try in a kangaroo court of their own devising. All their verdicts are guilty, with such criminals as a daddy longlegs from the backyard being punished with ”death by magnifying glass” and other disgusting sanctions. They write the least sensitive haiku (which they spell ”Hi Koo”) an adolescent ever penned: ”This morning was cool/There was a huge thunderstorm/ Then we blew up terds (sic).” Their talent for TV programming is, however, superior to their prosody: I really think I, Coroner, Celebrity Roulette (wherein the likes of Valerie Harper and Jane Wiedlin ”revitalize their careers in an actual game of Russian | roulette”), and Acts of God (”A bikini-clad Heather Locklear learns firsthand about some of the most gruesome accidents, assaults, and break-ins insurance claims adjusters have gotten out of paying for”) could make somebody very much like Beavis and Butt-head totally rich.

The critic E.M. Forster once wrote that all fiction features characters either ”round” (fully developed) or ”flat” (more sketchily rendered). Everyone in This Book Sucks is as flat as the Mack-truck victim squashed at Heather Locklear’s feet on Beavis and Butt-head’s imagined TV episode of Acts of God. And yet the book’s sheer realism, its faithfulness to the dominant milieu of the day, is a match for Edith Wharton, easy. They may not be as funny as Mystery Science Theater 3000, but Beavis and Butt-head represent the true face of young America. Their grade? For the first time on either kid’s transcript: A-

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