There are a handful of television shows and movies I will forever associate with what Douglas Coupland called “Generation X.” For example, “Slacker” and “Clerks” are two movies that completely capture the Gen-X attitude and experience. As for television shows, I’d be hard-pressed to propose a better example of the Gen-X zeitgeist than “Beavis and Butt-head”; a show that so perfectly captured the restlessness and cynical nature of the average Gen-X’er it should be required viewing for any cultural historian.
Over at Slate, Dana “Sufergirl” Stevens has published an excellent article titled “Beavis and Butt-Head: reveling in the Beckett-like purity of MTV’s dumbass duo.” Ostensibly, the article is a review of the new B&B DVD collection, but Steven delves a little deeper into the B&B phenomenon than is typical of a review.At one point Stevens says: “To truly appreciate Beavis and Butt-Head, you have to watch from a similar place, a Zen rock garden of peaceful imbecility. There’s an almost Beckett-like purity to the tedium of Beavis and Butt-Head’s serenely empty lives; in one short, “Killing Time,” the boys wait out the two hours until something good comes on TV by staring at the gas meter outside Butt-Head’s house. “Time sucks,” Butt-Head finally observes. Beavis’ response: a chuckle, then silence.”
After reading the article I pulled my copy of “Waiting for Godot” off the bookshelf, and after re-reading much of “Godot” I think Stevens may be on to something. I’m envisioning a re-telling of “Godot” with Beavis and Butt-head assuming the roles of Estragon and Vladimir, respectfully. I call it “Waiting for Nachos,” and all the action takes place on B&B’s infamous couch. Through the course of the play B&B pass time in front of the T.V., which obviously takes the place of the changing/but not changing tree, and the play will illuminate the desolation of modern society, and the cyclical absurdity of life. Like Vladimir, Butt-head will always stand on the precipice of recognizing the ridiculousness of their situation, but Beavis/Estragon will remain in the void of existentialism.
Let’s look at the opening scene, shall we?
Beavis, sitting on the couch, is trying to pick his nose. He probes with one finger, then two, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again.
Beavis: (giving up again.) Um”¦this sucks. I’m bored.
Butt-head: (advancing quickly, scratching his butt) Uhh, yeah. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Beavis). We’re always bored.
Beavis: Really, heh-heh ?
Butt-head: Huh-huh, yeah. I’d thought you’d left, dumbass.
Beavis: Heh-heh, hmm-heh, oh yeah, me too.
Butt-head: (Butt-head sits down on the couch) Yeah”¦you came back, whatta wuss. We should do something cool. (He reflects) Get up so I can kick you in the nads, dill-hole.
Beavis: (Irritably) No way!
Butt-head: (hurt, coldly) Huh-huh, settle down Beavis! (remembering) Hey, where’d you sleep last night?
Beavis: Ummm, in a ditch.
Butt-head: (admiringly) Whoa! That’s pretty cool! Where!
Beavis: (without gesture) Over there.
Butt-head: Huh-huh, did they beat you up, Beavis?
Beavis: Heh-heh, yeah, yeah, umm, I put up a pretty good fight though. I’ve been drinking milk.
Butt-head: Huh-huh, huh-huh, you got beat up. It was probably Urkel. You’re a wuss.
Beavis: No way, Butt-head! Heh-heh, I don’t know who it was.
Butt-head: Huh-huh, you’d always be getting your ass kicked if it wasn’t for me. (Decisively) You’re such a wuss.
Beavis: Are you threatening me?
That’s all I’ve got right now. If you’re interested, I envision Daria as Lucky and Todd as Pozzo.
In writing that little section of dialogue I’ve come to the conclusion that B&B are even more existential and fragmented than Vladimir and Estragon. Butthead’s laugh, “huh-huh,” and Beavis’ “heh-heh” could literally contain hundreds of different meanings, which would only complicate the already ambiguous dialogue.
I should contact Mike Judge with this idea.