Thursday, 14 November 2013


I spoke to Dan Sallitt over the course of last month via email about his lovely new film The Unspeakable Act, the text of which has now been published at Gorilla Film Magazine.

Here's Sallitt on Beavis and Butt-Head:

"The difference between the two characters is little noted but crucial. Butt-Head is more functional, more cynical, more predictable, more soulless; a comedy with two Butt-Heads wouldn’t cover a lot of territory. Beavis is a more original creation. Underneath it all, he’s almost a sweet kid, but the wiring in his brain is all wrong, and random stimuli create random responses: a forgotten bit of catechism from his lost youth, an inappropriate ‘Thank you – drive through’ whenever he tries to speak with the voice of institutional authority, terrified soliloquies on the bleak future, even backwards speech (until he thinks about how he’s doing it and loses the superpower). It’s thanks to Beavis that the emotional range of the show is so great.
Mike Judge soon realised that modernist, fragmented narratives took on a new dimension in this context, as if the boys weren’t competent enough to keep a conventional story going. Dead-end storylines abound, in which B&B-H’s memory lapses and distractions stand in the way of closure; the locus classicus of this approach is probably Beavis And Butt-head And The Vending Machine. Minimalism was always the show’s leitmotif, and not just with regard to Judge’s artwork (which is actually quite expressive when it wants to be): most episodes are built around things not happening, or around duration: the boys trying not to watch TV, or getting permanently lost in their own neighbourhood; Butt-Head choking to death through an entire segment. Here’s an exemplary plot description for one I haven’t seen: Beavis and Butt-head find a can of root beer and really, really, really shake it up before they open it.”

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