It only took a couple of decades, but I think I finally understand Beavis & Butt-Head.
The question, when it came to the first season of Paramount+’s revived Beavis and Butt-Head last year, was simple: Would the antics of two teenage nitwits translate from the 1990s to today? And to creator/star Mike Judge‘s credit, they actually did: The boys might be watching Lil Nas X and viral videos these days instead of Milli Vanilli and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but their idiocy endures. When it launched last year, though, I was watching the revival with fresh, adult eyes — since I never engaged with Beavis and Butt-Head in their heyday.
I was aware of their existence in the ’90s, of course, but largely because I was a fervent fan of Daria, the MTV spinoff featuring the quiet, brainy, bitter girl who had nothing positive to say about her weirdo classmates — or anything at all, really. While the character of Daria originated on Beavis & Butt-Head, with the show’s pilot revolving around her family leaving the boys’ hometown of Highland, Texas for a new city — when Daria’s mom mentions to Daria that she might try not to judge people until she gets to know them, because “you don’t want it to be Highland all over again,” Daria replies with “Not much chance of that happening… unless there’s uranium in the drinking water here, too.”
Daria was a formative show for me in a lot of respects, as there weren’t a lot of other characters on TV at that time that captured the experience of being a teenage girl who doesn’t fit in. And I knew that Daria didn’t think much of her former classmates, which did directly impact my own opinions — plus, it didn’t help that the initial Beavis & Butt-Head appearances, such as their infamous first short “Frog Baseball” have… not aged well.
As the show has evolved from those early days, though, what stands out now is how Judge and his writers have learned to calibrate these characters so that they remain as ridiculous and profane as before, but without needing to lean on animal cruelty and blatant sexism.
Instead, Beavis and Butt-Head have arrived in the 21st century (time travel was involved, as explained by the Paramount+ original film Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe) and are continuing to muddle their way through a world that won’t let them drink or score. It’s the consistency there that I’ve come to admire, and the ways in which their inability to fully engage with the world as adults can create seemingly endless opportunities for comedy.