Regarding David Kronke's article on "Beavis and Butt-head," and the accompanying commentary by Joseph Turow ("Just Boys or Civilization Destroyers?" Sept. 12):
I am amazed by the amount of ink spent recently in the debate over whether or not "Beavis and Butt-head" is a sign of a society in decline. With so much real news going on, both in the world at large and in the entertainment community (and by the latter I do not mean the continuing Heidi Fleiss soap opera or the trial by media of Michael Jackson), how is this even an issue?
Dumb, unlikable buffoons causing damage by their stupidity has been a leitmotif of popular culture since the first Punch and Judy puppet shows in medieval Europe. It has been a staple of animation since its inception.
Did all the mallet blows and flying anvils, safes and pianos seen in "Popeye," "Tom & Jerry" and the Looney Tunes turn us into violent savages? Did all those megatons of dynamite, shotgun blasts and frying pans make us want to blow up our playmates? Kids are far smarter than we adults tend to give them credit for. They didn't need "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" to let them know something that Terry Rakolta and her shrieking harpies don't seem to get even now: Anything can happen in a cartoon.
You want to report on a real cartoon atrocity? This month marks the first anniversary of one of the darkest days in animation history: the "great grab" of the wildly innovative series "The Ren & Stimpy Show" from its creators and guiding lights at Spumco Studios by Nickelodeon and MTV Networks. Now that , to me, is far more offensive than anything I've seen on "B&B.;"
Cartoons can destroy young lives. My own tragedy is a perfect example.
One day, after a steady diet of cartoons, I walked into the kitchen, ate a can of spinach and then dropped a safe out the window on top of an evil fat man with a beard. Thanks to a crafty lawyer, I was found innocent by what is now known as the "Popeye" defense.
To this day, if you use a safe or a weapon manufactured by the Acme Co. in the commission of a crime, the police will say you are "Looney Tunes."
In writing about the cancellation of two episodes of the series, Kronke quotes "Beavis and Butt-head" critic Dick Zimmerman as saying, "This is exciting--it indicates they're taking responsibility for the power of Beavis and Butt-head."
Perhaps Zimmerman should consider that MTV canceled the episodes not out of fear that children would imitate the on-air shenanigans but out of fear of backlash from reactionary critics. It's the same tired, old muckraking--the whole idea that the media are corrupting the minds of today's youth and undermining society's values. What the article shows is that critics are so badly out of touch with today's youth that in their speed to condemn "Beavis and Butt-head," they can't even get their facts straight.
For example, Beavis and Butt-head go joy-riding in a Corvair they were paid to wash. Instead of trashing the car and setting another on fire, as Kronke writes, they stop in the middle of an intersection after seeing a red light, where they are hit by an oncoming car, which ignites into flame. Hardly the juvenile delinquency the critics imply; instead, we see the hapless pair as victims of their own stupidity. The episode was, in fact, a satire of Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed." Fools that they are, Beavis and Butt-head take the Corvair out, not knowing it is dangerous.
One shouldn't be surprised by the monumental stupidity of Beavis and Butt-head, since for years now we have been going through a crisis in education. Is it surprising that these characters reflect what Steve Allen has called "the dumbing of America"?
Though the critics are quick to condemn the stupidity of these characters, they do not mention that it is the older generation that was responsible for their education. MTV is simply giving adolescents characters they can identify with and throwing the failures of their parents back in their faces.
Indeed, Beavis and Butt-head are the definitive latch-key kids. What is suspiciously lacking in all "Beavis and Butt-head" episodes is one thing--their parents.
MATT and ANDY MICONE
Every time an article appears regarding objectionable television subject matter, it will include a quote from a "concerned parent" expressing displeasure or even outrage that such material is being broadcast.
Rather than blame the program producer, let's look at the root of the problem: a lack of parental supervision. At any given time of day or night, a parent could probably find something objectionable on television. How do we solve this problem? Try turning off the television. After all, whose responsibility is it regarding what our children watch?
As a 39-year-old parent of a 5-year-old, I find that the easiest part of parenting is monitoring what he watches. If we are so concerned about the trash on TV, then we should make sure that the impressionable youth under our supervision don't watch it.
If nobody watches, it will eventually die a natural death. Eliminate the market, and the supply will go away.
KEVIN D. SPEAKS
I had never even heard of "Beavis and Butt-head" until a random dial-swing a few weeks ago. Anyone who says that "it's all just a joke, an inspired commentary on our society" and its characters are "not supposed to be construed as role models," as MTV disclaims, is just plain irresponsible.
Industry, when are you going to wake up? In the same edition of The Times, a Page 1 story about teen murder and its accompanying sidebar, titled "Crack, TV Blamed for Teen Murders," show clearly (as if common sense wouldn't tell you) that the appalling skyrocketing of murders and other violent and sickening crimes committed by kids, teen-agers, must be greatly influenced by what they see on TV.
If my nephews randomly flip a dial and see a violent program, or even watch an R-rated movie on video at a friend's home, they will not go out and harm people, because they have 15 and 12 years of exposure to a loving, caring environment filled with harmony, culture, camaraderie and a lot of G-rated content in all things. But what about the other kids, the ones who only watch MTV and the like, who only watch sex and violence. That becomes their only frame of reference, and it becomes their primer and their role models.
We can't keep putting such characters in the faces of those who, because of their environment, influences and exposure, have no choice but to see them as role models, and then wonder why our kids are shooting everything in sight.
In the same weekend I read two news reports so opposite I wondered at the cause. Angela Lansbury was acclaimed America's favorite lady because of her attractive maturity and class. I agreed.
However, in The Times I read about the antics of Beavis and Butt-head. What they do horrifies me. We hold freeways in litigation to protect owls, birds and foxes, while the creators of this trash find fun in blowing up cats. They crank out cruel, idiotic, repulsive and moronic trash for money and youthful consumption.
Maybe this explains why the world's greatest "star" wouldn't have an act without a crotch or a pelvis. I remember how shocked I was when our President proclaimed we would "kick ass" in the Mideast; I expected more class than that from our leader. Now small children use language that is ugly and offensive.
We are certainly teaching violence against the helpless in an age in which the lesson has already been learned too well. There must be people who object to all this as much as I.
Class is not a weakness. It just takes brains, sensitivity and concern for every living thing. All you Angela Lansbury fans, speak up. We need you.
I was horrified to read that someone actually imitated "Beavis and Butt-head" by blowing up a live cat! I can't imagine what kind of twisted person could do such a thing. Maybe MTV should take more responsibility by not showing any acts of animal violence or cruelty, especially when they are being depicted as "cool." This is where I have to draw the line with "B&B.;"
If the moronic humor of "B&B;" is being imitated mainly by smaller children, then they probably shouldn't be watching it. Maybe MTV can limit the younger viewers by saving "B&B;" for more late-night viewing.
More important, MTV (like the media in general) needs to be more conscientious about the kinds of messages it is sending society--some of us, obviously, don't know where the joke stops!
Beavis and Butt-head joked about blowing up a cat. A few days later, someone in Santa Cruz did just that, in the manner recommended by the moronic duo. Carole Robinson, senior vice president for press relations for MTV, can't see the connection. Was she the inspiration for Beavis, or Butt-head?