The Beavis and Butt-Head Christmas Special Turns 21
Tomorrow I am posting about the 20th anniversary of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, but even more important to me than their movie has been their Christmas special which aired 21 years ago tonight. I should have thought of this last year when it was an even 20, but 21 would be a milestone Beavis and Butt-Head would appreciate since it means they can buy beer. Thankfully, Beavis and Butt-Head remain 14 and I will watch their Christmas special this week as I do every holiday.
I’d say the most brilliant part of the Christmas special is that depending on where I am in my life, some years I relate more to the Christmas Carol spoof and other years I’m feeling the It’s a Wonderful Life spoof more. They’re both brilliant at taking the inherent self-importance of these Christmas classics down a peg, but I suppose some years I think the judgmental ghosts need to be rebuffed, and other years I feel the world needs more Butt-Heads to keep it honest. Showing someone the error of their ways rarely makes them change, and who better to illustrate than the never changing Beavis and Butt-Head.
In “Huh Huh Humbug,” Beavis dreams he’s a Scrooge-like manager at Burger World. He’s visited by the three Christmas ghosts, played by Mr. Anderson, Mr. Van Driessen and Mr. Buzzcut, and of course he learns nothing. In “It’s a Miserable Life,” Butt-head’s guardian angel tries to convince him life would be better if he’d never been born. Instead of Jimmy Stewart’s life-affirming alternate reality, we see how all the supporting characters really are better off without Butt-Head, even Beavis.
It works as a Christmas episode because they behave no differently than they would in a non Christmas fantasy story. In “Humbug,” Beavis is just trying to watch a Christmas themed porno on VHS (the height of 1995 technology). You’d think his Christmas wish might be to finally score, but perhaps it is the true spirit of Christmas that all he wants is his porno. Beavis is a man of simple pleasures.
Butt-Head also shows up in the Jacob Marley role. He says, “In life, I was your partner. Now I’m some dead guy with cool chains.” The sheer superficiality that of course that is the part Butt-Head thinks is cool is totally in character. And the frustration of Beavis not getting anything the ghosts are telling him must be familiar to any parent or teacher of teenagers. Beavis’s post-apocalyptic Christmas future fantasy is just wonderfully absurd.
“Miserable Life” is motivated by the people of Highland praying to get rid of Beavis and Butt-Head. It’s a payoff to all the trouble they’ve caused in their various episodes. Seeing a happier version of all the supporting characters is surprisingly poignant. Especially now that we know the impact of bullying, even the relatively harmless insults and sexual harassment by Beavis and Butt-head leave Daria, Stewart and McVicker damaged.
The poignancy is only surpassed by Butt-Head’s ability to instantly tear it all down again. The best is when he teaches a friendly Beavis the word “bunghole” and it sticks. You can take Beavis out of the bunghole but you can’t take the bunghole out of Beavis.
But by far the true genius of Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas is the Letters to Santa Butt-Head. MTV solicited real Christmas letters and had Mike Judge answer them in character, with Butt-Head as Santa and Beavis and his reindeer. Just like the best parts of the show were Beavis and Butt-Head’s casual non sequitur comments about music videos, so were their responses to submitted letters.
Several of the letters are from women soliciting the boys to score. There are a lot of poop jokes, and the best when Ethan Herrera takes the opportunity to list his entire family and Butt-Head “doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any of those people.” The reaction of Beavis getting whipped is just pure slapstick.
The best letter was edited out of the DVD but you can see it online, from a prison inmate whose Christmas of eating pork and beans and spanking the monkey really appeals to Beavis and Butt-Head. I wonder if that guy ever got out. It’s a shame they didn’t do new letters every year. They wouldn’t even have had to redo the animation. They could’ve just dubbed new dialogue. But now the 1995 letters are etched in stone as classics.
The DVD release of Do Christmas also features their commentary on Christmas music videos from an earlier Christmas special. Clips of the show are also on YouTube, and I highly recommend you invite Beavis and Butt-Head home for Christmas this week.