Friday, October 28, 2011

Infinite Regress: What if Beavis and Butthead Watch Beavis and Butthead Watch Beavis and Butthead?

An infinite regress is a causal chain that extends forever.

Let's say A was caused by B, and B was caused by C, and C was caused by D, and so on. It doesn't stop at Z (no matter what Aristotle said). It keeps going infinitely. This can be illustrated by two mirrors facing one another, forming a trail that reflects inward toward infinity.

The revival of Beavis and Butthead is a bit like this.

MTV has resurrected the moronic duo for brand new episodes. At first glance, it seems as if very little has changed since you last sat on your couch to watch Beavis and Butthead sit on their couch. On the surface, it is the same show. Mike Judge still provides the voices. The animation is still crude and slow. The boys still burst into uncontrollable laughter at any possible sexually-suggestive word.

However, as the LA Times reports, this is not the same show. In fact, Beavis and Butthead are now watching Beavis and Butthead, or at least watching a series of dumb shows left in their wake:

The cartoon, which began in part as an ironic, idiotic but not inaccurate commentary on the network's original bread and butter — the music video — will now include among its targets movies, viral videos and the kind of shows that have come to represent MTV in the duo's absence, series like "Jersey Shore" and "16 and Pregnant." ("This would be a better show if they showed them actually getting pregnant.") What's odd is how nearly they resemble some of their new targets — "This guy looks like he might be stupider than us" — and how with the passing years they've come to sound less like snarky kids and more like grumbling old men: the Statler and Waldorf of their generation.

Compared to the dumb stuff that came after them (television programs that Beavis and Butthead no doubt paved the way for) the boys are now wise old men. Jersey Shore is indeed worse than Beavis and Butthead. The boys can no longer sink to the lowest level; they must rise above it.

And so now, we watch Beavis and Butthead watch television characters who are even less intelligent than they are. They've moved one level back into the infinite regress, or, perhaps, have taken one step back from the infinite regression of culture.

Think about this: the original Beavis and Butthead is responsible for the creation of Jersey Shore (a new low in the race to the bottom). Jersey Shore is responsible for the new Beavis and Butthead.

And so on.

Maybe this isn't an infinite regression. Perhaps it's a vicious cycle instead.

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