When I was a kid my dad was pretty straight laced. He worked as a tax lawyer sometimes up to seven days a week and on top of that was a professor at a highly regarded business college. On top of that he was basically head usher at our local church and we never missed a Sunday. My dad also talked to us about the Bible on the way home from mass because he understood it better than anyone we knew. In addition my dad also instilled a work ethic in us by having us do yard work projects.
However my dad also had a fun side.
When I was twelve we got Cable. For years we didn’t have cable because my folks had regarded education very highly and wanted us to spend our time reading and writing and focusing on our future. My brother had recently started playing football for the school and the local cable station televised games. Wanting to support my brother in his quest for football stardom my father invested in cable.
My sister and I were psyched. We were getting MTV. For once we wouldn’t feel left out when people mentioned the Spice Girls and very quickly we learned the lyrics to their songs. My dad wasn’t quite sold on MTV. I was going through my attitude change and he attributed it to the network. My brother and I became closet Real World fans and simply didn’t let our parents know we were watching the channel. Then one day things all changed.
My brother and I were watching Beavis and Butthead. For years we heard about the twosome but now we were getting to see them in person. My sister, after a minute, decided she was beyond disgusted so she left the room. Being so entranced into it my brother and I didn’t see or hear our dad come down the stairs. As soon as this malevolent adversary, a well meaning fun police, appeared we moved to change the channel.
“What is it you’re watching?” My dad asked.
“Nothing!” I told my dad.
“Come on.” He said expecting it to be something heinously sexually explicit. While Beavis and Butthead were by no means G-Rated it was not Real Sex 17.
“Beavis and Butthead.” My brother blurted out.
My dad sat down, looked at the TV and studied the two cartoon miscreants for a minute. We handed him the clicker. Defeated we believed he was going to change the station thereby ruining our fun and then ordering a decree that this show was a no no. My parents were more strict than most segregating weekends to TV because weeknights . Instead my dad began watching. In the first minute he was nodding his head. Within the second minute he was laughing. “This is pretty funny!” My dad exclaimed. “Who are these guys?”
“Beavis and Butthead.” My brother explained.
“Oh, the ones everyone wants to take off TV? I don’t get it. These guys are too funny.” My dad said again chuckling. At that moment he tried to do the laugh.
“Is it like this?” My father demanded to know trying to master the low pitched, slacker faux guffaw.
Glancing from side to side, my brother and I exchanged a disturbed look. Sure it was wonderful our father was hip but this was coming as a surprise. Who was this alien creature and what had he done to our dad? That’s when my dad exclaimed that he liked the show and wanted to see more episodes. We spent that Saturday flipping between football and the Beavis and Butthead marathon.
Soon my father began to watch Beavis and Butthead regularly. It was a weird bonding activity that my brother, my father and I shared. The second it came on MTV the three of us would sit, glued to the TV while my mother and sister stalked out in utter contempt of this mindless toilet humor. At the dinner table my brother and I would pull our shirts to the top of our head as Cornholio while our father would sing the show’s praises as “just too funny.” At first our mother protested but it was keeping my father’s blood pressure down. Like Mills Lane she decide she would allow it.
My father finally came out of the closet to his friends about his Beavis and Butthead fanage when he was at dinner with some friends of his who were big wigs in the business and legal world. At the time my mother was horrified. My father had worked his whole life and career for these contacts. To my mother’s surprise and chagrin, my dad’s friend confessed to watching Beavis and Butthead with his children as well. The two apparently began to recap their favorite episodes complete as well as their favorite awesomely bad music videos that Beavis and Butthead critiqued. According to my mother, she and the other wife exchanged a sympathetic, knowing glance. While they loved their husbands they were being overgrown man children.
Then the final episode came in 1998 when Beavis and Butthead were to die. At first my father was devastated. How could they kill off cartoon land’s most prized residents, the only ones he liked? So long had he abhorred the Flintstones and only merely tolerated the Jetsen’s. Oh and let’s not even get into Scooby Doo. My father called Scooby Doo, “Mindless drivel that only retards could tolerate.”
Then we watched the episode as a family.
When Beavis and Butthead didn’t die my father at first was happy. Perhaps Mike Judge would bring them back for sequels. But then it sunk in, there had been advertising that they would die and the viewers had been let down. My father looked as us as the credits rolled and said, “They didn’t die. That sucks.”
My father voiced his disappointment and that’s when my sister, being the voice of reason said, “Dad, they are cartoons. They can come back.” After a few minutes my dad recovered as well as my brother and I. We would be gearing up for the reruns no doubt. By now my mother had surrendered. In the last leg of the show my sister had embraced the cartoon misfits who would never score. My mother was still not quite there.
Now Beavis and Butthead are back on the air. Is my dad watching? I have not had the courage to ask. However the other day he did call Mitt Romney a poser. I didn’t know whether to give him the cool crown or ask him why he felt the need to use slag from 1999. Still it did make me crack up because he has used the word six times since then.
At the time I was surprised my dad liked Beavis and Butthead but maybe I shouldn’t have been. After all, he and his brother’s loved the Stooges as kids to the point where they were bopping each other on the head so often my grandma banned it from the house. And did I mention “NYUK” on AMC was family viewing too much to my mother’s chagrin?
What can I say? Maybe you can put the man in the suit but you can’t take the man out of the man. Hey, I lucked out. My old man’s pretty awesome.