My favorite thing to do is to lie on my back. When things need to be moved, say a piece of trash that is fermenting under my feet, I grunt and push it aside with my toe. My least favorite thing, in general, is to do things. What could possibly motivate me to get up and start moving around?
Well, for one, an awesome fort. With a secret entrance, and a stash of Now-and-Laters and a bin of action figures. Or a suit of armor. I would get up off the couch for a suit of armor with shoulder-mounted laser-cannons and a voice modulator to make me sound like Lothar, World Crusher.
Because, you see, something terrible has happened. Young men and women like me are retaining elements of childhood well into their adult years. Narcissism and indiscriminate laziness are interrupted only by bouts of silliness or giddy mischief. This childishness defines my tastes, my ambitions and my values. When I cook, I put food coloring in my potatoes to make them blue. I trade digitized music with my friends like songs were Pokemon cards. I go from class to class with my books in a lunchbox embossed with Warhol prints.
Because that shit is funny.
We can see this phenomenon working in both directions. Childrenâ€™s movies include a healthy dose of sarcasm and ironic humor. Recently, Curious George not only featured Will Ferrel and David Cross, but also included a soundtrack from indie-idol Jack Johnson. The Incredibles and Spongebob Squarepants are hugely popular across college campuses. Sufjan Stevens, the 21st century Rafi, is considered rock music.
In short, my 6-year-old nephew and I get along alarmingly well.
The blurring of childhood and adulthood also gives rise, as has been popularly asserted, to hedonism on a horrific scale. We take Polaroids of ourselves giving a big thumbs-up while we snort cocaine. Taschen releases art books that feature big poops in a toilet bowl, women smirking as they bend over, men laughing at the size of their phalli. We eat cocoa crispies while watching homeless men fight each other.
I am not the fabled inner-child of the sixties generation, staring into the grass with eyes held wide. I am the boy who spits on his hand and cries with laughter, screaming â€œspit-cookies! Who wants a delicious spit cookie!â€
What can we blame? Is this nihilism? Is this the MEdia-generation? Are we the sickening, spoiled products of the American empire?
Listen, I donâ€™t care. All I want to know is do you want a delicious spit cookie? How about with extra booger sauce?
The low watermark of cultural degradation has finally arrived, and with it, a strange consolation.
The cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force is about nothing. The conceit of the show is that a meatball (named Meatwad), a milkshake (named Mastershake) and a floating box of French-fries (named Frylock) live in a run-down pre-fabricated house on the outskirts of an anonymous city. In some episodes, a challenge presents itself. A devil sandwich, for example, dares Mastershake to eat it, transporting him with each bite to a surreal realm of axe-wielding ovals. In another episode, the Aqua Teens try to reconstruct their neighbor after destroying his body with a turbo-toilet. They sew together a body for him made entirely out of eyeballs. â€œWhy do my knees feel like they are tearing up?â€ he asks when he is brought to life.
In other episodes, very little, if anything, seems to happen. Frylock, at one point, moves into a new apartment and throws a party that nobody attends. In my favorite episode from the past season, a convention of all of the villains from past adventures results in little more than semi-polite conversation and trash pickup. In the end, after 20 minutes of deliberation, they come up with an evil-team name, Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday, proposed by a giant mechanical rabbit and a time-traveling mechanical Turkey.
A cabinet of the grotesque and the bizarre, Aqua Teen Hunger Force thrives on an atmosphere of bold-faced naivete. Frylock, as the parental voice of restraint, provides the axis of reason around which the chaos of events spins and splutters. Meatwad is a child, with the requisite confusion and an innocence that is sometimes touching. Yet it is the cocksure Mastershake that provides the show with punch lines. Sliding from room to room in search of money, fame, women and tacos, Mastershake is guided only by the desire for amusement. His is the greatest goal our generation has to seek: awesomeness. The drunken frat-squids, omniscient cubes and mind-controlling clown wigs are reduced to nothing in Shakeâ€™s insatiable quest for the â€œreally neat.â€
Mastershake occupies the space between Meatwad and Frylock, a man-child with the awareness of an adult and the motivations of a little boy. In this sense, he is exactly like me. His tastes veer regularly toward the depraved and the extravagant. He is easily distracted by the television and utterly unmotivated save by his appetite for flash-fried cow filled to the brim with cheese and ranch dressing. Seeing this image of myself, caught in the midst of a perplexity even deeper than my own, is honestly quite a relief. The troubling aspect, of course, is that in Mastershake I also see my 6-year-old nephew.
The comfort, I suppose, is that in such times as we inhabit today, it only takes one character to nail all the archetypes. Whereas the Simpsons is all of life captured in one town, Aqua Teen came along when all it took was one beverage, and there you had it: the modern television consumer.
Aqua Teen has its finger on the pulse of todayâ€™s immature men and women as well as jaded middle-schoolers, and as such finds a solid audience in both categories. It is a strange world in which children and adults sit down to watch the same television shows and laugh at the same jokes, but at the very least it is a world of laughter.