Quick Take: Futurama, “Yo Leela Leela”
“Non-creative? Hah! I’ll have you know I bedazzle my own underpants!” - Fry
Review: Futurama, “Yo Leela Leela”
(S0619) It’s story time at Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium, but the children have eaten all their books and their special guest, Leela, happens to be an atrocious storyteller. This week’s episode was a pretty straight-forward satire on the state of children’s programming, capped by an ending that sits with you like milk in the middle of a heat-wave (not unlike the one most of us in North America are currently experiencing). After disappointing the orphans with her almost-story, Leela takes off to her quiet place. She returns to the orphans soon after with a fantastic story about the Humplings, five endearing children’s characters that sing and dance and learn and all those other things that I used to like when I was a kid. Her stories are an instant hit, and before she knows it, her little puppet show has been bought for full-scale production, with the crew of the Planet Express as its stars.
Leela’s success quickly goes to her head, but she insists that she’s still in it for the orphans, who she wants to inspire to be successful. Bender and a massage chair accidentally hitch a ride with Leela on one of her trips to her quiet place, however, where he makes a shocking and proud discovery. Leela’s inspiration hasn’t been the orphans, or a place of peace and serenity – she’s actually been visiting Rumbledyhump, the planet her show is about. Instead of coming up with her own material, Leela fell prey to the siren call all writers must endure: instead of coming up with her own material, she’s been writing about what she sees – hey, at least I add commentary.
With Bender now reaping the spoils of Leela’s lies, she can no longer handle her deceit. In order to expose herself, she brings the Planet Express and the orphans to Rumbledyhump, and tells everyone the truth. By coming clean, however, Leela only ends up further exploiting the Humplings and the orphans: the Humplings are the stars of a new reality show, and the orphans have all been adopted by the network as crewmembers for their set. There’s no simple, happy resolution at the end of it all – TV has brainwashed the orphans into believing they’re happy as workhorses, while corrupting the innocent Humplings into believing they need more to their lives, including money.
And that was sort of the point this episode, right? That TV melts your brain? I’ve tried watching new kids’ shows – with my little cousins, with my friends’ kids, even out of my own curiosity – and I can’t say that Futurama is off the mark with their parodies. Popular Slut Club is somewhere between My Super Sweet 16 and Bratz, or maybe Degrassi: teen girls with problems that aren’t really problems; Captain Mega Meat and Bottomless Boy are the obese superheroes that are saving the world by causing early coronaries and heart-attacks in their fans; and Extreme Toddler Wrestling is the wonderful spectacle of Toddlers in Tiaras meets Midget Wrestling. Ok, so some of those aren’t exactly considered “children’s programming,” which makes it even more detestable to think that fully grown adults actually fund, watch, and choose to put themselves on display for these IQ-inhibiting infestations of reality television.
People no longer have to say they were just “raised” by the TV – the amount of exploitation for the sake of reality television makes it so that, for the first time in history, children are being born and raised on television. They will never know any differently than a crew stalking their lives with cameras and microphones, and it’s sad. They had no say in the matter – their parents just put them up on a pedestal to be admired by... seriously what kind of person enjoys these shows? Luckily I’m a person who enjoys this show, as well as its ability to make me assess the crumbling status-quo of what is considered “acceptable television.” Think about it: 20 years ago our cartoon heroes solved crimes and battled evil – this generation’s cartoon heroes are a mentally defunct starfish and racist travelling cousins. So don’t blame me when your kids realize they want to be a sponge for the rest of their lives – show them The Last Airbender or Adventure Time, two animated dimensions of redemption for those of you who hung on to your imaginations.