Beavis and Butt-head was first aired on the U.S. cable network MTV in March 1993. This show, which combined animation and music videos, was an example of the unique programming that MTV has consistently provided for its youthful demographics. The half-hour program alternated between a simple narrative, which focused on the exploits of two low-life adolescents, and clips from music videos, which the two teens commented on. Creator Mike Judge had penned the aimless duo for a festival of animation when Abby Turkuhle, MTV's senior vice president picked up an episode for the network's animated compendium Liquid Television. MTV immediately contracted for 65 episodes from Judge, with Turkuhle as producer, and placed Beavis and Butt-head in the 7:00 and 11:00 P.M. week-day time slots.
The characters, Beavis and Butt-head, are rude, crude, and stupid, and can be placed in the "dumb comedy" tradition, which includes Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges, Cheech and Chong, Saturday Night Live's Wayne and Garth, and FOX's The Simpsons. When the show debuted, television critics differed in their opinions, with some praising the show for daring to present the stupidity of male "metalheads" who watch too much television (effectively satirizing the core MTV audience), and others categorizing Beavis and Butt-head as another example of television's declining quality. Beavis and Butt-head did find an audience and began pulling in MTV's highest ratings. But the show was also quite controversial, instigating heated public debate on the interconnected issues of representations of violence in the media and generational politics surrounding youth subcultures.
Beavis and Butt-head they found, was especially popular with those in their twenties. It turned out to be bothersome to many that young people enjoyed the show and laughed at its two imbecilic boys, even if these fans were much more intelligent and much less grating than Beavis and Butt-head. In this sense, Beavis and Butt-head raised the issue of generational taste cultures. Definitions of "taste," Pierre Bourdieu notes, "unite and separate, uniting those who are the product of similar conditions but only by distinguishing them from all others. And taste distinguishes in an essential way, since it is the basis of all that one has--people and things--and of all that one is for others, whereby one classifies oneself and is classified by others." To the degree that taste cultures agree, they are brought together into...