St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (2019)

Rocko's Modern Life title card.

Last year saw the return of two animated TV shows from my childhood. Invader Zim, which originally ran from 2001 to 2002, returned in the film Enter the Florpus. Rocko’s Modern Life, which ran from 1993 to 1996, returned in the 45-minute special Static Cling. Both were originally produced by Nickelodeon, which clearly wanted to cash in on some 90s nostalgia, but were acquired by Netflix and distributed there. I can’t blame Nickelodeon for wanting to make a buck out of the Millennials. We’re man-children in our 30s with cash to spend on Pok√©mons and Captain America, so bringing back some classic TV shows seems like a no-brainer.

Really Really Big Man's nipples of the future.
Is it possible that Really Really Big Man’s nipples of the future made me gay? No. Is it likely? Yes.

Is it bad that I never noticed Rocko has a really shitty Australian accent? You just don’t notice these things when you’re a kid. In fact I’m not even sure I knew he was a wallaby. He definitely sounds like an American, though. Americans have this idea of how Aussies sound, and it’s never right. There’s plenty of Aussies who do great American accents, but I’ve never once heard an American do a decent Aussie accent.

Heffer gets a remote control stuck in his bum.

Is Heffer trans? A heifer is a lady cow, right, but he uses male pronouns. Actually he says in this he’s a steer, which is a castrated male cow, so I’m getting some mixed signals. Although having a kids’ cartoon actually specify that one of its main characters has had his balls removed is so Rocko. This show was always pretty daring when it came to gross jokes and sly adult references. There was even one episode that suggested Rocko might be gay.

The O Store.

“Look like a tool!” There is something refreshing about the unvarnished honesty of this. The parodies are so unsubtle and I love how unpretentious they are. They straight-up tell you, “Look, this sucks.” There’s not enough of that, everyone else is being too polite.

Fat Cats in Tiny Houses.
“Fat Cats in Tiny Houses.”

The plot of this movie is Rocko returning home after 20 years in space and finding that everything has changed. Rocko gets hounded and terrorized by the modern world — iPhones and Facebook and taco trucks — which is exactly what the original show was about too. It’s in the title. Rocko tries to live a simple life but can’t cope with how bonkers the rest of the modern world is. That makes it ideally suited for a comeback now that everything has got exponentially more complicated. It’s hard for me to tell whether the 90s really were a simpler time or whether it was just as complicated but I never noticed because I was only ten. But it does feel simpler in a lot of ways. I don’t have any patience for nostalgia — remember this was a time when actors and athletes couldn’t come out of the closet because the scandal might end their career — but that doesn’t make our current dystopia any less terrifying.

Ed Bighead bankrupts O-Town.
“I’m too big to fail!”

Now they’re doing the 2008 economic crisis! Which is accidentally prophetic considering the economy is tanking again this year. This thing is pressing all the right buttons.

The Chameleon Brothers remake Rocko's favorite TV show.
“Make art is easy with computer.”

Rocko petitions Conglom-O to bring back his favorite TV show from the 90s, “The Fatheads”. The Chameleon Brothers make the reboot using cheap-ass CGI, producing an artless, unlovable monstrosity. Between “Fat Cats in Tiny Houses” and the Chameleon Brothers ruining a classic TV show, I’m getting the impression Joe Murray doesn’t much like the state of modern TV.

The Bigheads' son is now a daughter.

And now we have an actual trans character! This show really doesn’t hide behind anything, they just come out and do what they want. It’s fantastic. I can’t tell if they can get away with this because it’s more for adults or because this kind of social progressiveness is now more acceptable in kids’ media. It’s true Steven Universe copped a lot of flak for having gay and non-binary characters but at least they were able to do it. Either way, yes please! More of all of this!

The Winds of Change.

Ultimately the Winds of Change show up to deliver a lecture on how change is inevitable and we have to accept it. Yeah yeah, blah blah. I guess they’re hitting that note a little hard, but oh well.

The Skinny

Filburt, Rocko, and Heffer.

“The twenty-first century is a very dangerous century.”

Rocko’s Modern Life was always about feeling alienated and overwhelmed, and Static Cling continues to develop the same themes. The makers had plenty of new material to work with and they use all of it with their old flair. This was a joy from start to finish and had me laughing out loud in more than a few places. I wish more TV shows were like this.