Gee, if you're gonna make fun of us, you could at least pander to us!
The following are my thoughts on last night's Futurama, and the use of genderbending generally in postmodern cartoons.
Well, where can I start? If you haven't seen it, last night's season premiere of Futurama (technically, it's the second half of season six, but, c'mon), the basic premise is that the men and women (and Zoidberg!) of the Planet Express crew spend the bulk of their time and energy recreationally insulting each others' sexes for no apparent reason. After about 15 minutes of pointless, unfunny, and crudely dated "jokes" about how men are different from women (OMG, YA THINK???), the crew and a shipload of recurring background characters end up crashed on a planet where a godlike rock monster puts them through a series of tests in a literal battle of the sexes. Failing in it's desire to decide whether men or women are "better" the creature simply removes everyone's reproductive bits and boobies. The characters find this sexless, genderless existence far more peaceful and productive, unless Hermes and LaBarbara demand their bits back for marital congress. The alien blows it, swapping everyone's sex, and then is promptly killed by General Major Webelo Zapp Brannigan, leaving everyone stuck as the opposite sex (and Zoidberg!). With time running short in the episode, we get a scene of Hermes and her good husband together in bed, Amy and Leela complaining while the new women return from shopping ('cause what else do women ever contribute to society, right?) giggling like idiots, and finally a highly variable swimsuit calendar shoot of the new women to pay Planet Express's mortgage.
There were SOOOO many problems here. First off, it was just a BAD EPISODE. The premise was inexplicably awful, and nothing could have rescued it. Time and time again we've have good, important episodes where Fry and Leela, and to a lesser extent, Amy and Hermes, grow and become better, more complex characters, and this episode paints them all as one-dimensional chronically sexist jerkasses. This keeps happening over and over again since Futurama was brought back from cancellation, with the Leela/Fry reset button being pushing until it's now permanently stuck on. And the "men are different from women" jokes weren't funny in 3500 BC when Sumerians first told them, and they're not funny now. They're the laziest form of "humor" possible, and Futurama fans deserve much better for all their patience and dedication.
But, of course, the rest of us are here for TG fanservice, and here's where the real disappointment came. The whole part that was played up in the promos was barely in the episode! The sex swappage doesn't actually happen until there's only 4:15 left before the credits roll. Now, Hermes and LaBarbara do get about 60 seconds of a very sweet scene, but all that remains after that is the new women doing pinup calendar photos of highly variable sexiness, and then the reset button is hit at the end.
There were just SO many missed opportunities here not just for fanservice, but for real storytelling and humor like we expect as fans of this show. Just for thought...
- Is Leela just sweet on Fry because other men are repulsed by her single eye? Would she have more choices as a man? Would she like that sort of freedom and attention?
- Zapp Brannigan as a sexy woman. The comedy writes itself.
- Would Fry's "unique" brain function better in a woman's body? You could write a whole main plot around Phyllis getting wined, dined, and then dumped due to her naivette. Leela this time has to be the shoulder to cry on, reversing their roles while reinforcing their love.
Instead we got... well, frankly, it's the kind of story I'd expect from someone like Seth MacFarlane, who's likely never seen a vagina without recoiling in horror. Just very lazy "humor" and a bumbling, throwaway plot.
Oh, also, a bugbear of mine... no one's voice changed AT ALL. Lame.
I did like The Borax Kid, though.
Y'know, this is already plenty long, I'll see about covering broader issues some other time. Thanks for staying and reading.