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Cartoon Graveyard: There’s More To Edgy Than Curves

July 30, 2009

cartoongraveyard

How do we reach the youth?  That’s the question that keeps marketers and pedophiles alike up at night. What magical combination of cherrypicked themes and images will draw the well-heeled and judgment-impaired hordes of America’s teenagers and college students to shell out for our product/service/Entertainment Property?  We know they like The Interwebs.  They like Vampires.  And they like Shiny Things.  That should be enough, right?  Just stir in some combination of such zeitgeist-friendly items together, simmer in a broth of focus groups, and your job is done, right?

Alas, some people just don’t have the imagination needed to rasta-fy Poochie that extra ten percent, so they fall back on the old standbys.  For an example, we turn this Wayback Machine we call the Internet back only a few years to the birth of a channel and a show that staked their fate on history’s most guaranteed seat-fillers: explosions and boobs.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Spike TV and Stripperella.

Title: Stripperella
Network: Spike
Premise: Boobs.  Although to be fair, there were also some explosions.

Long ago, in the misty past, there was a channel known as the The Nashville Network.  As you might imagine, its programming was dominated by country music-related shows.  Nashville Tonight. Grand Ole Opry Live. NASCAR. And other such programs you wouldn’t expect to be produced by something called Gaylord Entertainment.  But somehow such an eclectic slate of shows failed to gather a huge nationwide following, and the channel soon became CBS’s syndication bitch.  All seemed lost until little TNN was visited in the dead of night by the Rebranding Fairy, and suddenly realized it liked men.

If you watched either video, you just passed Psych 107.

Of course, rebuilding an entire TV network around appealing to men’s prurient interests ain’t cheap.  And when TV executives need cheap, what’s the first thing on speed dial?  Oh, right, reality shows.  But what’s the second thing?  Animation, baby.  And lo, a short-lived block of mammaricentric cartooning was born.   Our subject for the day, Stripperella, decided to combine the genres of “looking at boobs” and “wacky spy shit.” Nothing weird about that, they’ve been pals since Dr. No.  The weird part: this particular version was created by Stan Lee.  Yes, the comic book dude.  I can only assume he was somehow bored by being Stan Fucking Lee, and coincidentally decided to start a raunchy animated series around the same time Spike called up and offered a boatload of money.  What can I say, people can do crazy things when they’re bored and well-paid.

This particular disinterested doodle’s protagonist lives a double life: by night she is a stripper, and by night again a secret agent.  This statuesque woman, imaginatively named Erotica, was voiced by noted breast owner Pamela Anderson.  Now, some might question the logic of hiring a blonde, large-breasted woman to provide the voice for a blonde, large-breasted woman, asking whether resembling a cartoon character can really count as experience.  On the other hand, as a result Stripperella was one of the few series to feature its voice actors (okay, just the one) in advertising, and I’m in favor of anything that helps voice actors.  So let’s call it a wash.

Okay, so I'm not above appealing to prurient interests myself.

Okay, so I'm not above appealing to prurient interests myself.

I’m not even going to bother discussing the show’s sexual politics.  I’m sure you can work those out on your own.  Anyway, to the show’s credit it took itself not one bit seriously. I would suggest a drinking game involving every time you hear a lame sexual pun or sub-James Bond character name, but I’d rather not rack up any more homicidal negligence charges. Most of the plots were superhero parody fare, featuring either completely ridiculous villains (a favorite: Cheapo, voiced by Jon Lovitz, whose crimes and downfalls are always related to being a huge tightwad) or common cliches like the hero being given exactly the right gadgets at the beginning to foil the trap at the end.  And in between, Stripperella’s occupation gave them an opportunity to log more strip club footage per episode than The Wire, The Sopranos, and every cop show ever combined.  Sure, it didn’t advance the plot any, but the writers seemed to have fun coming up with comically overwrought and unfeasible striptease routines.  And the animation was quite good, for the record.  Make of that what you will.

I had a thought of doing a sort of crossover with Weeaboo Wednesdays to discuss why erotic cartoons are so much more common in Japan than the USA, but scrapped it when I realized it’s because every kind of cartoon is more common in Japan.  And for the record, this ain’t hentai, horndog.  It’s titillation and nothing more, and that’s really why it didn’t last.  Sure, a cartoon with an animated Pamela Anderson is gonna bring in a few guys with light masturbatory needs, but such an audience isn’t really in it for the long haul.  And frankly, superhero parodies have been done a million times, and a million times better.  Then again, considering this is Spike TV we’re talking about here, Stripperella was probably the best-written thing on the network.

Oh wait, they also showed Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns.  Scratch that.

Final Judgment: As an animated boob delivery system, a rousing success.  As anything else, a failure.  Really, even the explosions were subpar.

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