Even though I was a teen in the 90’s I still found enjoyment in the cartoons of that era. From the incredible drama of Batman the Animated Series to the coming of age adventures of Doug, I loved them all and hardly ever missed an episode. There was one series, however, that resonated with me more than nearly any other, that series was Rocko’s Modern Life.
Depicting the daily struggles of a Wallaby named Rocko and his crazy anthropomorphic friends , this series gave us a tremendous subversive joy that worked on so many levels. As I got older I discovered even more joy in this series finding some of the subtle references and satire that I had missed in my youth making this series nearly timeless. Even though Rocko’s Modern Life had officially ended in late 1996, I still longed for one more adventure with my wacky friends from O-Town. Thankfully, creator Joe Murry and the people of Netflix obliged and this past week we were graced with an all new episode of this classic 90’s staple.
Returning to Earth after being lost in space for 20 years, Rocko, Heffer and Filburt find themselves in the 21st century only to discover that things have moved on without them. Determined to find one familiar thing to help him cope with the changes of the world, Rocko and his friends set out to find their favorite animator, Ralph Bighead, to create one more episode of the classic cartoon series The Fatheads.
From the onset, this special brings us right back to the series we know and love but with a twist. Everyone is back from Rocko and his best friends (even Bloaty and Squirmy!), however, even though everyone is back, things are not quite the same upon their return.
In the twenty years since their departure O-Town has become a modern city with everything from the rampant desire for a new ‘O-phones’ to the inevitability of a Buzzbucks coffee shops on every corner. This change comes as a huge surprise to Rocko and, while Heffer and Filburt find themselves fully embracing the future, Rocko has trouble coping with how different the world has become in his absence. In his own words, ‘The 21st century is a very dangerous century’.
The great thing about this special is it’s self-referential nature coupled with its sarcastic satire that creates a somewhat meta situation between Rocko and his very fans from the 90’s. Static Cling fully realizes that fans of the original Rocko’s Modern Life are probably going through the very same struggles as Rocko is dealing with the immense changes in the thirty years since the 90’s. While many of the changes have been easy to handle, we constantly find a certain joy in nostalgia as it reminds us of the times we were happier, or at least times when we were not as aware of the troubles of the world. Static Cling does not hesitate to call us out seeking safely in Nostalgia and, that is a good thing.
As Rocko experiences this struggle first hand he convinces Conglom-O (who are having problems of their own) to resurrect his favorite cartoon series in the hopes that this familiar past time will bring back a reminder of his beloved 90’s. In Rocko’s journey to resurrect his childhood, Rocko discovers that change, although sometimes painful, is necessary and can be embraced with the right mindset.
Creator Joe Murray manages to make numerous statements on many of modern society’s difficulties with change, it’s dependence on nostalgia and it’s need to reboot everything while providing a clever and truly enjoyable finale to one of the most beloved series of it’s time. One of the biggest plot points is Mr Bigheads difficulty accepting his son’s revelation that Ralph Bighead is no longer Ralph but now identifies as Rachel Bighead. Even though Mr Bighead has trouble coping with this change, Rocko (along with Heffer and Filburt) fully embrace Rachel with a truly welcoming ‘Wow Cool! That is Awesome!’ showing how easy it can be to accept things for what they are as opposed to what they once were.
The Bottom Line
Static Cling may have made some changes to the status quo of the classic Rocko’s Modern Life but the changes are a perfect fit in the universe that Joe Murray has created. Not only does Static Cling embrace it’s own changes it encourages everyone to embrace change as it comes instead of resisting it. Change can be good, even though it is scary at times. We can learn a lot from this Wallaby and, while I know it’s not likely, I really hope we see more of this new (and improved) O-town. If not, I appreciate this final adventure of Rocko and his friends. To Quote the great Heffer Wolfe, That was a hoot!
You can watch Static Cling on Netflix right now. If you have 45 minutes to spare, do yourself a favor and give it a go.
Late To The Game 8/11/2019
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