Holy shit, it’s been a little while. I meant to have some posts up on here, but I was way too fucking busy with life, so uh, I didn’t. Plus a lot of recent events put me in a bad mood, and I didn’t really feel like making another angry post. I’m a lot less busy/upset now, so here I go.
I don’t remember the context of it, but I was having a conversation with a friend about “light” trauma. I don’t mean trauma in the sense of abuse or seeing a dead body or anything. I mean “trauma,” in the sense of walking into a room during the worst part of a horror movie as a kid. Or, probably the most relatable one if you’re in my age group, turning the page in any volume of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and getting an eyeful of Stephen Gammell’s even-as-an-adult unsettling artwork.
There’s always at least one piece of media, whether it be a movie, book, TV show, video game, that you can look back at fondly and say, “yeah, this scared the fucking shit out of me as a kid!” Sometimes it’s something that, in retrospect, was kind of stupid. For me, it was the poster for Les Misérables. I could not see that poster on the street, or in a commercial, without completely going hysterical and crying. I could not for the life of me tell you why, exactly, this was the case, but it was.
I guess when you’re only five years old, and your eyes and brain haven’t fully developed yet, any otherwise innocuous image can be absolute visceral horror.
Then you have stuff that I absolutely should not have seen as a kid. For example: to any parents who are reading, don’t let your 7-year old rent a copy of Splatterhouse 2 from the video store. That’s not a good idea.
Also maybe don’t let your kids watch MTV. Probably shouldn’t let them watch that bullshit now, but definitely not in the mid-90s. The time period where MTV was actually willing to be experimental with its programming, mostly in regards to its animation. Of course, I watched a lot of Beavis and Butt-Head. No, it was not scary. I was way too young to understand most of the jokes, instead laughing at two idiots calling each other “fartknocker” and then getting into a fistfight. Aeon Flux? Way too complex for my simple brain to handle at the time. At that age, you can’t even spell “surreal,” let alone watch some high-concept animation full of it.
Then there was The Maxx.
The Maxx absolutely should have been right up my alley. A cartoon based on a comic book character? A character that looks like every other badass anti-hero of the day? Of course, I hadn’t actually read the books first. The Maxx, simply put, is a story of horrifically traumatized people, one of them an amnesiac who believes himself to be a super-hero, dealing with life in the big city, as well as a serial rapist with magic powers constantly stalking them. That shit is not for kids. In addition to the extremely heavy subject matter, Sam Kieth’s dreamlike art style can create some really fucked up looking visuals, which were recreated to the dot in the animated series.
I rewatched all 13 episodes yesterday (episodes are about ten minutes a piece). They hold up really well. I found the show while digging around on Soulseek, because YouTube and even the almighty Internet Archive were no help in looking up classic MTV animation (though the IA does have Liquid Television quick click this before Chuck Wendig gets it shut down). Adult me recommends it.
Back on topic, though, holy fucking shit did this show ever take a toll on my small brain. I could have, you know, stopped watching after episode 2 or 3. But no, I watched every last one as a kid. I was not a smart child.
And even if I were to stop watching, MTV’s advertising department made sure you knew that The Maxx existed. In their campaign to promote the second half of the series, the commercial opened with a severed fucking head.
A bit of context: in episode 2, the primary antagonist, Mr. Gone, is killed, via his head getting cut off. However, due to his mystic powers and ability to travel between dimensions, he’s still able to exert his will, and gets his head sent to the apartment of the woman who killed him several episodes later. Now, because this is a rotting body part, the smell is bad enough that she discovers the package his head is in, and opens it, to her horror.
Now, before I continue, I want you to imagine something here. It’s 1995. You’re about 8-9 years old. You come home from school, and you turn on your TV in your bedroom. Because you’re impressionable and doubly susceptible to marketing, you turn on MTV. You’re watching some music videos. Maybe you’re watching Nirvana’s acoustic cover of “The Man Who Sold The World” (for my money, one of the greatest live performances of all time). About 2 or 3 videos play, before it’s time for a commercial break. You don’t think much of it; sometimes commercials tell you about something you want to watch, or toys you want for Christmas. This one, though, opens with this:
Be sure to watch new episodes of “The Maxx,” only on MTV!
It’s funny. I feel like I’m coming across as a media watchdog crusader, asking someone out there to please think of the children, because I definitely should not have been allowed to watch this. But I suppose I should also be thankful, because being exposed to all this weird, terrifying shit as a kid had a pretty direct influence on my art, and overall aesthetic choices. So uh…