My World of Flops: Childhood-Ruining Case File # 111/My Year of Flops II #8 Ren & Stimpy 'Adult Party Cartoon'
When it comes to the race to the bottom for the single worst response to #MeToo, there are no winners, only losers. The competition for worst #MeToo response is fierce. It’s hard to beat Harvey Weinstein’s delusional insistence that after spending a few weeks to work on himself and his whole “being pure evil” thing, he was going to come back bigger and better than ever, and take down Trump and the NRA in his spare time while he was at it.
Mario Batali famously included a cinnamon roll recipe at the end of his apology but for sheer, creepy wrongness, it’s tough to beat formerly revered Ren & Stimpy cult auteur John K, whose response to a bombshell Buzzfeed expose on how he sexually harassed and groomed vulnerable teen girls who just wanted to work with him and be part of his world, and ended up the uneasy targets of his unrelenting and inappropriate sexual advances was a toxic combination of gaslighting, nostalgia and self-promotion of the “Wasn’t Ren & Stimpy great? Aren’t you hankering for some of that John K magic?” variety.
For Gen-Xers who grew up with Ren & Stimpy on Nickelodeon, K’s gross play to childhood nostalgia might have some currency. For anyone who suffered through 2003’s Ren & Stimpy’s “Adult Party Cartoon” even the distant possibility of more John K wackiness has a sinister connotation. Adult Party Cartoon isn’t just so utterly appalling that it’s more or less wiped out any positive feelings I have towards Ren & Stimpy; it also feels like an exhaustive confession thinly veiled as an outrageous animated romp.
John K had accrued a lot of goodwill going into Adult Party Cartoon. He was the renegade genius who had been fucked over by Nickelodeon and his colleagues, who’d had his beautiful, hideous baby taken away from him just because he was wildly unprofessional and an enormous, world-class asshole.
I was one of those fans who naively rooted for John K and assumed that he was another maverick genius screwed over by a vulgar, money-mad, mercenary world. Had I known that K’s vision for Ren & Stimpy prominently involved a selfish and cruel Ren having anal sex with a psychologically abused but cock-hungry Stimpy, I would have felt differently.
In a fit of excellent judgment, the great Billy West, the voice and soul of Stimpy in his original iteration, decided not to return for this hideous desecration. Audiences and critics were similarly appalled by this rancid reboot, which lasted a mere three episodes before Spike TV decided to put their whole animation block on hold, leaving half of the show’s six episode run unseen until DVD, and who are we kidding, pretty much after that as well.
If you want to see what hiding in plain sight looks like, look no further than the introduction to “Naked Beach Frenzy”, four of the most excruciating minutes of footage this side of the notorious rape scene in Irreversible.
For reasons known only to him, John K. made the astonishingly bad decision to tape the intro with a visibly and understandably embarrassed Katie Rice, one of the two women featured in the Buzzfeed expose. Nearly everything K says in the intro implicates himself, from his introduction of Rice as a fawning admirer who got a chance to live the dream by working for him, to the slurs he casually drops to the way K relentlessly sexualizes everything about the awkward girl standing next to him, looking like she wishes she could will herself invisible.
This is particularly true when K, early in a rant that grows more uncomfortable by the minute, “jokes” that all he and his fellow animators really want to do is draw sexy women but since the “networks are run by dykes” he was forever thwarted on that front.
Then came Spike TV, the network for men, and Rice, who he calls the “the princess of sexy girl art.” Her work drawing buxom women with enormous breasts bursting out of tiny bikinis or bouncing up and down lasciviously on the beach was so sexy that, K jokes awkwardly, the animators that followed her had to go to the bathroom afterward, presumably to masturbate furiously to the work K’s teen protege had done.
In case you miss that John K is very sexually attracted to the “Princess of sexy girl art”, and not just her drawings of other sexy girls, K mumbles that he and his fellow bro animators want to draw pretty girls who look like Rice.
When K purringly confides of his precocious protege/victim, “I was at her 15th birthday party. We’ll tell you that backstory a little later” you want to yell at the TV, “NO! Don’t! Those are stories that should be shared with law enforcement and parents and entered into court documents, not treated as amusing anecdotes for DVD intros or audio commentaries!”
K describes the premise of the episode as “Ren wants to look at all the hot bitches running around in thongs and stuff” while Price stands there awkwardly, looking like a hostage in a ransom video. Price clearly finds much of what K is saying deeply objectionable but she’s not in a position to say anything, either about the awful things her mentor/abuser is saying that moment or about the way he treated the talented young women who came to him looking for a chance to grow as artists and ended up getting something much different, much darker and more disturbing. Price has a clear role to play here and that is to stand and smile and try not to look too mortified when her abuser talks about networks being run by dykes and “hot bitches in thongs” as the kind of subject matter he’s excited to explore in the creative utopia that is Spike TV.
Even when John K awkwardly promotes his protege’s website and work it feels like the cynical manipulation of an abuser for whom every seeming act of kindness or generosity comes with a steep cost. It’s abuse in a nutshell: praise, abuse and manipulation all come from the same place, in the same confusing, disorienting package.
As deeply unsettling as this intro might be, it indelibly establishes the tone of the cartoon to follow. Furthermore, K’s leering comments about his cartoons and his apprentice’s work and women in general serve as a reminder that in an era before the internet, many budding artists/onanists developed their artistic style as a way to give themselves something to masturbate furiously to.
“Naked Beach Frenzy” is twenty-two minutes of John K giving himself, and to a much lesser degree his audience, something to masturbate vigorously to. In that respect, it feels more like fellow Spike TV Flop Stripperrella than the original incarnation of the show.
The episode’s premise involves Ren wanting to look at all the hot bitches in thongs and stuff. Christ, now I’m even talking like John K! His charming personality is infecting me! “Naked Beach Frenzy” involves Ren & Stimpy heading to the beach with markedly different agendas.
Innocent goofball Stimpy is just out for a day of fun in the sun. Ren, on the other hand, is monomaniacal in his focus. He’s all about leering at the many buxom bikini babes bouncing about the beach in lusty slow-motion, their enormous, heaving breasts angrily threatening the fabric of their tiny bikini tops. But he’s also about trying to get close enough this onslaught of beach babes to grope their enormous breasts.
The comedy doesn’t just take a backseat to the T&A here: it is completely negated by the unrelenting emphasis on admiring the female form at its most cartoonish. It’s as if John K is worried that if audiences laugh too much, or at all, it will break their masturbatory stride.
Ren isn’t the only cartoon icon doing shit that will ruin your childhood. As a bathroom attendant at the beach, Stimpy affixes a shampoo dispenser around his groin area and dispenses “shampoo” all over the hair and faces and breasts of overjoyed, busty naked women in a manner redolent of human ejaculate.
The intro to “Stimpy’s Pregnant” is nearly as disturbing as four minutes of bone-chilling confession that kick off “Naked Beach Frenzy.”
The director sits in a chair while a gorgeous, decades-younger animator introduced as “Anne Marie” sits at his feet, on the floor, not unlike Slave Leia in the Jabba the Hutt scenes in Empire Strikes Back.
Anne Marie is predictably uncomfortable as the raging torrent of inappropriateness that is her former boss talks about their work together on cartoons with names like Weekend Pussy Hunt.
K talks about how all of his writers are dudes, of course, so they could never quite crack an episode about Stimpy being pregnant with Ren’s child because none of them had experienced the magic of childbirth, and apparently were only capable of writing from personal experience.
That’s where Ann Marie comes in. Ann Marie is also, not surprisingly, introduced as an adoring fan ecstatic and overwhelmed to meet her idol John K, who got to work with him in a highly gendered, explicitly sex-based role. Only instead of becoming the Princess of sexy girl art, Anne Marie got to hip these horny Poindexters to the reality of being pregnant. The sexy, sexy realities.
Of the experience of carrying a human life within your womb, John K prods sleazily, “Tell them the one about how horny you get.”
A palpably embarrassed Anne Marie protests “That’s kind of personal!” but an awkward cut later K and Anne Marie are discussing how being pregnant makes you horny, and how that inspired a gag for “Stimpy’s Pregnant” involving Stimpy demanding that Ren fuck him repeatedly, dozens upon dozens of times while wearing BDSM gear in a pregnant horny haze did not make it into the final episode.
For that final blast of ick, K singles out Anne Marie as "the MILF who got the whole thing going.” For those who do not know, MILF is an acronym for “Mother I’d Like to Fuck.”
If K were to send the video from his introductions to “Stimpy’s Pregnant” and “Naked Beach Frenzy” to the police it would legally qualify as a damning video confession of grooming victims and sexually harassing former and potentially future coworkers. He’s sexually harassing these deeply embarrassed, viscerally uncomfortable women on camera, drunk on the weird power that comes with being a cult artist revered as a genius by vulnerable young women with lots of dreams and very little power.
I feel bad typing these words, but the man who gave us Ren & Stimpy seems legit bummed that he did not get to execute a bit where a pregnant Stimpy, clad in dominatrix garb, angrily demands that Ren fuck her over and over and over again, to the point of exhaustion and spiritual annihilation.
Not surprisingly, “Stimpy’s Pregnant” is an ugly, ugly endeavor, a warped parody of I Love Lucy with Stimpy as a buxom, horny 1950s housewife vaguely in the Lucy Ricardo mold and Ren as her abusive and demanding husband.
Even at its best, like the evisceratingly dark, excruciatingly violent “Ren Seeks Help” and the Three Stooges parody “Altruists”, Adult Party Cartoon feels like the Nickelodeon version only disgusting and disturbing and not funny. Clever? Occasionally. Inspired? At times. Capable of resurrecting the old magic for a gag or two? Sure, but when it comes to genuine laughter this comes up appallingly short.
Watching the uncensored, damn near X-rated Adult Party Cartoon made me almost obscenely grateful for the work heroic basic cable censors do protecting an ungrateful public from this kind of degenerate smut.
Call me a prude, but I do not want Ren and Stimpy to be sexual, let alone pansexual fuck beasts in a toxic, abusive sexual relationship. I don’t need Ren to strap a saw onto his nether-regions so that he can saw away at a log in Stimpy’s ass in a way designed to look and feel like rigorous anal sex between consenting adults. It’s enough to know that these characters are apparently fucking now whenever it amuses the animators and writers. I don’t need to see it. I REALLY don’t need to see it.
I similarly do not need my cartoon characters to have such disturbingly well-developed buttocks muscles. That’s just not necessary. The men are nearly as naked as the women here but where pretty much every women looks like a bikini model, men’s bodies are vast and disgusting, overflowing with public hair-like explosions of fur. K and his animators draw men’s bodies and faces for humor and comedy and women’s bodies for maximum titillation.
Adult Party Cartoon feels distressingly like slash fiction that, through some horrible mistake, somehow became an officially licensed, official and deeply shameful component of a beloved cartoon institution. Sorry, but I don’t want to watch suck Tom and Jerry suck each other off. I don’t want to see a circle jerk involving Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. I’m not in the market to see Garfield & Nermal tag-team Jon sexually. I don’t need to witness Itchy & Scratchy trade handjobs while gazing into each other’s eyes. And I sure as shit don’t want to see Ren and Stimpy fucking. I just don’t. Judging by the show’s three-episode run, I was not alone.
I think it’s safe to say that John K. did not make Ren & Stimpy lovers out of a noble, progressive desire to provide more queer representation in pop culture. No, he clearly seems to find homosexuality inherently hilarious, and anal sex between animated dudes the automatic gut-buster he was frustratingly never able to explore at Nickelodeon for understandable reasons.
This rightly reviled reboot fundamentally misunderstands Ren & Stimpy’s appeal. Spike TV labored under the delusion that people loved the show because it was so fucking filthy and violent and nihilistic and full of T&A and interspecies fucking. In actuality, people loved Ren & Stimpy because it was funny and had great characters and animation and managed to simultaneously be naughty and nice, innocent and winningly mischievous. Adult Party Cartoon desperately misses the innocence and sweetness Billy West brought to Stimpy and the discipline and restraint of Nickolodeon.
Left to his own devices, John K created something unwatchable and repellent, a bona fide, genuine childhood/legacy-ruiner.
The Adult Party Cartoon was supposed to illustrate what kind of magic a madman like John K. was capable of with no restrictions and no limitations, with seemingly complete freedom to be as nasty and as personal as he wanted to be. Instead it ended up showing why sometimes rules and boundaries are necessary to save artists and creators from themselves and their inner ugliness.
Failure, Fiasco or Secret Success: Failure
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