Futurama

Fan Fiction

Futurama: The Future Is Now. How Futurama uses the discourses and ideologies of science fiction to critique contemporary social issues.
By Chris Wood



Futurama: The Future Is Now




How Futurama uses the discourses and ideologies of

science fiction to critique contemporary social issues.





By Christopher Gary Wood





May 2007







Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for

the degree of B.A. (Hons.) Media & Popular Culture



School of Cultural Studies Faculty of Arts & Society

Leeds Metropolitan University


Contents Page

Page 3: Abstract

Page 4: Acknowledgements

Page 5: Introduction

Page 8: Chapter One: How Futurama uses the discourses and aesthetic of science fiction to critique contemporary social issues

Page 26: Chapter Two: Analysing how successful Futurama is in conveying its messages

Page 33: Conclusion

Page 35: Appendix I: Futurama Production Notes

Page 38: Appendix II: Character Information

Page 42: Bibliography


Abstract

With my dissertation, I am aiming to explore how the television cartoon show Futurama uses the established science fiction aesthetic, discourse and lexicon to comment on contemporary American society, and then assess how successful the show is at conveying these messages. The piece is essentially split into two chapters: the first concerns itself with exploring the show’s general ideology on various social issues, whilst the second analyses how successful the show is conveying its messages to its audience.

Word Count: 10,535


Acknowledgements

Firstly I would like to thank my parents for their unconditional love and support. I’d also like to acknowledge the contribution made by the teaching staff at Leeds Metropolitan University, who have been extremely helpful and approachable over the last three years. Finally, big thanks to Holly and Rachael for keeping me in university this long, Jack and Ben for keeping me entertained and Morgan and Kirsty for proving that hard work really does pay off.


Introduction

My dissertation is a textual analysis of the television show Futurama, a cartoon series that is set in the year 3000. I am aiming to explore how the show uses the sci-fi aesthetic to discuss and critique contemporary social issues, and then determine to what extent the show is successful in delivering its messages to its audience.

The important areas of analysis in my dissertation will include how Futurama comments on environmental issues; the rise of celebrity and fan culture; popular culture in the information age; and contemporary American politics. In analysing how the show comments on these factors, I will draw comparisons between other notable sci-fi discourses (particularly Star Trek).

The first chapter is essentially an analysis of the meta-narrative of American culture at the turn of the twenty first century, discussing the relationships between commercialisation, homogenisation, globalisation, secularisation environmentalism and how Futurama utilises science fiction discourses to critique these issues.

The second chapter is a theoretical overview of how successful the show is as a platform for airing the political views of its creators, and develops into a wider argument about viability of a cartoon series to inform and advise its audience on serious social issues.

The bulk of the research is the textual analysis of the show, as well as the audio commentaries that are provided on each episode and contain some useful information from the writers, producers and voice talent on the show. Unlike The Simpsons, which has warranted copious amounts of academic assessment, there has been very little written directly about Futurama. As a result, most of the research that I have accumulated has been appropriated to make sense within the context of Futurama. I found that many things written about The Simpsons or Star Trek could be applied to Futurama.

The other aspect of my research that I found interesting was the relatively small amount written on the subject of environmental issues in the media. It would appear that this topic has only really been the subject of serious academic debate for the last ten years, and even in that timeframe the body of work is slim.

Initially, my dissertation was a purely explorative piece examining the ways in which the show applies science fiction discourses to construct its ideology. As I collated my research, however, I became interested in not just what Futurama was saying and how it was saying it, but also the effect of its ideologies on its audience. Because of this, my dissertation is almost a two stage piece: the first chapter being an exploration of how the show uses science fiction discourses to critique contemporary society, and the second actually concerning itself with how successful the show is in conveying its messages.

Trying to determine to what extent the show was successful in getting across its values and ideologies. This may prove to be a very difficult thing to assess, as there won’t be any decisive quantitive evidence. However, by analysing the mainstream American media’s attitude to issues such as environmentalism before and after Futurama it is possible to see whether the show was ahead of the cultural zeitgeist.

In a wider sense, I want to determine whether the show, as a science fiction cartoon, had the ‘cultural capital’ to deliver a message that would be respected and listened to, and, looking at the bigger picture, perhaps draw some conclusions on the viability of a prime time comedy show being a catalyst for social change and an opinion former. In doing this I will be assessing the show’s position in the traditional ‘high/low culture’ debate, which will involve discussing and critiquing the ideas of Adorno and questioning whether this dichotomy is still a useful and viable framework in the Postmodern era.


Chapter One: How Futurama uses the discourses and aesthetic of science fiction to critique contemporary social issues

The secret of all science fiction: it’s not really about the future, it’s about here and now. (Matt Groening, Futurama: Welcome To The World Of Tomorrow, 1999)

Futurama is a cartoon show centred on Fry, a pizza delivery boy living in modern day New York City. Sent out on a fake delivery to a cryogenics laboratory on New Year’s Eve 1999, Fry accidentally becomes frozen and emerges one thousand years later on the eve of the year 3000. (For more information on the characters and the production of the show, please see the Appendices).

Fry is in many ways the perfect protagonist for a show set in the future. Just like the audience watching the show, he is an innocent abroad in a strange new world, meaning that when a concept needs to be explained to the audience it can be explained to Fry without it disrupting the diagetic flow of the scene. Fry is also a profoundly stupid character, which accentuates the need for things to be described to him or for Fry to be reminded of past instances. A good example of this occurs in episode 219 ‘The Cryonic Woman’, where the concept of implanted career chips is resurrected from the first episode:

Leela: ‘Fortunately, I still have our old career chips.’

Fry: Our what?

Leela: Career chips. You remember, they assign you the job that you’re best at?

(Fry stares blankly at her)

Leela: I tried to give you one and you ran away?

(Fry still stares blankly at her)

Leela: It’s how we met?

Fry: And then what happened?

(Futurama, 200o, episode 2acv19)

There are two key elements to how the show uses science fiction to make meaning. Firstly, Futurama uses the fact that Fry is a representative of twentieth century values to critique the society that we live in by contrasting it with the show’s perception of the future. Secondly, the show uses, appropriates, parodies and modifies the established sci-fi aesthetic to create a world that refracts contemporary society through the prism of science fiction.

In creating this futuristic world, co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen were very deliberate about making sure that it contained the balance necessary to mirror the aspects of 20th Century society that they were going to comment on.

Most science fiction is either a complete dystopia, like Blade Runner, or a bland utopia, like The Jetsons. We wanted it to be somewhere in between, like the real world. (David X. Cohen in Futurama: Welcome To The World of Tomorrow, 1999)

In a similar fashion to Matt Groening’s first television series The Simpsons, Futurama bases a lot of its intrinsic character and humour around popular culture. Both shows take modern day pop culture ephemera and iconography and play with the audiences schematic expectations to create comedy.

Perhaps more so than even The Simpsons, Futurama imagines a world where current pop cultural discourses are exaggerated and warped to comedic effect. Several examples of this can be seen over the course of the show, from Star Trek fandom being elevated to the status of religion (which will be discussed later) to the broadcast of advertisements in people’s dreams. The latter practice, seen in episode 108 (‘A Fishful of Dollars’), outrages Fry, who explains to his 31st century workmates that things were much better in the year 2000:

Leela: Didn’t you have ads in the 20th century?

Fry: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and written in the sky. But not in dreams. No, sir-ee!

(Futurama,1999, episode 1acv6)

The rampant commercialism of the twentieth century is ruthlessly lampooned by the show. In ‘A Fishful of Dollars’, it is revealed that planet Earth’s biggest captain of industry is an elderly lady referred to as Mom. Mom’s public persona is that of a lovely old lady (‘the world’s most huggable industrialist’), but off screen she is a foul mouthed, ruthless businesswoman who abuses her three sons and constantly tries to find underhand ways to take out her competitors.

The public image of Mom strikes me as the show mocking the manner in which certain companies, most notably Coca-Cola, have attempted to brand such diverse and originally non-commercial concepts as Christmas and America’s rose-tinted past. In an advert for Mom’s Old-Fashioned Robot Oil, a voice over tells us that “Mom’, ‘love’ and ‘screen door’ are all trademarks of the Mom Corporation’, which is a scarily logical progression of marketing. If Coca-Cola can effectively claim Christmas as its own, then surely one day even the word ‘love’ will be up for grabs?

The commodification of love is also explored in relation to Valentine’s Day, which is already seen by many people as being an overtly commercialised event devoid of any real meaning. In the episode ‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder’, Bender starts a dating service to profit from people’s loneliness on Valentine’s Day. At the end of the episode, Fry and Leela’s dates have gone off together, leaving them with just each other.

Leela: [to Fry] Anytime. I actually enjoyed hanging out with you.

[Enter Bender, counting his profits.]

Bender: Yep, everything worked out great thanks to good old Bender.

Leela: Come on! It's not like you intentionally set us up with bad dates so we'd spend Valentine's Day together.

Bender: Didn't I, Leela? Didn't I?

[He winks and a heart wipe closes the scene but opens up again.]

Leela: No! You didn't! You just corralled a bunch of stiffs at the bus station and pocketed our money!

Bender: True. But in the end, isn't that what Valentine's Day is really all about?

Leela: Yeah.

Fry: I guess so.

(Futurama, 2000, episode 2acv7)

The undeniable dependence of America’s politics on its capitalist economy is frequently highlighted in the show. In episode 405 ‘A Taste of Freedom’, the American ideal of freedom is brought under close inspection. During Earth’s annual ‘Freedom Day’ (the 31st century equivalent of modern America’s Independence Day), Earth President Nixon delivers a speech celebrating the nature of the world’s freedom:

Nixon: My fellow Earthicans, we enjoy so much freedom it's almost sickening. We're free to choose which hand our sex-monitoring chip is implanted in. And if we don't want to pay our taxes, why, we're free to spend a weekend with the Pain Monster.

Pain Monster: See you April 15th, folks!

Nixon: Cue the fireworks guy! [A man jets up to the sky and blows up a firework.] Incidentally, tonight's Freedom Day celebration is brought to you by ... [A firework explodes and "Shankman" lights up the sky.] ... "Shankman's Rubbing Compound". When something needs rubbing, think "Shankman".

[The crowd cheers.]

Bender: Yay! Shankman!

Hermes: It costs a little more but it's worth it!

Nixon: Our planet has been through so much this past year: Wars, droughts, impeachments! But we've never lost our sense of what's truly important: The great taste of "Charleston Chew"! [A "Charleston Chew" firework explodes.] And now, let us salute that beloved symbol of freedom, our flag, Ol' Freebie!

(Futurama, 2002, episode 4acv5)

The juxtaposition of something as frivolous and superficial as a candy bar with a speech about the most deeply held belief in the American psyche makes a cutting remark about the priorities of the modern day America, where everything is for sale. In fact, in the very first episode, Fry meets Bender whilst mistakenly queuing for a ‘suicide booth’ (‘’Stop And Drop’, America’s favourite suicide booth since 2008’). It would appear that the natural progression of the American Dream is the commodification of freedom and death.

“…Uniquely among all the nations of the world, the United States comprehends and manifests history's purpose," namely, "freedom, achieved through the spread of democratic capitalism, and embodied in the American Way of Life." Accordingly, US hegemony is the realization of history's purpose; the merest truism, "virtually immune to challenge." (Chomsky, 2001)

Futurama, in its own small way, does challenge the ingrained American manifestation of freedom in ‘A Taste Of Freedom’. In the episode, Doctor Zoidberg eats the Earth flag (‘Ol’ Freebie’) to celebrate his freedom, but is vilified by the people of Earth and ends up causing a war between Earth and the Decapodians. In the end, Zoidberg saves the people of Earth by burning another flag, this time to trick a heat seeking missile into destroying the Decapodian headquarters. The episode is ultimately pro-constitutional and upholds the ideal of freedom, but makes a point of questioning the sometimes limited view of what constitutes freedom.

Zoidberg: Yes, fellow patriots, I ate your flag. And I did it with pride. For to express oneself with doing a thing is the very essence of Freedom Day! Bless this planet and all its wonderful people.

[later in the same episode]

Zoidberg: Wait! People of Earth, listen. Yes, I'm desecrating a flag. But to preserve the freedom it represents!

(Futurama, 2002, episode 4acv5)

The homogenisation of American culture, and in particular American politics, is something that Futurama also addresses. The late twentieth century saw a decline of radicalised politics in America and in most parts of the world, as the overriding electoral issue increasingly became economic growth and stability. Wealth and complacency have also led to apathy a large decrease in the number of voters at presidential elections. Futurama sees the natural progression of this being the complete homogenisation of politics in the thirty first century, as explored in the episode ‘A Head In The Polls’.

In the show, there is a presidential election looming and Leela attempts to make the rest of the cast interested in politics. This task is made much more difficult by the fact that the two candidates, Jack Johnson and John Jackson, are charisma-free clones whose political ideologies are so similar that it makes the election utterly pointless.

Leela: Look, I know there are no car chases but this is important. One of these two men will become president of the world.

Fry: What do we care? We live in the United States.

Leela: The United States is part of the world.

Fry: Wow! I have been gone a long time.

[One of the candidates, Jack Johnson, begins the debate.]

Johnson: [on TV] It's time someone had the courage to stand up and say: "I'm against those things that everybody hates".

[The other candidate is John Jackson.]

Jackson: [on TV] Now I respect my opponent. I think he's a good man but, quite frankly, I agree with everything he just said!

Fry: These are the candidates? They sound like clones. [He looks a little harder.] Wait a minute. They are clones!

Leela: Don't let their identical DNA fool you. They differ on some key issues.

Johnson: [on TV] I say your three cent titanium tax goes too far.

Jackson: [on TV] And I say your three cent titanium tax doesn't go too far enough!

(Futurama, 2000, episode 2acv2)

The current American system’s binary opposition between Democrat and Republican, which itself can be seen as an increasingly superficial demarcation, has been eroded completely by the year 3000. As a result, the show envisions that voter apathy will reach even greater levels in the year 3000, even giving rise to a Voter Apathy Party:

[Fry and Leela check out the Voter Apathy Party. The man sits at the booth, leaning his head on his hand.]

Fry: Now here's a party I can get excited about. Sign me up!

V.A.P. Man: Sorry, not with that attitude.

Fry: (downbeat) OK then, screw it.

V.A.P. Man: Welcome aboard, brother!

Fry: (excited) Alright!

V.A.P. Man: You're out.

(Futurama, 2000, episode 2acv2)

The centralisation of political ideologies is certainly at the root of this unprecedented apathy (the election in ‘A Head In The Polls’ has the ‘highest turn out in centuries: 6%’), but this itself can be interpreted as being a symptom of the homogenisation of American culture and the complacency that it causes. In Futurama’s world, the sterilisation and homogenisation of society is intrinsically linked to the Americanisation of global culture that has been an outcome of capitalist globalisation.

“Presidential democracy” is a meaningful construct, because it is indicative of the tendency of democracies to homogenize the regime; that is to say, the tendency of democracies to impose a single value on all institutions and practices…the direction of democracy is towards homogenization. (Lowi, 1994, p.404)

Lowi’s point about ‘all institutions and practices’ being homogenised by democracy directly ties in with the way that the entire world in the thirty first century is seen to be homogenised and Americanised.

Globalisation, and the Americanisation of the world’s culture, is something that is commented on more implicitly than most troubling aspects of the twentieth century. In the 31st century, planetary politics have replaced national statist politics. The world, therefore, is the equivalent of one ‘country’, and that country is America (the adjective applied to things relating to Earth is ‘Earthican’).

In the journal American Historical Review, Eric Foner asks the question:

Is globalization producing a homogenized and “Americanized” world, a unified global culture whose economic arrangements, social values, and political institutions are based primarily on those of the United States? (Foner, 2001, p.2)

Whilst it may initially appear that Futurama’s answer to this question is a resounding ‘yes’, there are perhaps other non-political, non-diagetic factors to their Americanised world of the future. The most obvious of these is that the show is made primarily for an American television audience, and as such the familiarity of the American way of life prevents alienating the viewers. Nevertheless, the cultural imperialism of America in the twentieth century informs and influences the world of the future to the point where global issues are inseparable from the interests of modern day America.

As is increasingly the case now, the world of the future is dominated by an overtly commercialised and secular popular culture that has seen religion replaced by celebrity and fandom. The inescapable ascent of celebrity and fandom is intrinsically linked to the socio-economic structure of industrialised West:

The distinctive discursive quality of the celebrity is derived from its emergence from the twinned discourses of modernity: democracy and capitalism. The celebrity as a concept of the individual moves effortlessly in a celebration of democratic capitalism. (Marshall, 1997, p.4)

The notion of celebrity, whilst often featured in Futurama, is not discussed in quite the same depth of the issue of fandom, and in particular the kind of stereotypical fanaticism associated with television series.

Futurama, as both a cartoon show and a science fiction series, finds itself in a fairly unique position at the crossroads of arguably the two most fanatically followed TV genres. In the episode ‘Where No Fan Has Gone Before’, the show addresses its position as object of fanaticism and also its own place in the science fiction pantheon by basing a story around the most famous fan culture of them all: Star Trek.

The episode imagines a future where ‘by the 23rd century, Star Trek fandom had evolved from a loose association of nerds with skin problems into a full blown religion’ (Futurama, 2003, ep.4acv11), and was subsequently outlawed. When Fry is made aware of this fact, he goes to visit Leonard Nimoy’s head at the Head Museum, and they set off to the forbidden planet of Omega 3, where the original 79 episodes and six movies were flown to.

The imagining of a Star Trek religion fits into Futurama’s wider ideology on religion’s place in an increasingly secularised future. In the episode ‘Hell Is Other Robots’, Bender becomes an overbearing religious zealot after joining the Church of Robotology, the Professor laments ‘if only he could have joined a mainstream religion like Oprah-ism’, again commenting on how popular culture has usurped organised religion’s position of devotion and control in our lives.

Approaching…from the stance of popular culture, Jindra (1994) has examined the sacralization of cultural and therapeutic concepts in Star Trek fandom. He argues that the Star Trek cycle is a location for nonconventional religion and illustrates how fandom shares such religious practices as formation and maintenance of a “canon”, a “theology” that extols the virtues of technology and humanity’s ability to solve problems, a group identity, pilgrimages to exhibitions and conferences, and a stigma of difference. This research reflects an important movement toward the examination of the interplay between mass media and religion in everyday experience. (Hoover, 1997, p.30)

The relationship between mass media and religion, as mentioned above, is a further component of the Postmodern world that the show includes in its imagined futuristic society. As Bourdieu once said, ‘the sociology of culture is the sociology of the religion of our day,’ (Bourdieu quoted in Verter, 2003, p.152) a point that reiterates that pop culture has superseded religion, both in our time and in Futurama’s world.

Fandom is one of the manifestations of spirituality and devotion in the ‘post-religious’ age. Fry himself is a huge Star Trek fan, and through him the show attempts to tap into the psyche of the fanatic:

Leela: You can't go to Omega 3; it's forbidden! I forbid you!

Fry: But we have to! The world needs Star Trek to give people hope for the future.

Leela: But it's set 800 years in the past!

Bender: Yeah, why is this so important to you?

Fry: 'Cause it-it taught me so much. Like how you should accept people, whether they be black, white, Klingon or even female. But most importantly, when I didn't have any friends, it made me feel like maybe I did.

(Futurama, 2002, episode 4acv11)

This sort of emotional investment has been discussed as a principal attraction for fans, and Futurama itself is also an object of this kind of adulation. The episode analyses the cultural currency of knowledge or trivia for the fanatic, and how this sort of devotion can have a negative impact upon fans if they make a television show the reason for their existence.

…[the fan’s] expertise over the program, the emotional investment [they] have made in the characters, justifies an increasingly critical stance toward the institutions producing and circulating those materials. (Jenkins, 1992, p88)

In the episode, it transpires that the original crew have been given new bodies and looked after by an alien Star Trek fanatic named Melllvar. Melllvar stands for everything that is seen as undesirable in the fanatic: he lives in his mother’s basement, obsesses over the shows and writes his own fan fiction. The ‘increasingly critical stance’ discussed by Jenkins is acted out by Melllvar, who chastises the cast of Star Trek for ‘not acting hard enough’ when playing out his fan script.

Futurama uses the sci-fi aesthetic to exaggerate these stereotypical shortcomings, with Melllvar first pitting the Planet Express crew against the Star Trek cast in a battle to the death, then attempting to kill the cast when they make their escape, leading Fry to question Mellvar’s motives:

Melllvar: [on screen] If I can't have the original cast of Star Trek, no one will! Prepare to die!

Fry: Wait! If they mean that much to you, why do you wanna kill them?

Melllvar: [on screen] Because I ... I ... I dunno what I'd do without them.

Fry: Melllvar, you can't let a TV show be your whole life. You can do anything you want. Look at Walter Koenig: After Star Trek, he became an actor.

Koenig: Not just an actor, but a well-rounded person, with my own friends and credit cards and keys.

Melllvar: [on screen] Well, I guess I could move out of my parents' basement ... maybe get a temp job.

Fry: Whoa, whoa! One step at a time.

Melllvar: [on screen] I thank you, Fry. You know, you and I are of a kind. In a different reality I could have called you "friend".

Fry: Episode 10, Balance of Terror.

Melllvar: [on screen] More like episode nine, loser! In your face! Victory is mine!

(Futurama, 2002, episode 4acv11)

What’s interesting is that the episode makes a distinction between the ‘bad’ kind of fan (Melllvar), and the ‘good’ kind of fan (Fry), the type of fanatic that a lot of the show’s intended audience will be able to sympathise with. In his book Fan Cultures, Matt Hills finds a problem with this kind of distinction:

‘I’m not one of those sad fans who hangs out at conventions’ this claim attempts to announce, trying to ward off pathologising fan stereotypes by constructing a ‘self’/’other’ split. But this attempt at self-legitimisation simultaneously reveals that I cannot sustain this moral dualism: I am far inside the fan stereotype…whether I like it or not, whether I argue my case or not. In short, I can’t rationally dispel the force of this fan stereotype, or the possibility of it being applied to me, simply by wishing it away or by creating moral dualisms to do this work for me magically. (Hills, 2004, p. 86-87)

This distinction is probably a necessary device in order to keep the fans of the show placated, and is also possibly an indicator of the writers’ own views on fandom (certain members of the writing staff, including the writer of ‘Where No Fan Has Gone Before’ David A. Goodman, are huge Star Trek fans themselves). As Hills points out, this is an ‘attempt at self-legitimisation’ that most fans use to validate their obsession whilst simultaneously distancing themselves from damaging stereotypes. The show’s unwillingness to challenge this unsustainable dualism perhaps reflects a general unwillingness to really attack the subjects of its parody.

One aspect of Futurama that certainly makes it stand out is its commitment to furthering the cause of environmentalism. One of the show’s creators, David X. Cohen, elucidated on this on the commentary for episode 108, ‘A Big Piece of Garbage’:

When we first conceived the series, Matt and I were both interested in doing things that were pro-environmental messages. We’ve tried to do at least one show per year with a really nice environmental message. (David X. Cohen, 1999)

The episode he is talking about is the show’s first attempt at a pro-environmental narrative. In it, the Professor builds a Smell-o-scope that detects a foul smelling celestial object. This turns out to be a huge ball of garbage that was launched into space in the twentieth century by the City of New York (referred to as ‘the most wasteful society in the galaxy’). As a representative of that society (and a noted slob), Fry personifies the wastefulness that the show is standing against.

In the end, the Professor theorises that a second object with the same consistency and density as the garbage ball could knock the ball away from the Earth and into the sun. However, in the year 3000 there is no longer any garbage.

Fry urges people to ‘take a lesson from the twentieth century: stop all this pain in the ass recycling’, and the Earth is saved by the second garbage ball. Fry is then commended by the Mayor:

Mayor: Fry, we owe you a tremendous debt as well. Were it not for your twentieth century garbage-making skills, we’d all be buried under twentieth century garabge.

Leela: Should we really be celebrating? I mean, what if the second garbage ball returns to Earth like the first one did.

Fry: Who cares? That won’t be for hundreds of years.

Professor: Exactly. It’s none of our concern.

Fry: Now that’s the twentieth century spirit.

(Futurama, 1999, episode 1acv8)

This is an obvious parody of contemporary societal attitudes towards environmental issues, in particular the obscene wastefulness of American capitalism. When this episode was written, environmental issues were a far less reported and discussed topic than they are now. In fact, Futurama was one of the first primetime TV shows in America to openly discuss an issue which had been suppressed by the US government and the mainstream American media.

In a later series, the episode ‘The Bird-bot of Ice-Catraz’ (ep305) criticised two elements of contemporary society: oil spills and attitudes towards conservationism. The Planet Express crew are hired to tug a tanker full of dark matter (the thirty-first century’s equivalent of oil), which Leela refuses to do on account of the tanker flying within three feet of a penguin reserve on Pluto. Instead, Bender pilots the ship and the tanker’s 7,000 hulls are breached, covering the penguins in dark matter.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster is directly lampooned in the episode, both by the name of the super tanker (‘Juan Valdez’), and by the manner in which it crashes. The Exxon Valdez ran struck Bligh Reef when the Captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was absent from the wheelhouse. He was accused of being intoxicated at the helm but was acquitted. In Futurama, Bender is found to be not drunk enough (as robots in the year 3000 run off alcohol), having only a .08 per cent, well below the minimum level for a robot.

The design of the Juan Valdez, like a lot of the aesthetic style of the show, parodies science fiction tradition by ‘futurising’ contemporary designs. The super tanker looks exactly like a modern oil tanker, except with ‘futuristic’ domes.

The main focus of the episode though is on conservation, and how its cause is hindered by the very people trying to help it. This notion of incompetent authority and leadership is one of the most significant motifs in Futurama, taking in government, the army, captains of industry, environmentalists, religious leaders and many more besides. In ‘The Bird-bot of Ice-catraz’, the environmental leader is Free Waterfall Senior, founder of Penguins Unlimited, and his ineptness ultimately leads to there being a huge increase in the penguin population, making a mass cull necessary. Leela finds this solution to be the wrong one ethically, and gets in an argument with Free Waterfall Senior:

Waterfall Sr.: Why aren't you firing randomly into those birds, little lady? Don't you wanna help 'em?

Leela: Not this way.

Waterfall Sr.: What? Why you're not a tree-hugging kook at all!

Leela: Look, I don't know if shooting penguins will help the environment or not. But I do know the decision shouldn't be in the hands of people who just wanna kill for fun.

Waterfall Sr.: Leela, you may just be farming some free-range truth there. [Leela smiles.] On the other hand, we already made up 200 pounds of batter for penguin tempura. OK, boys, it's them or us!

(Futurama, 2001, episode 3acv5)

In perhaps the most emotive and prescient environmentally themed episode in the series, ‘Crimes Of The Hot’, former US Vice President Al Gore makes a guest appearance in the show, lending real authority and authenticity to the show’s pro-environmental agenda.

Gore, author of the book ‘An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency Of Global Warming And What We Can Do About It’, is arguably the leading authority on environmental issues in the USA. His daughter Kristin is a staff writer on Futurama, and he has professed in interviews that the series is his favourite television show.

Al Gore has become a global figurehead for the environmental cause, something that Alison Anderson, in her book Media, Culture and the Environment, claims is an integral ingredient to the mediation of environmental issues.

[Environmental] issues tend to have particular “carrying capacities”; they become icons or symbols for a wider range of concerns that people can easily identify with. Campaigns surrounding such issues become a sort of symbolic gesture of responsibility. Often they are promoted by popular folk heroes including pop music idols or film stars such as Sting (rainforests), Bob Geldof (development issues), or Bridgette Bardot (live animal exports). Modern systems of communication demand that campaigns must be ‘media friendly’, attuned to the news values of vast profit-making organizations. (Anderson, 1997 p. 5-6)

Futurama manages to treat Gore with both reverence and humour. When his head appears at the Global Warming Conference, he is introduced as ‘the inventor of the environment and the first Emperor of the Moon’. Gore is happy to send himself up, perhaps realising that po-faced sermonising is not the way to spread his message to the show’s intended audience.

Gore: My fellow Earthicans, as I discuss in my book Earth In The Balance and the much more popular Harry Potter And The Balance Of Earth, we need to defend our planet against pollution. As well as dark wizards.

(Futurama, 2002, episode 4acv8)

In ‘Crimes Of The Hot’, the Earth is undergoing an ever increasing process of global warming due to the amount of pollution being expelled by the planet’s robot population. It is revealed that Professor Farnsworth designed the robots to be very environmentally damaging to save costs, and that they were marketed as ‘sports utility robots’ to avoid clean air laws. This obviously echoes the American attitude of global warming going largely unacknowledged at the time when the show was produced.

In the year 3000 as in the year 2000 the prerogatives of American big business take precedent over the increasing concerns of scientists about the damage being done to the planet.

The truth about global warming is especially inconvenient and unwelcome to some powerful people and companies making enormous sums of money from activities they know full well will have to change dramatically in order to ensure the planet’s liveability. (Gore, 2006, p. 284)

In ‘Crimes Of The Hot’, the solution to Earth’s problems is to have all of the robots on Earth fire their exhausts simultaneously, providing enough force to push the planet into a slighter deeper orbit, thus cooling the Earth’s temperatures. As in ‘A Big Piece of Garbage’, the show presents the solution to twentieth century environmental mismanagement as being the creation of more pollution, which creates an interesting discourse about the nature of environmentalism.

The show’s advocacy of an interventionist policy regarding global warming and pollution can be taken two ways; either as comment on the failures of contemporary leaders to come up with anything more substantial than ‘delaying strategies’, or as a genuine backing of a pro-active strategy for environmental protection. Considering the satirical nature of the show, I would assume it to be the former.

Now that I’ve explored how Futurama discusses contemporary social issues, the next chapter will attempt to draw conclusions as to how successful the show conveys its messages.

Chapter Two: Analysing how successful Futurama is in conveying its messages

In the first chapter, I have tried to demonstrate that Futurama is a satirical and politicised show that expertly uses the sci-fi lexicon to parody and comment on contemporary society. In many respects the show is (unsurprisingly) similar to The Simpsons, and this is especially true of its covert attempts to influence the political agenda of its audience whilst ostensibly being just an escapist cartoon. Writing about The Simpsons in Political Theory in 1999, Paul A. Cantor said:

The Simpsons may seem like mindless entertainment to many, but in fact, it offers some of the most sophisticated comedy and satire ever to appear on American television. Over the years, the show has taken on many serious issues: nuclear power safety, environmentalism, immigration, gay rights, women in the military, and so on. Paradoxically, it is the farcical nature of the show that allows it to be serious in ways that many other television shows are not. (Cantor, 1999, p.734)

This paradox is the biggest problem in analysing how successful the show is in delivering its message, and theoretically how successful any cartoon show can be in tackling social issues. If the show’s inane façade allows it to discuss serious issues, the double edge is that these issues, no matter how serious they are in themselves, will not be taken seriously due to the low ‘cultural capital’ (a term coined by Bourdieu) of the cartoon medium.

Politically, the most noteworthy issue pursued by the show was furthering the cause of environmentalism. It is very difficult to assess quantitatively how successful the show was in making its audience sit up and take notice of what was, at the time the show was originally on, an oft-neglected issue, particularly in America. The assertion of Groening and Cohen that the show should take a lead on environmental issues is indicative of the fact that the mainstream media, government and educational institutions were perhaps shirking their duties in regard to pursuing a responsible environmental discourse.

In the early 1990s, when Groening was first achieving massive success with The Simpsons, the environmental movement was still very much an outsider lobby group that was still treated with a large degree of suspicion:

The upwelling of environmental concern has necessarily raised questions as to just how dedicated American people are towards the environmental movement, whether it is a fad, soon to be forgotten and replaced by something else. (Kuzmiak, 1991, p.265)

Whilst Futurama was a trailblazer in terms of bringing a pro-environmental discourse to their audience, I would argue that perhaps the show was guilty of ‘preaching to the converted’ and over-simplifying their message. In this respect, it is important to remember that the show is primarily about making people laugh, and so the satirical elements are first and foremost comedic devices. Matt Groening identifies that the show ‘is primarily an escape, but hopefully now and then will make you think’ (Groening, 1999), and I think that by prioritising the comedy sometimes the satire can be a little obvious or clumsy.

One piece of evidence in favour of the show’s ability to inform its viewers off environmental concerns is that after the show was cancelled in 2003, The Simpsons took on a much more explicitly pro-environmental stance. An example of this can be seen in the episode ‘On A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister’ (air date: 6/3/05), in which the Bush administration’s denial of global warming is lampooned.

A much more damning criticism of how successful the show was is the fact that Fox cancelled it after 72 episodes due to its underwhelming viewing figures. When the show debuted on March 28th 1999, it attracted 19 million viewers in the USA (Nielsen Media Research online). By the next week however, the Nielsen figures had dropped to 14.2 million. Fox was certainly at least partially to blame for the show’s eventual demise, as it frequently moved the show around the timetable. In its final season, the average viewing figures were only 6.4 million.

The biggest problem with these viewing figures, and in truth the largest obstacle that Futurama faced during its four year run, is ironically the same thing that permitted the show to be made in the first place: The Simpsons. Matt Groening had to follow up what was arguably the most successful and popular show in the history of television.

In 2006, the debut show of The Simpsons’ 17th season attracted 11.9 million viewers, a number greater than the first season average for Futurama, and it is estimated that The Simpsons makes Fox approximately $2.5 billion a year (USA Today online, 2004). Living up to the enormous expectations created by The Simpsons’ success was always going to be a nigh-on impossible task, especially as Futurama is basically a science fiction show, a genre that has traditionally been seen as very derisive.

I would argue that the failing to follow up on the success of The Simpsons was not really a reflection of the show’s content, merely its context. Whilst being critically acclaimed and having a very strong cult following, the show was never marketed as well as The Simpsons and was largely ignored by the media. That said, the show has been given a reprieve due to its strong DVD sales and a new DVD movie under the working title ‘Bender’s Big Score’ is due to be released at the end of 2007, which again suggests a failing on the part of TV schedulers rather than any inherent problem with Futurama itself.

Futurama is, as creator Matt Groening puts it, ‘a show about anxieties’ (Groening, 1999), and in this sense it follows in the grand science fiction tradition of HG Wells, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Isaac Azimov. In the same way that The Simpsons uses the audience’s schema about what the American ‘nuclear family’ means to dissect and question the nature of American society, Futurama does the same by applying the aesthetic of science fiction. In this sense, science fiction is not the message of the show; rather, it is the medium by which the message is delivered.

I would argue that Futurama deserves to be viewed as something more than simply a comedic cartoon show. There are many elements of the show which elevate it above what Adorno would consider to be ‘mass culture’.

For one thing, the depth and quality of the show’s writing is unparalleled in contemporary prime time television:

In the science fiction show Futurama, the opportunity for scientific references arose naturally, but the number and depth of the references are quite remarkable. They reflect the talent and interests of the writers: J. Stewart Burns has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mathematics; David X. Cohen has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in computer science; Ken Keeler has a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics; Bill Odenkirk has a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry; and Jeff Westbrook has bachelor’s degrees in physics and the history of science and a Ph.D. in theoretical computer science. (Greenwald, 2006)

The level of sophistication in some of the show’s scientific and mathematical references is augmented by the fact that some of the show’s humour is resolutely low-brow. This balance helps make the show a rewarding experience for many different strata of the audience. As voice actor Billy West said, ‘Futurama has more layers than an onion’. To help illustrate this point, I will give two examples of the humour from one episode.

In episode 206, ‘The Lesser of Two Evils’, Bender becomes friends with Flexo, another Bending unit whose only physical difference to Bender is that he has a beard.

Farnsworth: Leela, Zoidberg, the rest of you, this is Flexo.

Hermes: Sweet llamas of the Bahamas! Except for that stylish beard, he looks just like Bender!

[Flexo hops off the worktop. His voice is exactly like Bender's.]

Flexo: No duh, dreadlock, we're both bending units.

Bender: Hey, brobot, what's you serial number?

Flexo: 3370318.

Bender: No way! Mine's 2716057!

[They both laugh. Fry joins in then stops.]

Fry: I don't get it.

Bender: We're both expressible as the sum of two cubes.

[Flexo cheers and they high five.]

(Futurama, 2000, episode 2acv6)

This joke has been verified as being mathematically correct, and is followed just seconds later by this exchange between Fry and Flexo:

Flexo: Actually, your little stunt did a number on my back. You mind rubbin' it for me?

Fry: Uh ... sure.

[He rubs Flexo's shoulders.]

Flexo: Aw, yeah, that's it. Little lower.

[He goes lower.]

Fry: How's that?

Flexo: Lower. [He goes further down.] Yeah that's gettin' it. A little lower though.

Fry: Uh, I can't get any lower than this.

Flexo: I'll say, you're rubbing my ass!

[He and Bender burst out laughing and high-five again.]

(Futurama, 2000, episode 2acv6)

The different levels of humour and reference reflect the increasingly blurred distinction between high and low culture consumption, a shift which is discussed by Richard A. Peterson and Roger Kern in an article for the American Sociological Journal:

In recent years, however, many high-status persons are far from being snobs and are eclectic, even “omnivorous”, in their tastes (Peterson and Simkus, 1992). This suggests a qualitative shift in the basis of marking elite status – from snobbish exclusion to omnivorous appropriation. (Peterson and Kern, 1996, p. 900)

As well as the actual writing of the show, the audio-visual content Futurama also contains elements of both high and low culture. Like The Simpsons, each episode has an individualised orchestral score recorded by a full orchestra, a fact that again brings me back to Adorno’s insistence on the primacy of classical forms of music over jazz and popular music. If Adorno’s work on music can be appropriated to television in this context, the presence of a classical score, even if it falls under the category of ‘bad good music’ (Gracyk, 1992, p528), complicates his binary view of high and low culture.

From a broader perspective, however, his sociologically informed critique holds that all entertainment music is a “filthy tide”, and has been for more than a century…For Adorno, jazz is the exemplar of music debased as commercial commodity, and music that fails utterly as art. (Gracyk, 1992, p.528)

This argument, with music replaced by television, is surely now an antiquated one, yet many academics and cultural gatekeepers still persist by its doctrine, despite its anachronistic dichotomy between high and low culture becoming less and less viable in the face of ever increasing convergence in the media and arts.

One particularly neat demonstration of this in relation to Futurama is that the show’s co-creators, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, to some extent represent this collision of traditional ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. Cohen, as mentioned earlier, has degrees from Harvard and Berkley, two of the most prestigious universities in America. Groening, by contrast, attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, a progressive school which he called "a hippie college, with no grades or required classes, that drew every creative weirdo in the Northwest.’

Under monopoly all mass culture is identical, and the lines of its artificial framework begin to show through. The people at the top are no longer so interested in concealing monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so its power grows. Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1993)

The Frankfurt School’s view of mass produced culture as being utterly diametrically opposed to the creation of fine art may have been relevant when it was originally concerned in 1944, but the perceived dichotomy between capitalist interest and artistic endeavour has now been revealed to be a false one. The problem with the theory in relation to Futurama is that it makes a binary opposition between those who create art for profit and those who feel compelled to do so because of some innate artistic spirit, and this is simply an archaic perception that does not hold up in the twenty first century.


Conclusion

By exploring the manner in which Futurama makes uses of established science fiction discourses to convey a set of messages to its audience, it is clear that the show is not just funny, but informed and satirical. The amount of science fiction and general popular references that the show utilises for comedic effect makes it a truly Postmodern series, as it constructs a new and compelling world from a web of references, parodies and homages.

However, the bigger picture in this piece is determining how proficiently the show produces meanings by using the science fiction framework, and beyond that how viable a cartoon series like Futurama is as a former of public opinion.

It has been a very difficult process to fully ascertain how well the show has communicated its messages, due largely to the lack of quantitative and empirical evidence that I have had access to, apart from my own experiences as a viewer of the show. From my own interpretations as a spectator, I would certainly argue that the show’s ideological messages are well expressed, and my interest and enjoyment Futurama was one of the principal reasons that I decided to further explore the show. It is also worth acknowledging that I agree with the political discourses presented by the show to a large degree.

That, however, does not mean that I have been blind to what can be perceived as failures on the show’s part to convey its messages to a large audience. It is very difficult to say that any show that was cancelled was an unmitigated success, even if at least some of the blame for said cancellation was out of the show’s hands.

It is also perhaps fair to say that the show simply applied a science fiction ‘twist’ to the wildly successful formula already pioneered by The Simpsons, and arguably didn’t say anything that Groening’s original masterpiece hadn’t already discussed. Personally I would refute these claims, but I would so purely based on my opinion and accept that it is a valid critical approach to Futurama.

As the research I have collated has hopefully demonstrated, Futurama made some very astute observations about contemporary American culture, observations that were simultaneously being made by serious academics. The ability to intellectually examine serious issues whilst primarily being an escapist comedy show, as has been discussed in relation to The Simpsons, means that the show manages to avoid being overly preachy and pushing its ideologies onto its audience. This covert politicising means that the audience are free to properly consider their stances on the issues being discussed, which is possibly a more effective means of informing viewers than simply incessantly sermonising to them.

Ultimately, the quest for true objectivity when analysing art is always going to be a futile one, as the act of responding to art is a deeply subjective one. From my own empirical experience of the show, and from the body of work I have collected here, I would say that Futurama is a good platform for delivering political messages, and was successful in doing so. What is more, this piece of work has convinced me of both the viability of a primetime cartoon show being an agent of political thought, and also of the fallibility of the traditional high-low culture opposition in the Postmodern era.


Appendix I – Production notes about Futurama

  • Futurama was created and developed by Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) and David X. Cohen (a writer who spent five years on The Simpsons) during the late 1990’s. The show first aired on the Fox TV network in the USA on 28/3/99

  • Matt Groening (born 15/02/1954 in Portland, Oregon) made his name as a comic artist with his own comic Life In Hell, which he initially hand photocopied and distributed in LA in the late 1970s. After gaining national repute for the comic strip, Hollywood producer James L. Brooks contacted Groening about developing a cartoon for network TV. This eventually became The Simpsons, a crudely animated series of short cartoons that were aired on the Tracy Ullman show. This led to a full series of the show being commissioned by Fox, which became a worldwide phenomenon.

  • David X. Cohen (born 1966, Englewood, New Jersey) was born David S. Cohen and changed his name when he joined the Screen Writers guild. He graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in physics, then graduated from Berkley with an M.S. in computer science. He first worked in TV writing a couple of early episodes of Beavis and Butthead, before joining The Simpsons writing staff in 1993.

  • The writing structure of the show is similar to that of The Simpsons – one of the writers ostensibly ‘writes’ each episode, but in reality a plot is devised and then the writers spend days in the writers’ room working out the episode as a team. David X. Cohen, one of the Executive Producers, is the head writer and his influence is prevalent in a lot of the show’s direction and humour.

  • Each episode of the show takes approximately six months to produce. After the show has been written, a table read is conducted with the voice actors to establish what they will be required to do in that particular episode. The next step is for the voices to be recorded. The voice takes are then sent to the animation studio, who produce a storyboard of roughly 100 drawings, and then a rough, pencil drawn cartoon referred to as an ‘animatic’. This is then sent back to the Futurama production staff for approval. Any alterations are then requested, and when a consensus has been reached the show is fully animated using various techniques (see below). The show is edited using the Avid computer editing program, and at this stage the sound is added. Any additional voice work is added at post-production.

  • The show is animated using a mixture of hand-drawn animation, cel-shading animation and 3D computer generated images (CGI). In cel-shading, a computer is used to produce animation that looks hand-drawn. The various advantages of this style are that templates can be saved and reused in later episodes, light-sourcing can be determined by the computer and complicated animation effects are much easier to achieve. CGI is usually incorporated when large objects, such as spacecraft, need to be viewed as 3D objects, or when certain graphical effects (like holograms) are required, as they are easier to render in three dimensions.

  • The hand drawn animation is carried out by Rough Draft Studios and their sister company Rough Draft Korea. Matt Groening insisted that the company be used following their award-winning animation for The Simpsons. When the show was in production, Rough Draft’s studio in Glendale, California had a staff of 130 animators. After the show was cancelled, this number was decreased to just 30.

  • Futurama is voiced by a small core of actors (principally Billy West, Katey Sagal, John Di Maggio, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom and David Hermann), as well as various other supporting actors who appear in assorted episodes.

  • The show won a number of awards and nominations during its run: including four Annie awards (from eight nominations); three Emmy awards (from five nominations); an Environmental Media Award and a Writers Guild of America award.


Appendix II – Character Information

  • Philip J Fry (voiced by Billy West)

Fry is a 25 year old delivery boy who awakens to a whole new life in New New York. In some respects Fry is similar to the main protagonist in The Simpsons (Homer Simpson): lazy, impulsive and profoundly stupid. He is at heart kind and good natured, although he is often very misguided.

As the series progresses, it becomes clear that Fry, far from being pointless nobody who accidentally arrived in the future, is actually at the centre of a grand conspiracy to protect the universe from the evil Brain Spawn. It transpires that Fry, who inadvertently made love to his own grandmother when the crew went back in time to 1947, lacks the ‘delta brainwave’ that makes him immune to the Brain Spawn’s psionic attacks.

One common theme that runs through the whole series is Fry’s unrequited love for Leela. On more than one occasion the two seem likely to get together, but it isn’t until the final series that Leela shows any real sign of reciprocating. In the later episodes, the show focuses a lot on the frustration that Fry feels for not being able to properly communicate his feelings of love to Leela. In the final episode, Fry trades hands with the Robot Devil and finally gains the dexterity he needs to compose an opera for Leela.





  • Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal)

At the start of the series, Leela is a councillor at the Cryogenics Lab, but after running away with Fry she becomes the captain of the Planet Express crew. Leela’s disciplined and highly professional attitude contrasts with Fry’s lackadaisical, impulsive behaviour and Bender’s addictive (and often criminal) personality.

Leela is a Cyclops, but in many ways represents the classic sci-fi heroine, as she is determined, independent and a master of Arcturan Kung Fu. Unlike most sci-fi heroines however, Leela is a very complex character. She grew up in the Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium, believing that she was an alien abandoned on Earth. The fact that she has been alone all of her life is what bonds her to Fry, who has just lost everyone he ever knew.

As well as developing the romance between Leela and Fry, the issue of Leela’s parentage is a frequent storyline. In the final season of the show, it is revealed that Leela is not in fact an alien, but a mutant born in the sewers. When she was born, she was described as ‘the least mutated mutant ever born’, and so her parents left her at the orphanarium with a letter written in ‘alienese’ in the hope that she would have a better life.





  • Bender ‘Bending’ Rodriguez (voiced by John Di Maggio)

Bender is a bending unit robot, designed primarily to bend girders. However, when he finds out that the girders are being used for ‘suicide booths’, he decides to commit suicide. He meets Fry in the queue for the suicide booth, and the two become friends.

Bender’s character is completely excessive: he is, according to Leela, ‘a chain smoking, whore-mongering kleptomaniac’. He is surly, offensive and utterly narcisstic. Ostensibly, his job at Planet Express is the ship’s cook, but as a robot with no sense of smell or taste, his culinary creations leave a lot to be desired, and he actually spends most of his time avoiding work at all costs.

In Futurama’s world, robots run on alcohol, which means Bender spends an awful lot of time drinking. When he doesn’t drink, his fuel cells wear out, leading to a period that resembles human drunkenness, complete with ‘five o’clock rust’. Matt Groening said that Bender’s constant drinking and cigar smoking ‘drive the censors crazy’.

Whilst not having the immediate emotional depth of Fry or Leela, Bender is nevertheless the main character in several episodes of the show, especially in later series. Over the course of the series, he develops a less self-centred attitude and gains a modicum of empathy for the other characters, particularly Fry.





  • Professor Hubert J Farnsworth (voiced by Billy West)

Professor Farnsworth is Fry’s great (x30) nephew and is roughly 160 years old. He is a senile, eccentric, belligerent mad scientist who runs a small interstellar parcel delivery company to finance his research, as well as being a lecturer in Mathematics of Quantum Neutrino Fields at Mars University.

In a similar manner to Mr. Burns in The Simpsons, the Professor’s age is a source of constant humour. His character develops over the course of the series to become more erratic and angry, and he is joined in series two by his clone, Cubert Farnsworth, who is an annoying know-it-all twelve year old brat.

The Professor’s role in the series is twofold: firstly, he is charged with sending the crew out each week on various dangerous and/or pointless delivery missions. Secondly, as a scientist, he is often required to come up with strange sci-fi solutions to the multitude of problems that the crew, and in many cases the whole planet, come across.

Professor Farnsworth’s back-story is explored in several episodes, and it is disclosed that he once worked for, and dated, the world’s most powerful industrialist, Mom, and was responsible for creating the highly polluting robots that now endanger the Earth.



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Buddies