November 19, 2012

Loverama For Futurama

Since I was a child, I have long loved science fiction and fantasy stories. My favorite movies were Beastmaster, The Neverending Story, and Star Wars. Something about the magic in the form of spells and the fantastic as well as technology really appealed to me. Then in the late 1990s came Futurama. Though I am not a huge fan of television, I absolutely adore Futurama. So, why is that?

First, the characters are so rich and entertaining. My absolute favorite is Bender, the robot. He is witty and fun while also being sweet and connected to his friends. He may be saucy and pretend to hate humans, but it is all a show. Plus, who wouldn’t want a drunk robot as a pal?

Then there’s Leela and Fry and their love story…I mean it’s just perfect. Who knew that love stories that interest us in live action sitcoms could be shown in animation with such accuracy and verisimilitude? Leela, the mutant alien, and Fry, the man from the past, make for a compelling relationship twist to the show.

And who can forget the support characters in the Professor, Hermes, Amy, and Zoidberg? Each adds a perfect compliment to the rest of the show. My favorite support character is Zoidberg, a crab-like alien who is a human doctor! Brilliantly funny.

Beyond the characters, I also love the story line. Fry, accidentally frozen on New Year’s Eve of 1999, finds himself unfrozen in the year 3000. He has to adjust to all the new technology and humanoid beings in addition to the fact that all he knew and loved is a 1000 years in the past. Of course, what ensues can only mean chaos…the good kind of chaos. From becoming a delivery boy for an intergalactic delivery company a la UPS to unwittingly becoming an Emperor of the  world of Trisol to battling humungous alien bees, Fry does it all.

What I really love about Futurama is the way in individual episodes it can draw attention to potentially uncomfortable issues, like sociological, environmental, humanitarian, and relationship experiences. For instance, New New York City sits atop what we today know as just New York City. In the bowels of Futurama’s New York City lives the mutants. Many an episode talks about the mutants as the other, but eventually we learn that the mutants live that way as a result of human negligence.

A good example of Futurama’s ability to draw attention to environmental problems is the episode where the people’s trash of the 20th century comes to haunt the people of the 30th century. In this episode, Futurama is able to use the problem of recklessly throwing stuff away to make an amusing episode. Simply, Futurama consists of smart writing.

Science fiction and fantasy have always appealed to me because of their abilities to critique important issues in a way that is more palatable than when news pundits draw attention to these issues. For me, using something as important as what to do with our trash as an entertaining plot line makes me think about what we really do with our trash without feeling like I am personally being judged, which is how I feel when the news reports on the issues of trash. When Futurama has an episode about racism, I feel like I can take the episode and apply it to my own life. Perhaps this is because the sci-fi factor and the animation relax me, make me think without criticizing me. In other words, I don’t feel guilty when Futurama addresses a hot topic.

Okay, okay, so perhaps I am getting too philosophical for Futurama, but I can’t help it. This show is one that entertains and connects while also using real issues to drive its plots. I am so glad that Futurama is still making episodes. It might have taken a five- year vacation because Fox canceled it, but who cares? It’s on and available now. Any lover of sci-fi should definitely check out this animated show. It’s not just a cartoon. Futurama is entertainment at its finest–smart, light-hearted, and fun.

Image Credit: Comedy Central

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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