Jesse Bullington and I have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on our blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week we tackle a TV show that. . . well. . . was a TV show in the mid-90s on MTV that taught me a lot about life, and no, I’m not talking about Beavis and Butt-Head.

Show: Æon Flux (animated series1991—1995)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Created by Peter Chung, who also wrote and directed several of the episodes—Chung’s oeuvre includes Phantom 2040, the disappointing Sci-fi take on Alexander the Great Reign: the Conqueror, the Chronicles of Riddick animation Dark Fury, a segment for The Animatrix, and Nickelodeon’s Rugrats. The distinctive character design, Chung’s trademark, is based heavily on the work of early 20th century artist and Klimt disciple Egon Schiele’. Scripts were by a lot of different people; I recall Japhet Asher, Liquid Television executive producer, wrote one of the episodes we sampled. Æon is voiced by Denise Poirer, a true 90s tv actor who one-off jobs for everything from Seinfeld to Frasier to Murphy Brown to 3rd Rock from the Sun, as well as a regular stint on the Spawn animated series; Trevor Goodchild is voiced by John Rafter Lee, who voiced the main bad guy in the US dub of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, as well as providing “additional voices” for the Yankee version of Princess Mononoke. Music by Drew Neumann, who also did the soundtracks for The Wild Thornberrys and Aaaahh!!! Real Monsters.

Quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stranger.”

Alternate quote: Æon: “You’re drooling on me!”

Trevor: “I’m a genius; therefore I can afford to drool.”

First viewing by Molly: I think they aired prior to The Maxx, which I somehow found out about and watched during 7th grade? I think? Maybe 8th?

First viewing by Jesse: Back in the day, when the short first started showing up on Liquid Television.

Most recent viewing by both: Last night

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: High as a Georgia pine. OMG. I had a poster up in my room FOR YEARS of Aeon that was signed by Peter Chung, and I wanted her hair more than anything in the whole world. Aeon Flux was a show that taught me a lot about things. . . things like time travel, bondage aesthetics, the grossness of watching two people’s tongues moistly connect outside their faces, how sometimes it’s OK if your plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, and the heady combination of power and sex. Also, bird-people.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Moderate. The aesthetic of the show really worked for me on most levels, but the character design always squicked me out—everyone was too angular, like they were descended from greyhounds or something. I recall digging the earlier shorts more than the full length show, although I suspect that may have simply been a matter of exposure—I saw less of the actual episodes than I did of the Liquid TV shorts, and this Diet Pepsi commercial.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Hesitant. I own the whole series on DVD, as a few years ago I got a gift certificate to a Borders and that was what I bought, for some reason? I was vaguely underwhelmed when I watched them, though—a sentiment I become increasingly more familiar with, due to this column—and promptly forgot I owned the series. Then Jesse and I were like “oh fuck, it’s Tuesday, what are we going to do for FoHA?” and I saw them whilst trawling for something to watch in my collection.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Fairly pleased by the prospect. As I said, I didn’t see a lot of the episodes when they first aired and have never been much of a tv person in general so I never caught any re-runs, but it always seemed like something I should like. Then again, I watched the live action movie and was less than impressed, so I had some grounding to not be too excited.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Oh, I dunno. Jesse kinda summed up everything I felt about the experience below, bizarrely enough. . . so I’mma take the week off. PEACE (Jesse says: WTF, dude—you’re gonna get yours. Maybe not next week, maybe not the week after, but one of these columns you are totally in for it)!

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Fun, in small doses. Overexposure strips some of the gloss, and this show is more about gloss than a Claire’s crossed with a Cinderella II’s. OK, so I feel really, seriously, intensely creepy about that last line (Molly says: as well you should, man. . .why do you even know those stores exist, unless it’s because you hang out there, offering to buy some girls a glittery barrette or something? [Jesse says: really? Really? You’re taking the week off from writing a proper column, but not from saying stuff like that? One of these days, Tanz…]), but it’s been chiseled into the stone of this dying loaner mac that hes…it…ates before letting me do anything, so I ain’t going back to take it out—just saying the show is style-heavy, is all.

Surprisingly, however, it isn’t a case of style over substance—the scripts of the episodes we sampled were very tight, if intentionally overwrought, and delectably weird. We watched three, of them, which I think had plots as follows: the episode “Thanatophobia” is about a couple who want to escape from their totalitarian city-state to the freedom-loving country literally next door, but instead wind up as disfigured sex-pawns for Æon and Trevor, who use their new conquests to make each other jealous though highly kinky, exhibitionist methods. At one point the couple manage to fuck through a gap in a border wall thanks to the woman’s missing vertebrae allowing her to stretch under a fence and provide him access to the surgical hole in her back where her artificial spine pops into place, presumably, but “it just isn’t the same.” (Molly adds: also, the title? What? “Fear of Death?” I still can’t figure out what the fuck that has to do with the episode, but given that the bird-people episode detailed below is called “Isthmus Crypticus”. . .”)

The next episode had to do with Trevor keeping a bird-woman as a possibly willing sex-slave, only to have Æon roll up in to liberate her. Unfortunately, Æon’s female assistant has a thing for a bird-man also in captivity, and before you can say don’t-touch-that-or-the-mother-will-abandon-it the assistant has shacked up with the bird-man, who is infested with deadly mites. For serious. The last episode we screened was the season finale and had Trevor getting hot and bothered over a psychic alien that doesn’t have orifices (“one would have to be creative”), Æon trying to prevent Trevor from killing half the planet only to kill the entire planet herself, and plenty of other weird shit that creeps me out just to think about.

Obviously the show is better than I remembered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m in a rush to re-watch the whole series. Æon and Trevor’s ever-changing but ever-present kinkiness gets to be a bit much after a while, and as every episode seems to revolve around Trevor wanting to fuck someone/something and/or achieve ultimate power, and Æon trying to thwart him for dubious reasons, the show becomes repetitive despite its disconnected, fragmentary nature. I also feel a little weird about Æon seeming to be defined solely by her jealousy/sexuality, but since that’s how it seems to roll for all of the characters I guess that makes it less rubbing. See, you can’t even talk about this show without sounding like a perv.

High Points: The high level of kink which, when combined with the high level of camp, comes across less as exploitive and more as simply freaky. The self-referentially nonsensical nature of the show, which works better than it has any right to. The tidy action sequences, which still look pretty cool.

Final Verdict: Even after all these years, it’s still a weird, nasty, but ultimately intriguing little program.

Next Time: Time Bandits over at Fantasy Magazine!