Beware! Spoilers Ahead:
The last Rocko’s Modern Life episode to air was right after Thanksgiving in 1996, but the intended series finale aired earlier, in October of that year. It ended with the titular Rocko, his dog Spunky, and his friends Heffer & Filburt careening across the galaxy in Rocko’s house that was accidentally launched into space by a rocket that collided with it. Over twenty years later that’s exactly where we find the close group of friends at the beginning of the new special, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling.
Just over two decades after ascension, Rocko and the gang find the remote to control the rocket and return home, conveniently replacing the house right back on its foundation in O-Town, USA. After returning to terra firma, the boys find that time has undoubtedly changed the world. Heffer and Filburt become engrossed with immersing themselves in the almost alien landscape of new technology, food, and entertainment. Rocko, however, has found great difficulty in adjusting to the modern zeitgeist.
Rocko’s Modern Life lasted four seasons back in the 1990s. It was a Nickelodeon cartoon that pushed the boundaries of satire, adult humor, and sometimes decency while keeping itself watchable by its younger target audience. The show’s conflicts were often brought on by the Australian immigrant wallaby, Rocko, trying to deal with some aspect of modern and what would be considered mundane life by almost all the other characters. Simple errands and chores like going to the grocery store, visiting the DMV, or cleaning his own house become hilariously challenging adventures for the intrepid Rocko as he tries to keep up with the complexities and machinations of the fast-paced, instant gratification life of 90’s America.
The show was great at pointing out the ludicrousness of everyday life and has remained relevant in the hearts and minds of those who loved it all those years ago. The 45-minute special released on Netflix this last Friday continues this tradition; using Rocko’s disconnection from society to tackle subjects like accepting change in the world and dealing with the feelings of nostalgia that plague most of us who fondly remember the 90’s while maintaining the look and feel of the original show. I must admit I got sentimental when I heard the trademark sound of The B-52’s singing a snippet of the theme song.
Upon returning to Earth, Rocko can’t quite seem to adjust to life in the here and now, but his biggest hurdle comes when he finds out his favorite cartoon, The Fatheads, has been off the airways for years. Yearning for some reconnection to his life before space travel, Rocko goes on a crusade to find Ralph Bighead, estranged son of Rocko’s toad neighbors Ed & Bev Bighead, and creator of the now-canceled cartoon show. His goal is to hopefully get Ralph to create a new special to revive The Fatheads show. Simultaneously, Conglom-O, the company that owns and is responsible for almost all of
This storyline allows for a lot of meta-humor as Static Cling not only pokes fun at society as a whole but plenty at itself and the show’s fans as well. There is one thing that is worth noting that the special did very well and should be noted for. When Rocko and friends finally find Ralph Bighead and convince him to create a Fatheads special, they find that Ralph has come out as transgender and is now Rachel. This is not made into a joke at her expense. In fact, the characters immediate reactions are very positive, pointing out how awesome and cool her transformation is, and they continue on as normal. The only person who has any kind of issue with it is Rachel’s father, Ed, who is upset for no reason other than there’s too much change happening too fast in his world, not because she’s a woman now.
Change is inevitable and all around us. In the end, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling reminds us that the past is something we can appreciate and remember fondly, but we need to keep living in the now and looking towards the future. If you don’t, you just might miss all the important things in life.