IITS’s Seven Days of XMas: Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From the Future
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 25, 2007
“Christmas still sucked…in a big way.”
It should say something about the show that possibly the definitive Christmas episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force doesn’t even take place on Christmas. In fact, it has very little to actually do with Christmas, minus a ridiculous and entirely extraneous plot tie-in that is more or less dropped entirely by the end of the episodes. Still, it’s rare that I go a Christmas without catching at least one of ’em, and in a perverse sort of way, it’s actually the perfect Xmas episode for ATHF–surreal, free-associative, hilarious and ultimately inconsequential.
“Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future” is an obvious reference to the three ghosts of A Christmas Carol (or, as readers of this blog probably better know it, Scrooged), but his ramblings are uncalled for, inaccurate, self-contradcitory, boring, and totally pointless. He shows up in Carl’s apartment to tell him about his past (Carl’s repsonse: “…all right”), but parts of the story are blatant fabrications, and as Carl points out, it’s actually February, two months too late (The Ghost’s reponse: (“I will see you in December…tomorrow.”)
From there, Carl’s pool is filled with blood, and we get to the CGOCPFTF explaining the situation by teaching about the history of Chirstmas (“This is gonna take a while, so you might want to get some snacks”), which we find out started with an evil, dictatoiral ape forcing ape workers to make shitty toys, which were then crapped upon by the apes and thrown at predators, the relevance and accuracy of which is repeatedly questioned by Frylock (“I WAS NOT FINISHED!! You should have gotten a snack!“). CGOCPFTF tells Carl that the blood will run through his house until he “gives himself up…sexually” to the great martian ape or something, so instead he sells his house to Glenn Danzig. Yeah, it’s that kind of episode.
“Cybernetic Ghost” is fairly representative of the style that made early Aqua Teen episodes so brilliant–starting with a concept that could be sold as a typical sitcom setup, and then devolving into utter televisual anarchy. At the beginning, it looks like it could just be another one of those Christmas parable episodes (like the classic It’s a Wonderful Life episode of Beavis & Butthead), but the plot pretext is quickly dropped,and by the end of the episode Danzig is threatening to eat his cereal out of the back of Shake’s skull. You kind of have to be impressed by the show’s utter lack of concern for any kind of continuity, or at least you would have had to be before subsequent Adult Swim shows like 12 Oz. Mouse ruined the idea for everyone.
Plus, it gets back to the idea of what I think makes ATHF so underrated–the show’s satirical drive. No one would ever really classify Aqua Teen Hunger Force as satire, but I think their parodies are far more hilarious than any of the more straight-up renderings on a show like Robot Chicken. Those parodies just take pop culture and merely repackage it in more sardonic and ironic fashions, which are generally boring and extremely predictable, whereas Aqua Teen essentially blows obliterates them at their very core, until any sense of humor, poingancy or morality have vanished completely, and they are shown for being as pompous and unimportant as they are. Watching the original A Christmas Carol the same way after seeing this episode would be utterly impossible, which should be the ultimate goal of all works parodic in nature.
And if you don’t buy that (annoyingly, no one else really does), just observe this exchange from the 1968 Christmas flashback sequence between Carl and his (even Carl-ier) father:
“What is this daddy, is this carpet?”
“Carpet? No, no…it’s burbar. That’s an industry term.”
“Hey, it’s like a flying magic carpet here! Look at this, I’m flying around in Egyptland!”
“Yeah, well, don’t get too attached to it, there, Aladdin, because it’s about to become magic flying dinner.”
“You can’t eat carpet! Silly Daddy!”
“No, of course you can’t. Not like that. You gotta boil it…’til the glue gets soft, y’know? Oh jeez, look at the time!”
“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS, DADDY!!!”
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING OUT OF THIS! Put on your work boots and your respirator! I HAD TO PULL A LOT OF STRINGS TO GET THEM TO HIRE AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD!”
Now that’s how you do a Christmas episode. Danzig, motherfucker!