Welcome to Mars, where the men are men, the women are ladies, and the meat is primarily insectoid.
Planet Express goes to visit Mars to see Amy Wong’s (Lauren Tom) parents, Leo (Billy West) and Inez Wong (Lauren Tom). It’s revealed that the Wongs have long owned the entire Western Hemisphere of Mars, having bought it from the native Martians for a single bead. Zapp Brannigan (West) helps prepare Lt. Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche) for meeting his potential future in-laws. Kif fails to impress them due to not being “manly” enough. While Amy consoles him, a dust storm comes across the farm. After it passes, all of the Buggalo, the prize Wong crop, have been taken. Kif decides to go after the rustlers who took them and the Professor (West) sends Fry (West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) along with him.
They camp on Olympus Mons, finding the missing Buggalo in the crater at the top. After Kif uses explosives to free them, the sand storm returns, revealing that the rustlers are the Native Martians who are riding flying Buggalo and are trying to get revenge on the Wong family. Amy accidentally identifies herself, so they kidnap her. After Kif returns the Buggalo, the Wongs call in Zapp Brannigan to rescue Amy. Along with Kif, Fry, Leela, and Bender, Zapp goes into the underground Martian Reservation. Brannigan quickly antagonizes the native Martians, who call up another sandstorm to kill everyone, but Kif flies a Buggalo to rescue Amy, which calms the Martians, who establish that only those beloved by Mars can fly Buggalo.
Unfortunately, when Kif is invited to smoke the peace pipe with them, he coughs, which make the Martians want to kill him. They try to crush him with the bead that they got in exchange for the land of Mars, but it turns out that it is an absolutely massive diamond. The Martians had always just assumed that they’d been cheated, but are informed that the gem is worth enough to find them a new planet, which leads them to leave Mars. The Wongs are told what happened, but they don’t believe Kif could be that awesome. Amy tells Kif that if her parents liked him, she wouldn’t.
Futurama managed to combine the Sitcom meeting the parents episode and the Western, which is pretty great. Leo and Inez have already been established to be more than a little mean towards Amy, particularly since they just seem to want her to find a man and have children, despite the fact that she is actually a doctoral engineering candidate. In this episode, she finally brings a man home with whom she is in a serious relationship, something that should please them, but instead they just start disrespecting Kif for not being manly enough. It’s basically the perfect example of how bad parents can treat their kids on television before it goes to “uncomfortably abusive.” I imagine that may change over time, however.
The idea of Mars being a Western setting inherently conflates the American Frontier with Space, the next frontier that humans will have to take over. Much like the American Frontier, it’s revealed that this new territory is populated by native peoples who the colonizers will suppress. The Native Martians are about as thin of a metaphor for the Native Americans as it gets. However, in what I have to consider an amazing subversion, it’s revealed that the Wongs actually DIDN’T cheat the native Martians, showing that perhaps in the future humanity actually will have learned from at least some of its atrocities. Granted, it doesn’t bode well for us that our reputation for exploitation is so strong that the Native Martians automatically assumed they were fooled and didn’t even check to see if the diamond was worth something. Still, some hope.
This episode really solidifies the longstanding joke in Futurama that cattle have become extinct. We’ve often seen Buggalo mentioned as meat and even have Amy say that she’s eaten cow when Fry says that anchovies are the best extinct animal to eat, but it’s not until you actually see how viable the replacement is that you can accept that people don’t eat cows anymore. It’s also probably a reference to the speculation that people will have to start consuming more insect meat in the future due to the need for more efficient sources of protein than most mammals and fowl can provide. I probably would be okay with it if they looked like Buggalo rather than, say, scorpions or mealworms.
Zapp Brannigan is great in this episode, with several of my favorite Zappisms. I think my favorite is “I am the man with no name: Zapp Brannigan.” It’s the least impressive way to introduce yourself that I’ve heard. It’s a double undercutting of the badass Clint Eastwood character from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns and it always makes me laugh.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid episode.
Bender sings a cover of the theme song to the show Bonanza. Specifically, he sings:
We’ve got a right to pick a little fight with rustlers,
Somebody wants to pick a fight with us,
He’d better bite my ass! Yee-haw!
What’s crazy is that this is extremely similar to the actual lyrics to the song for Bonanza which were considered so horrible that, after the initial airing of the pilot, they were NEVER USED AGAIN. The actual lyrics are:
We’ve got a right to pick a little fight, Bonanza,
Somebody wants to pick a fight with us
He’s gonna fight with me! Yee-haw!
And allow me to say that this truly has to be experienced in order to recognize how bad it is. Despite the fact that almost no one would ever have seen the episode containing the song until the DVD was released, they decided to make the perfect parody of it by just having Bender drop all the pretense and just express that the song is about telling someone to screw off. I just wish they had done that before singing the song:
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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