Leela and Fry lead a devolution revolution… featuring DEVO.
The Planet Express crew are hired for their 100th delivery to the wealthy Mrs. Astor (Tress MacNeille). She invites the crew to a fundraiser for the United Mutant Scholarship Fund, which is revealed to be a way to keep mutants segregated from humanity. When tempers start to flare, Fry (Billy West) accidentally tells the guests that Leela (Katey Sagal) is a mutant living illegally on the surface. In response, she is banished to the sewers. Fry tries to appeal to the city, but accidentally gets the rest of the crew, minus Bender (John DiMaggio), who is throwing an epic party, banished as punishment for harboring Leela. Fry tries to empathize with Leela’s plight now that he’s been in the sewers, but Leela tells him the only way he could understand would be to mutate himself in the toxic lake. He avoids jumping in, angering Leela further.
While wandering the sewers, the crew finds the wreckage of the Land Titanic, a bus that was designed to be like the Titanic and which sank under the surface. On board, they find a Quantum Force Gemerald which shoots out powerful energy blasts, and a passenger manifest. Fry, unable to sleep due to his fight with Leela, walks into the toxic lake and mutates horribly. Sick of living beneath the ground, Leela organizes a revolt. Fry and Bender bend the West Side Pipeway so that all of the sewage in New New York goes back to the streets. Mayor Poopenmeyer stores all of the sewage in Madison Cube Garden. When Leela leads the mutants to the surface to demand equal rights, Mrs. Astor, a blatant anti-mutant racist, has her butler attack the mob by sending a wave of the sewage. Fry appears and uses the Quantum Gemerald to save the crowd. He then reveals that the passenger list to the Land Titanic included Mrs. Astor’s husband Mr. Astor (Maurice LaMarche) as well as mutants. Leela’s Grandmother appears, revealing that she was on the Land Titanic and that Mr. Astor gave her his seat on the “life car.” This leads Mrs. Astor to ask the mayor to let mutants onto the surface, to which he agrees. Fry and Leela kiss, but Fry suddenly is sheds his mutated outer layer, revealing it to be a mutated Mr. Astor. The crew head home to party and celebrate their hundredth delivery.
This is one of the rare Futurama episodes that actually has long-lasting ramifications on the series. After this episode, mutants stop being restricted to the sewers, so even background shots start featuring them. Honestly, I can’t think of any other episode that so easily divides the series by the events, and that’s including the films. Given that we saw the mutants first in the beginning of Season 2, it’s strange to think that we made it through 3 and a half seasons without seeing any of the non-Turanga mutants on the surface. I guess it made sense to make such a big change on what they consider the 100th episode.
This is also one of the many episodes that tackles a social topic, although in this case the metaphor is so broad that it could easily be applied to any number of groups that have been oppressed in the past. The episode references the Million Man March, and the subsequent Million Woman March, with the Million Mutant March, but also references the 1969 Stonewall Riots with the title, as newspapers covered Stonewall with the image of a sign that said “Homosexuals are revolting.” Basically, just a reminder that segregation is segregation and oppression is oppression, no matter what the reason or the group. If we start drawing lines based on race, sexuality, or number of eyes, we are inherently reducing the humanity of someone.
The only thing I really don’t like about this episode is that the ending is mostly a bunch of quick coincidences that wrap everything up, rather than someone actually realizing how horrible it is for mutants to be oppressed. Fry ends up being perfectly normal again, Leela’s back on the surface, and all it really took was one rich woman asking the Mayor. They try to sort-of apologize for it by having Zoidberg sarcastically say “Hooray, a happy ending for the rich people,” but it’s still kind of depressing that equality is won by making a single wealthy woman feel empathy, rather than any societal recognition.
Overall, though, still a good episode. Also, I love that Devo are presented as mutants.
It’s this call and response:
Dwayne the giant head mutant: “Are we not men now?”
Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo: “I’m forty percent potato, but close enough!”
I love this because it’s like four layers of humor. “Are we not men now?” is part of the first Devo album title, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!. That album’s title comes from Devo’s song “Jocko Homo,” which takes its name from an anti-evolution work in the 1920s and focuses on the idea that humanity is de-evolving, the inspiration for the band’s name. However, “Are we not men?” is taken from the movie Island of Lost Souls, which is an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. “Are we not men?” is the call and response that the anthropomorphic animals of the island chant when they say what distinguishes them from animals, before ultimately devolving back into them. So, this is drawing a parallel between the concept of man as just an elevated animal and the idea that mutants are just the natural step of humanity after it de-evolves. The next part, “I’m forty percent potato” is just a reference to the fact that Devo’s fans are called “spuds.”
See you next week, meatbags.
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