Goddamn these last four years have been stressful, haven’t they? When I last did a Cartoon Election Countdown, it was an attempt to bring a little whimsy to calm everyone down after a rough campaign season whereas… now? We need cartoons, almost like they’re a palliative to prevent people from going absolutely around the freakin’ bend. “You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time,” said Stephen Colbert famously. So, it’s time to watch some cartoons, laugh, de-stress, and put away your hatchets and suicide pills. The cartoons I selected in 2016 were good… I think this round is even better. So let’s get into it!
10. Metalocalypse, “Dethgov”
In what would be the logical course for my home state of Florida, Nathan Explosion, front man of the global entertainment and economic powerhouse Dethklok, becomes governor after inciting a riot and pitchfork lynching of the governor. Like most politicians, Governor-Elect Explosion can’t deliver on his promises, no matter how hard he tries – from printing his own money that devalues the Sunshine State’s economy to somehow causing an increase in alligator attacks. He brings bandmates William Murderface, Skwisgar Skwigelf, Toki Wartooth, and Pickles the Drummer to help, but each get caught up in their own vices, from seducing the Century Village mahjong club to causing an international incident with Chinese diplomats at a strip club, everything gets progressively worse until Hurricane Scrambles the Deathdealer shows up. Then it gets much, much worse. Definately NOT at all a prophetic vision of what might happen if climate change continues unabated!
Choice Quote: “I swear to govern the f**k out of this piece of s**t state, now let me hear your guns!” – Nathan Explosion
9. Squidbilles, “The Big E”
One of the saddest things about 2020 (I mean, besides the criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by the current administration that’s killed literally hundreds of thousands of Americans) was finding out that Stuart D. Baker, aka Unknown Hinson, who played Early Cuyler (the racist, sexist, squid-nationalist at the center of the Squidbillies universe) might not have been in on the joke. Which is a shame, because Early, or as he becomes in this episode “The Big E” (a Glenn Beck-ian book shilling, sunless-tanning cream hawking), is a delightfully clueless monster. Whether it’s believing that Benjamin Franklin was crucified and died for America, or suggesting that death panels might be a good thing to motivate your freeloading grandparents, he encapsulates the unthinking and comical reactionary take on American populism. If it only remained in a cartoon… if only, right?
Choice Quote: “That’s right people I am locked and loaded with opinions and I am going to shoot Washington DC straight in the ear with my brain issues!” – Early Cuyler
8. Futurama, “A Head in the Polls”
I didn’t include this one in my first list, not because it isn’t the best of Futurama’s political episodes, because it is, but because I wanted to include a deeper cut to seem cool. I mean, Gal Gadot famously got roasted this year for getting her Hollywood celebrity pals to join in a version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, but what if she had gotten them to sing the first track off of The Beatles “Revolver” – “Tomorrow Never Knows”. I mean IMAGINE Jimmy Fallon screeching “Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void” in an lysergic acid haze… that would have BLOWN America’s mind and given us a needed distraction to… all this. “Decision 3012” was my “Tomorrow Never Knows” of Futurama episodes. “A Head in the Polls” is just funny, and delightfully cruel to Richard Nixon, who died 14 years before this episode premiered and thus was unable to provide a rebuttal. I have a feeling that when compared to the current occupant of the White House, Nixon’s probably feeling pretty smug wherever he is (he’s in Hell, don’t be coy, Klute).
Choice Quote: “NIXON’S BAAAAAAAACK!!!!” – Richard M. Nixon, President of Earth
7. The Simpsons, “E Pluribus Wiggum”
Again, another notable absence from the original countdown, and not because it’s not a good episode… it is, there’s a LOT of fun stuff, such as Jon Stewart’s Bob Newhart-esque cameo and making fun of Fred Thompson, who after a stint in “Die Hard 2” somehow became a US Senator and decided to run for President, but I just don’t find Ralph Wiggum a particularly compelling character. I love people’s reactions to him (my girlfriend and I often, OFTEN, use “THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S NOT FOOD, RALPHIE!” as way to signify our annoyance with something, or more often than not, each other), and that’s really what this episode is about – the people of Springfield trying to find a cipher for their political beliefs in something that is inherently NOT political. So I’m going to be honest and include it in this list.
Choice Quote: “But he’s eight, and the Constitution says you have to be thirty-five to be president“. – Lisa “Lis, I’m pretty sure the Patriot Act killed the Constitution to protect our rights.” – Bart
6. Squidbillies, “Lerm”
A double-dose of Squidbillies, as Early Cuyler would say “Hot Damn! WOCKA-WOCKA-WOCKA DONKEY KONG!“. “Lerm” predates “The Big E” by a couple years, and only leans into the political conceit towards the very end of the episode, but it packs into 3 minutes what the New Yorker’s “Borowitz Report” columns try to do in a year. Basically, an extremely belligerent alien comes to Earth and crashes his ship into everything, and even mild disapproval results in Lerm, the alien in question, coming in hot. You want to go that way? Lerm wants to go that way too – all the way to office of Georgia state comptroller, where he’s universally beloved by all. Why? It’s the South. And don’t say it couldn’t happen because, well, SEE THE LAST FOUR YEARS.
Choice Quote: “Death to high taxes! Death to Big Government! DEATH TO AMERICA!!!” – Lerm
5. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, “Harvey Birdman: Attorney General”
You know what didn’t suck over the last 4 years? The return of Harvey Birdman. In 2018, two weeks before the midterm election, [adult swim] released a one-off, “Harvey Birdman: Attorney General”, a goddamn hilarious episode where Falcon 7, sorry Phil Ken Sebben, senior partner of the law firm of Sebben & Sebben, is installed as President of the United States but really doesn’t want to do the work. So what can he do but launch a nuclear missile at D.C., and give Birdman 24 hours to impeach him, so a new president can take his place and de-activate the warhead. Why can’t President Sebben do it? He’s crazy, Birdman, we’ve covered this. It’s on [adult swim] until November 9th. Watch it.
Choice Quote: “Listen, I’m having an inaugurpeachment, and I need a big, enormous, dumbass stunt that’s not going to bankrupt the tresury because I ran as a fiscal conservative.” – President Phil Ken Sebben
4. Rick and Morty, “The Ricklantis Mixup”
Rick and Morty’s political points are sprinkled around almost every episode, from “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat”‘s pointing out how fascism had become the default setting of a lot of universes, to Rick Sanchez’s failed creation of a morally neutral super leader in Abradolf Lincler, a fusion of Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. But in “The Ricklantis Mixup” we leave our heroes and go to the multidimensional Citadel of Ricks where it’s time for a new election. Running this time is a Morty, who no one gives a chance, until a large pile of bodies starts to build up. It’s a tale of revenge and change, where the powerless and the powerful are equally in the clutches of a malevolent force and although the rise of President Morty might have been not a blowout (I mean, who are you really? The Joke Police?), it doesn’t take a genius to see how even a little power can send even the most orderly system off the rails.
Choice Quote: “We don’t care who sits in that seat. A Rick, a Morty, a goddamn Jerry doesn’t matter. We’ve been running the Citadel since before the Council, and you’ll find that we’re still running it now.” – Garment District Rick
3. Family Guy, “Trump Guy”
There are a lot of good Family Guy episodes that revolve around a political concept or Macguffin (one of my favorites involves Meg and Chris attempting to craft the perfect speech to welcome President Mike [sic] Obama to Quahog), but in 2019 Family Guy went full tilt after the current president, pointing out the graft, treason, and utter idiocy of the trump administration and even took a digs at itself for creating the climate for allowing trump to dig into the American body politic (trump: “Many children have learned their favorite Jewish, black, and gay jokes, by watching your show over the years! Peter: “…In fairness, we’ve been trying to faze out the gay stuff.”). It’s funny, and it’s not going to change anyone’s mind, but it’s the only animated show that’s explicitly gone after trump in such an obvious way in the past four years, and with its willingness to upset a large chunk of its audience, it deserves a watch.
Choice Quote: “I think you’d look amazing in my brand of lifestyle products, that are designed to represent a poor person’s idea of what a rich person would wear.” – Ivanka trump
2. The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Terror VII – Citizen Kang”
Another choice that should have been obvious in the 2016 list, but again, I was trying to be all indie and hip, I didn’t include it because it was just so obvious, so quotable, so frankly perfect I didn’t want to make it seem like I wasn’t doing the work that is required of a serious cartoon watcher. Aliens pretend to be Bill Clinton and Bob Dole during the 1996 Presidential Election and chaos ensues. That’s it. But as I mentioned it’s just so damn quotable that it’s become the gold standard of political satire for cynical members of Generation X (yeah, “groovy”). In the end, the point it makes is kind of important in theory, but in practice, there’s a reason why third parties haven’t taken hold in America. A choice of lesser evil is still a choice for LESS EVIL. It’s not that hard people.
Choice Quote: “My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball. But tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!” – Bill Clinton/Kang
1. Frisky Dingo, Season 2
That I didn’t include any Frisky Dingo episodes in my first list is a criminal oversight, worthy of impeachment and a loss of an election by at least 100 electoral votes. The first season was Archer creator Adam Reed’s take on a superhero saga, but the second season veered off into political intrigue involving shady pollsters, assassins, and something called “Operation Meth Nazi”. Though neither supervillain Killface or Xander Crews (the alter-ego of superhero Awesome-X) are allowed by Article 2 of the US Constitution to be President (Killface is not legal resident, and Crews is only 33 years old), they drag the country down into their insanity, culminating in an attack by a giant, radioactive human-ant hybrid and rapper Taqu’il’s ascendency to the Oval Office by the corrupt hand of Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer. It’s amazing (and incredibly offensive – but so, so fun). Binge it Election Day.
Choice Quote: “All Americans want is cold beer, warm *****, and a place to s**t with a door on it. I mean, you don’t want the dog lookin’ atcha.” – Mr. Ford
That’s it! Provided we still have a Constitution where freedom of speech and criticism of our leaders is allowed, I’ll be back in four years. For the love of God, vote.