Written by: Carolyn Premish
Directed by: Dwayne Carey-Hill
DN’s Ranking: Bad / Nonessential / ESSENTIAL
“I saw no sign of intelligent life.”
One element of “Rebirth” that I chose not to go into was that it also demonstrates how much hornier the CC years are going to be than the Fox ones, mainly because that fully flowers right here. Leela and Zapp spend a good ninety percent of the running time buck-ass nude, much longer than the nude beach planet sequence in Bender’s Big Score. It also dives into some grosser sexual content, with the plot essentially being Zapp trying to pull off rape-by-deception of Leela only to find himself nervous in the face of having to bang in front of a giant robot telescope in order to save the human race. And I, for one, welcome our gross sexual content overlords! One of the major parts of Today’s Culture Wars Here In 2022 is the rise of ‘puritarian’ leftism, mainly driven by young people, who celebrate works that tone down the sexuality (and in some cases violence) of media in favour of softer, gentler works (this is coupled with the rise of four-quandrant blockbusters that have to tone down ‘offensive’ elements like violence and sexuality in order to appeal to enough people to make back their gargantuan budgets). If you ignore the absolute crazies that flatten the nuance out of everything and willingly tangle themselves in ideological knots to justify being angry at something, I can see where the puritan leftists are coming from – it’s in part a response to and sympathy with people like sexual assault survivors or sex-averse people who find such content triggering.
The problem I have is that policing content in media is a completely worthless endeavour. I do mean this morally, in that I prefer dangerous content over anything sanitised for my benefit; Steven Universe producer Ian Jones-Quartey was asked why the clues for future twists were planted so obviously, and he remarked that he didn’t want to jerk the audiences around. Reading this made me realise that I want fiction to jerk me around – to surprise me, to keep me on my toes, and to challenge me and force me to think. I want it to go to difficult places that force me to come up with solutions. To my eye, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela” sufficiently sells that Zapp is not just evil for his actions, but pathetically so; the revelations of his lies reach rake-gag levels of absurdity as they reveal, over and over, that however dumb and selfish you think Zapp is, he’s actually worse. One way of looking at this episode is as an absurd expression of why women might be cynical of male overtures of friendship or helpfulness; from this point of view, the sexual assault aspect of the plot is the fulcrum to the whole thing the episode is going for. I also mean it’s worthless practically; what makes you think you’ll succeed at controlling the content people produce where Tipper Gore, Terry Rakolta, Frederic Wertham, or Joseph Breen all failed?
“If anyone can move it, I can. Hnk! No one can.”
This even factors into my read of the climax (uh, sorry). Someone being forced into public sex is obviously gross, but contextualising it with a giant space robot trying to censor everything with black slime but patently cool with in-marriage doin’ of the proverbial it is enough to render the whole thing absurd and create a clear satirical intent – to wit, there are situations that are very gross that are otherwise considered acceptable by ‘proper standards’. This is true and we all know it’s true; think of all the rape jokes and sexual assaults that have passed the FCC’s approval over the past few decades whilst they successfully kept dick and boob off of American television. It’s also hilarious because of how in-character it is; Zapp being nervous when actually forced to put up or shut up is a bit obvious, but Leela treating it as a chore on the level of laundry is obviously correct. I also find this willingness to risk gross sexual situations pays off with enthusiastic sexual expression that’s downright refreshing in 2022. The orgy the characters nearly descend into midway through the episode primes us for the later sexual exploration the show will indulge in.
Title Card: Apply directly to the eyes
Cartoon Billboard: N/A
Chris Elliot guest stars as V-Giny. As you may have noticed, this has so many examples of Zapp’s peculiar grasp of language – I feel that this is the one place the writers inarguably got better and better at as the show went on (and I love how the writers do follow up on him mentioning the part of the ship that’s easy to ‘stub your crotch on’.).The recreation of Zapp’s inner life as a cheesy serial is hilarious and a great example of the kind of creativity the CC years indulge in. The Professor’s Chamber Of Understanding is basically the exact same joke as his Angry Dome and makes me laugh just as hard.
“I thought this was the public library?”
“Nope. Pubic library.”
The title is a reference to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Much of the story not only lifts from the story of Adam and Eve, it riffs on how many scifi stories riff on the story of Adam and Eve. Zapp and Leela’s infiltration of the Death Sphere parodies many elements of Star Wars: A New Hope. The Janeway Guide is a double reference to Jane’s Fighting Ships and Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. V-GINY is a reference to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the plot point of two probes colliding is lifted from the Star Trek episode “The Changeling”. Nixon drops a reference to his appearance on Laugh-In. Zapp drops a reference to CSI: Miami. Nixon refers to Kif as Reptilicus in a reference to the movie of the same name.
Iconic Moments: “Hide in this barrel, like the wily fish!”
Next Week: “Attack Of The Killer App”. “Shut up and take my money!”