Futurama, Season Seven, Episode Seven, “Neutopia”

Written by: J Stewart Burns
Directed by: Edward Fong
DN’s Ranking: THROW IT INTO THE FUCKING PIT / Bad / Nonessential / Essential

“Wait! I found a loophole in the mortgage! If we actually pay it, we can keep the building!”

Throughout these essays, I have been something of an apologist for the sexism of Futurama, but I don’t think I’ve been an unfair one. The show is undeniably a sexist product of men who a) didn’t understand women and b) sometimes fell back on making an obvious and cruel joke at the expense of women. But I also believe in what Joan Didion called the ‘irreducible ambiguity of fiction’ – that is to say, the action ended up reflecting the truth of how people act and think. In the case of Futurama, it usually managed to capture the nuances of sexist men and their assumptions, cruelty, and shortsightedness; I also believe that Leela is a nuanced and sensitive representation of a particular kind of woman I’ve known in my life and all the strengths and weaknesses said women have had – women who are unreservedly moral and hardworking but not as much as they’d like to be, and who deny themselves happiness on the basis of a larger ideal. I honestly think the good things the show achieves because of its assumptions outweigh the bad.

And then it does shit like this. This is the ultimate expression of all the underlying sexism in the show – all of its miserable, shitty attitudes towards women played at maximum volume. I generally defend and even celebrate the hackier comedy this show indulges in by claiming it as ironic; I genuinely find it very funny to occasionally tee up the obvious joke and then deliver it as fast as possible, and much of the time I find joy in just playing with a joke we all know (I myself managed to find multiple riffs on the “what are you wearing?” joke a few days ago). In this case, it’s just straightforward delivery of bad old jokes with no ironic distance or even accidental complexity. Comedy is based in truth – even  when it intentionally runs in the other direction – and this garbage does not reflect any of my experiences with women or even other men.

“A three month calender? What is this, Mercury?”

I do not believe that men and women are inherently driven to conflict because of sex, I do not believe that conflict between the sexes is generally resolved by mutual sexual desire, I do not believe that men are inherently driven to dominate and humiliate women, I do not believe women as a group are equally culpable for the battle of the sexes, I do not believe women are any more driven to shop than men, I do not believe men are less competent than women, and most of all I do not think arguing over who is the better gender is something anyone over the age of eight should concern themselves with. Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention can see that women have a much rawer deal of it – whether through social studies, historical perception, or my own anecdotal stories. The turn that angers me the most, of all things, is that when the men become women, they act like they’re much better at it because they enjoy being sexualised; I can report as a bisexual man that I don’t enjoy being (grossly) sexualised by men any more than (some) women do.

“So far I have learned nothing. But that may be as much my fault as it is yours.” 

Worst of all, though, is how this episode is NOT FUCKING FUNNY. All the jokes – probably because they come from such a bizarre, incorrect view of the world – are these generic knock-offs of gags from The Honeymooners and old Boomer comics. It’s the absolute laziest this show has ever gotten with its humour; generally, when the show isn’t funny in the CC era, it’s because it’s trying too hard to be weird, but this goes in the opposite direction. It’s because of this that I was deeply disappointed by the episode ruining one of its greatest creations – the Rock Alien. Perhaps because he’s an effortless riff on a Star Trek villain, he comes off gut-bustingly hilarious; Dave Herman delivers one of his finest performances with a vacuous read of typically Futurama riffing on cliche (“”Is that you, Borax Kid? I have your fifty bucks.”). Why couldn’t we have twenty minutes of that instead of Fry rubbing his boobs on a window?

Title Card: Provides a full day’s supply of vitamin F!
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“We’ll set up camp here, by this shoe.”

The other thing that makes me mad for being ruined by this episode is that most of the redesigned characters are actually cool – fem!Hermes looks a lot like a friend of mine. I also enjoy the section of the plot riffing on airplanes for absolutely no reason beyond that it’s funny.

“Now go in peace. Or actually stay here. I’ll go in peace.”

Amy wears an exoskeleton from the movie Aliens. Plan Am is a reference to the defunct airline Pan Am. Their slogan is a reference to the slogan of Delta Air Lines. A shot is lifted from the movie Airplane!. Leela drops a reference to the Goofus and Gallant comics. Hattie drops a reference to The Office. The rock alien’s creation sequence is lifted from Galaxy Quest while its design is lifted from the Star Trek episode “The Savage Curtain”. The rock alien asks a question about Desperate Housewives. LaBarbara drops references to Biz Markie, the song “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, and Harry Belafonte. Bender drops a reference to Terminator 2: Judgement Day. fem!Scruffy’s clothes are a reference to Cora in Fantastic Voyage. “Girls Girls Girls” by Motley Crue plays over the, ugh, photography montage.  

Iconic Moments: Unfortunately, Fry rubbing his boobs on the window. | I have also seen “No need to thank me” used a lot.
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Yo Leela Leela”. “And poo-poo and pee-pee and penis is gay, these are the ninety-eight words we don’t say.”