Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Six, “The Butterjunk Effect”

Written by: Michael Rowe
Directed by: Crystal Chesney-Thompson
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“The butterfly derby is when? And what?”

This is another CC episode that kicks off with an annoying idea but ends up with a solidly executed half hour of comedy. Regular readers will know that I find the relationship between Amy and Leela to be mildly sexist and definitely obnoxious, playing off stereotypes of women from hacky standup comedy and newspaper comics without the kind of playful approach that Futurama has with other hacky comic standards. You’d think I’d appreciate that being reworked in this episode, but the writers find just about the most annoying way to do it! They try to retcon it as if actually Leela and Amy have been engaging in friendly banter this whole time, which feels flagrantly disrespectful to those of us who interpreted Leela’s furrowed brow and violent reaction to Amy’s comments as her being genuinely insulted. It makes me think of a similar, much more successful attempt to reckon with one’s own sexism in the webcomic Order Of The Stick, where (male) author Rich Burlew initially wrote the relationship between Hayley and her rival Crystal in a manner not to dissimilar to Amy and Leela, but came to realise he was simply repeating stereotypes he’d picked up; he never undermined what he’d written before but rather wrote it into Hayley’s development and choices. Futurama’s approach feels much lazier.

Anyway, the rest of the episode is pretty good after that – no spectacular highs, but well-constructed. It’s easy and also hilarious to dismiss professional sport as being filled with performance-enhancing drugs as a matter of course; Futurama makes it work by tying it first into its characters and then into an invented body horror. Having characters in a drug-induced sexual mania feels like it could veer somewhere terrible – especially on this show – but I feel like it manages to dodge the worst potential in the idea; this is an extension especially of Leela’s pride being threatened by any challenge, and I especially enjoy the way Fry fits into this plot trying to be a good boyfriend.

Title Card: Purveyors of Entertainment to Her Majesty the Space Queen
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“Keep your eye on the ground. That’s where she’s gonna land.”

Tom Kenny returns as Abner Doubledeal and Jill Talley (best known as Plankton’s computer on Spongebob Squarepants) appears as the trainer/drug dealer. The Grand Midwife returns, revealing the fifth and final of her grand jobs. Bender is also pretty great in this episode, pushed to the background and therefore becoming louder and angrier (“Yay, I don’t give a crap!”). 

“She doesn’t want to cuddle me anymore! She just hits me with various chairs!”

Leela’s boots are a reference to the work of French footwear designer Christian Louboutin. Low-gravity flying wings on the moon are most likely a reference to Robert E Heinlein’s The Menace From Earth.

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “The Six Million Dollar Mon”.