Huh huh huh, nerds are cool

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WHEN they're not slumped in front of the television watching rock videos and stuffing themselves with junk food, Beavis and Butt-Head set fire to things, torture animals, and steal.

They snicker maddeningly (huh, huh, huh). They love violence and idolise the local gang leader. They are awash with testosterone but far too ugly and nerdy for any girls to fancy them, so they slaver over the 'chicks' on TV.

They have inspired American children to sniff paint thinner, shove fireworks up cats' bums and light them, with fatal results, and even torch their homes (with their baby sisters still inside).

So the first episode of Channel 4's 20-week series of the Beavis and Butt-Head show went out at 11.35 on Friday night, when the impressionable were tucked up in bed. But British teenagers are taking it all in their stride, even in sedate Bournemouth. 'It's a load of fuss about nothing,' according to Damien Lynch, aged 15. 'Anyway, we've all been watching it for months on satellite.'

In the US, concerned parents have campaigned against the cartoon, and teachers have warned against its pernicious influence. The show is aimed at teenagers, but MTV was forced by the uproar to move it from the nightly 7pm slot to 10.30pm.

In Bournemouth, however, they are confident they can resist any evil influences. 'It's quite harmless,' said Karl Lenk, 19, a history student. 'You can see far more violent programmes before eight o'clock. It's not meant for children. There are lots of adult cartoons around now, like the Japanese Akira cartoons which go really over the top.'

'It might be distasteful if it was real life,' said Atholl Mitchell, 19, another fan. 'But it's cartoon characters. They don't have any influence. We aren't all as stupid as you seem to think. Anyone who's stupid enough to copy a cartoon is stupid enough to sniff paint stripper anyway.'

'When you get to my age you've worked out the difference between reality and fiction,' agreed his friend, Mark Reeves, 18. 'People with a brain in their head can see it's only a bit of fun. First there was Bill and Ted, who were cool, then Wayne and Garth, who were excellent, now Beavis and Butt- Head have taken that kind of humour as far as it can go.'

They were unanimous that Beavis and Butt-Head is no substitute for The Word, which it replaces in Channel 4's prime youth programme slot, with an average of two million viewers each week.

'The Word was impulsive, live, interesting. It went over the top but it was good,' according to Karl. 'Beavis and Butt-Head is a poor replacement. Channel 4 just wanted what they thought would become a cult programme, thinking they know what people of my age want.'

Allison Pearson, page 24

(Photograph omitted)