Futurama: Bender’s Game. Makeup for Dogs, That’s Where the Money is.

This extra long special comments on how the market encourages corrupt practices for harvesting energy resources and the lack of research put into alternative energy.

The episode begins with the Planet Express crew running out of fuel while they are out on a mission. Fortunately, they are able to use Nibbler’s dark matter poop as fuel to get them to a dark matter fuel station.

Can you believe the price of dark matter? It would be cheaper to fill the tank with Nobel Prize winners’ sperm. –Leela

Later in the episode we find out that the reason that dark matter prices are so high is because of a dark matter shortage. However, it becomes obvious that Mom, who controls the world’s only dark matter mine, is controlling the supply of dark matter so that she can increase the price. (Consumers often complain that today’s oil companies might be controlling the oil supply to drive up gasoline prices.)

Professor Farnsworth tells the crew that it was he who discovered a way to turn dark matter into starship fuel when he worked for Mom many years ago:

Back in those days [dark matter] was just a worthless inert curiosity and I was smashing it in a particle accelerator in an ill-conceived attempt to create a more durable harpsichord wax. But as Deepaz Chopra taught us, quantum physics means anything can happen at any time for no reason…and thus against all probabilities it happened. I’m sure I don’t need to explain that all dark matter in the universe is linked in the form of a single, non-local metaparticle…so in one instant I transformed all dark matter everywhere into a new crystalline form, making it into the most potent fuel since primitive man first ignited mastodon flatulence to heat his cave. –Professor Farnsworth

Mom stole the Professor’s work and fired him, but he made sure to keep a failsafe in case Mom ever went out of control:

Professor Farnsworth: “You see in the instant the energy crystal was created, there also came into being an opposite crystal made of pure anti-backwards energy…if ever the two crystals should meet their wave functions would collapse like Raymond Burr’s trampoline once again rendering all dark matter inert and useless as fuel.”

Hermes: “But then we’ll have no fuel.”

Farnsworth: “Ah, but once we free society from dependence on Mom’s dark matter, scientists will finally care enough to develop cleaner alternative fuels.”

Fry: “Scientists like you.”

Farnsworth: “No not me. I’m too busy developing makeup for dogs. That’s where the money is.”

Unfortunately, Farnsworth has forgotten where he hid the anti-backwards crystal, but he eventually discovers that his son is using it as a 12-sided die in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Farnsworth and the crew travel to dark matter mine to use the newly found crystal in to neutralize the dark matter. The crew discovers that Mom’s mine is farm—Mom has captured all of the Nibblonians (Nibbler’s species) and has placed them in cages so that she can harvest their poop. This farm gives Mom an unlimited source of dark matter. Mom’s enslavement of the Nibblonians is similar to the treatment of other labor forces in energy narratives. The Nibblonians possess an energy resource and are held against their will and forced to labor to give that energy resource to Mom, who is the stronger force in this narrative. Strangely, there is no theme of life for energy exchange here. It does appear that the labor is in anyway fatal to the Nibblonians. However, the Nibblonians do rebel when they have the chance to, which is characteristic of an energy narrative.

After a long and complicated series of events the Professor is finally able to bring the two crystals together and so render all of the world’s dark matter inert. Farnsworth and the crew use the Nibblonians to pull the Planet Express ship home, calling it “Nibbler Power”. Hopefully, following this narrative earth’s scientists develop forms of alternative energy as Farnsworth suggests they will, that is, if it is more lucrative than makeup for dogs.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: corporate ruthlessness, exaggerated inequalities, segregation, convenient racism, nomadic existence, insurrection.


Futurama: The Birdbot of Icecatraz. A Tragic but Faraway Story

Professor Farnsworth sends the Planet Express crew on a mission to tow the Juan Valdez, (reference to the Exxon Valdez), “an orbiting supertanker full of rich Columbian dark matter.” Leela refuses to go on the mission because she concerned that the tanker will leak dark matter oil into a penguin preserve on Pluto that the tanker must pass by.

Leela: “Dark matter oil? What if we hit something? The tanker could leak.”

Professor Farnsworth: “Impossible. The tanker has 6,000 hauls. So unlike me, it’s entirely leak-proof.”

Leela decides to join a group of protesters instead of captaining the mission, leaving Bender in charge. Naturally as a result of Bender’s inferior piloting, the tanker catches on an iceberg, which cuts through all 6000 hauls and causes dark matter oil to leak into the penguin preserve.

Bender is ordered to five hours of community service to clean up the oil spill. In addition, the dark matter oil causes the penguins to greatly increase their reproduction causing overpopulation.

Just like the episode in my last post, “Birdbot” uses extremes to point out the ridiculousness of how governments and corporations handle oil transportation, spill prevention and spill management. Granted, this episode also pokes fun at environmental groups as well. However, a supposedly unleakable tanker leaks into an animal habitat (adorable penguins instead of fish, gulls and other ocean dwelling creatures) due to lack of corporate and government oversight. The environment is severely damaged and is unable to be cleaned up and the animals suffer horrible consequences, just like in the event of a real oil spill.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation and destruction, corporate ruthlessness, nomadic existence.

The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz Episode highlights

Futurama: Oh poop.

An Introduction

Futurama takes place in the year 3000. The main characters Fry, Bender the Robot, Leela, Amy and Zoidberg work at a spaceship delivery service, called Planet Express, which is owned by the crotchety genius Professor Farnsworth. The professor’s arch nemesis is Mom who is the head of earth’s one major corporation, Mom’s. The characters also have run-ins with the government and military, the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP). The main source of fuel throughout the series up until the episode “Bender’s Game” is dark matter. Of course this series, which was created by the same creators as the Simpsons, is utterly ridiculous, focuses mainly on parody and completely disregards the rules of physics and narrative continuity. However, Futurama does provide a humorous look at various environmental causes including energy use.

Loves Labours Lost in Space

The episode begins with the Professor giving the crew an explanation of their next mission. He wants them to travel to Vergon 6, which was once filled with dark matter. The dark matter has been mined out of the planet leaving it hollow, as capitalism has run amuck by this point in time and environmentalism apparently did not stick.

Planet Express is sent on a mission to rescue the animals of Vergon 6 before the planet implodes. On the way to the planet, Leela, Fry and Bender run into Zapp Brannigan, one of the most famous captains in the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP). Leela asks Brannigan for help in rescuing the animals but he refuses, citing Brannigan’s Law, which forbids the interference with underdeveloped planets such as Vergon 6 (*cough, the prime directive). Leela tells him that it was a DOOP mining crew that created the problem in the first place therefore the planet has already been interfered with, but Brannigan refuses to listen. Brannigan places the crew under arrest to prevent them from reaching the planet, but he lets them go after Leela begrudgingly has sex with him.

The Planet Express crew is able to round up all of the animals before the planet implodes but they encounter a tiny and adorable creature that was not on their list. Leela becomes enamored with the animal and names it Nibbler. The crew places Nibbler in the cargo hold with the rest of the animals but while the crew is off doing other business Nibbler devours all of the animals in the hold. Leela tries to take off from the planet but realizes that Bender has forgotten to put fuel in the tank, leaving them stuck. However, the crew discovers that Nibbler has pooped as a result of his feast and that poop is composed entirely of dark matter, which they use to fly safely back to Planet Express. Nibbler’s poop is what fuels the Planet Express ship on the rest of their journeys until dark matter is rendered inert by the events in “Bender’s Game.”

This episode is supposed to parody the human consumption of energy by displaying it in extreme terms. There is no way that human beings would mine a planet so much that it became completely hollow, even if it were physically possible. But the episode uses humor to point out that over-mining is a common problem that government constantly sweeps under the rug.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation and destruction, corporate ruthlessness, political oppression, nomadic existence.