Commentary on ATHF and The Three Stooges
Herein I present my theories regarding parallels between Aqua Teen Hunger Force characters (Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad) and the more universally familiar trio of Stooge protagonists. I will attempt to reveal the underlying nature, the roots if you will, of inclination toward humor vis a vis identification and exposure of archetypal masculine foibles in the context of modern male socialization pressures.
Both Moe and Master Shake share the same misplaced drive for dominance and are propelled by a combination of narcissism, sadism, and simple stupidity. Though possessed of more rationality than the clown-hyperbole of Meatwad/Curly, this faculty for reason is merely used as a blunt weapon to satisfy the primitive martial instincts of the undeveloped man. Hence, time and again, this flawed pragmatism ends up costing the group dearly where a less aggressive approach or no approach at all would have sufficed. Both Moe and Master Shake, driven by their desire for superiority inevitably end up advertising their own inferiority, bringing shame and humiliation upon themselves. Being a narcissist, and unable to tolerate the affect of shame, Moe/Master Shake must always transform his shame into rage and blame directed at others, exploding into comedic violence. This is the basic posture of the modern man, beset on all sides by obstacles often of his own making, always seeking honor and status but seemingly doomed to undo his own efforts through ineptitude and moral defect.
The mirror image of the inept dictatorial male persona can be found in the passive/enabler role playing of Curly/Meatwad. The sadomasochistic dynamic between the two characters reflects the interior polarization of the male psyche. This weak willed, emasculated side is most overtly and accessibly comic of the trio, owing to it's proximity to and resonance with the core childhood vulnerabilities which are generally suppressed in adulthood. The child, injured during the painful process of social development, remains passive, dependent, and needy - thus the perfect innocent victim and lovable recipient of slapstick abuse.
The third member of the set provides the viewer identification towards neutrality and sanity. In the Stooges, Larry represents a sort of hapless everyman/schlub, alternating between victimhood and victimizer, ineffective in both capacities and filled with resentment and reactive aggression. It is interesting to note that the evolution of this neutral third party into the form of an eminently rational-intellectual African American box of french fries speaks to the increased availability and pervasiveness of higher education in the latter half of the 20th century. It is also interesting to note, that although Frylock has improved himself exponentially over his predecessor by any intellectual measure, his psychological development and commensurate leadership ability are generally not honored in any meaningful political way.
Thus we reveal the change in stature of the Western Male (and by inference, rationality and progressive thought as a whole) over the last century, from a place of ignorant complicity to the self destructive shame dialogue of id/superego to a contemporary analog of knowing impotence. In final analysis, ATHF presents a more optimistic view of human potential, allowing Frylock to at least experience his own triumph over human stupidity and self destruction, albeit a short lived and private appreciation. At least he knows he's right, even if nobody else does. Thus the comic tale of the 'Western' everyman's plight has been retold and enlarged to embrace members not only of all races and creeds, but food items as well. Hilarity ensues. Still, it might be more of a 'guy thing'.