'Beavis and Butt-Head' Was Once Blamed for 2-Year-Old Girl's Death

Beavis and Butt-Head was an often controversial cartoon during the '90s and was even once blamed for the death of a two-year-old girl. Back in 1993, the New York Times published a new story about a tragic mobile home fire in Ohio that led to the death of two-year-old, Jessica Messner. At the time, the young girl's mother claimed that the fire had been started by Jessica's then five-year-old brother, Austin, after he watched a Beavis and Butt-Head segment featuring the character's setting something on fire.

A big part of the show, up to that point, did include Beavis setting fire to various objects while yelling "Fire! Fire!" Neighbors of the family spoke out and stated that they did not believe the family had cable, and could not have watched Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV, but the allegations were too serious for the network to ignore. In response, the show was moved to air at 10:30 pm, from its previous 7 pm time slot. They also removed all references to fire from subsequent episodes.

In 2008, at the age of 20, Austin came forward to share what he remembered from the tragic day, stating that he did not recall watching Beavis and Butt-Head as a child. "I literally NEVER saw the cartoon. How could I? It was 1993, my Mom was a drug addict. We couldn't afford cable!"

Beavis and Butt-Head was created by Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Office Space), and originally aired on MTV from 1993 until 1997. Every episode ran between 5 and 11 minutes in length. It later had an eighth season on MTV in 2011. In 1996, a feature film — Beavis and Butt-Head Do America — was released. It featured voice roles by many A-list stars, such as Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Cloris Leachman, Robert Stack, Eric Bogosian, Richard Linklater, Greg Kinnear (uncredited role) and David Letterman (credited as Earl Hofert).

It was a hit with both audiences and critics, and even earned a rare "two thumbs up" from Siskel and Ebert. For years, there has been talk of a film sequel, with Judge saying that there is certifiably potential for another movie. Recently it was announced that a new Beavis and Butt-Head film will be coming to Paramount+.

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The show was quite controversial during its run, and on more than one occasion, it was blamed for influencing teens who were charged with reckless acts that claimed lives. In response to accusations that the show was a bad influence on impressionable minds, MTV released a disclaimer that read, "Beavis and Butt-Head are not real. They are stupid cartoon people completely made up by this Texas guy whom we hardly even know. Beavis and Butt-Head are dumb, crude, thoughtless, ugly, sexist, self-destructive fools. But for some reason, the little wienerheads make us laugh."

The disclaimer verbiage was later changed to read: "Beavis and Butt-Head are not role models. They're not even human. They're cartoons. Some of the things they do would cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested, possibly deported. To put it another way: don't try this at home."