I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

The Adventures of Mutilator: Hero of the Wasteland - A Synopsis

by Nathaniel Hoyt
June 14, 2013

Episode ONE

Immediately post-credits, we're told by the narrator that the setting of this story is of no vital importance. Don't let that fool you, because it's only a coy misdirection. While the narrator tersely ushers our attention towards the hero, observe the scenery. The eponymous hero, not yet introduced, can be seen in the middle ground, a slender black gash across pale desert hues, erect upon a wind-crescented tor. In the far distance, the sinking edifices of an ill-fated settlement rest their faces on their arms, at last sleepily succumbing to desert dust. A mean sun, naked, glares across the turquoise void, sends hateful rays piling more hateful heat onto a land already interred. The scene steps towards a close-up of that defiant figure, setting the viewer eye-to-irisless-eye with the stoic grimace of a man with a mechanical arm, a man who was known as---

Mutilator (Hero of the Wasteland) dispatches a mint-colored bull-troll with said mechanical arm. Is it he or the narrator who quips, "fast enough"? He, or else, who intones "there is much death in the wasteland"? Indeed. Screams of torture alert the hero to another innocent for whom he can vigilanticize. Straight through the cement wall punches Mutilator with a thunderous crumbling roar (mixed inexplicably loud). Turning his attention first to the pale violet victim, whose arm is a hacksawed-off stump of pulsing spurts of blood and exposed humerus, Mutilator comforts him with a tender stroke under the frighted mortal's chin. This soul has accepted the inevitable, and Mutilator is left with no choice but to leave him to die alone. Mutilator destroys the mutant by cleverly directing a killing-slice at his exposed brain dome- but not before the lantern-jawed fiend incurs a destructive wound to Mutilator's mechanical arm.

His source of strength compromised, Mutilator must visit his mutant mechanic. The dialogue between the liver-spotted Octorok and Mutilator is terse, and mercifully void of vapid banter. Typically, violence ends this brief respite in Mutilator's life. With his cephalopodous wrench assassinated, and the vulnerability of his mechanical arm revealed, another dimension is added to his character. Physically exposed, vulnerable perhaps, Mutilator still neutralizes these his new foes as he does any others: his skills in combat, not limited to only a favorable bionic-arm handicap, allow him to deftly eliminate Four-Eyes – headshot - with a thrown knife from down the hall. The other two villains are summarily undone, the former through blunt force trauma and the latter via amputation of the lower wrist. The latter is ostensibly an odd manner of death, but is consistent with the theme of limbs and dismemberment. So far, these themes have sketched a pretty clear subtext of traditional masculine anxieties: amputation representing castration; and a mechanical arm as a phallic extension (a la Prospero's staff, or Arthur's sword), signifier of virility and dominance.

This episode's arc has lighted again upon the barren waste, and the narrator gets in a few poignant last words. Deth Boat (either with or without the umlaut) pulls us out of the stasis of the desert as the credits roll.

Episode TWO: Underworld

Tedious duties of exposition fulfilled, the pace of the second episode is especially invigorated. Now we can re-enter the Wasteland unburdened of our original fears, bringing instead a curiosity for what else can be found there. However, the gods of the Wasteland do not look fondly on hubris, and for this reason the viewer is immediately cautioned against bounding into Mutilator's dangerous world unprepared. Duped into killing an innocent grizzly golden lion-man, Mutilator's fleshly arm is wounded by the deceiver – a further reminder, perhaps, of his mortality, and a caution against pride. Swiftly revenged, Mutilator delivers this famously pithy retort: “My arm needs bandaging. Your skin will suffice.”

Drawn deep beneath the desert into a capacious subterranean lair, Mutilator encounters another cell of mutant enemies. Ambushed and outnumbered, he is bound amidst the drooping corpses of former victims and mocked by his foolish captors. Mutilator delivers an unheeded prophesy, then effortlessly frees himself from his chains. His torturer turns to flee, but Mutilator rips out his spinal column and skull which he uses as a makeshift morning-star, and mortally flails a few more enemies. Luckily, a misfired bullet frees the other surviving prisoner – a handsome female – who is obviously gifted with hero-luck. The remaining baddies are delivered promptly to their fates: faces fatally punched, heads fatally exploded, necks fatally ripped, skulls fatally collapsed, and goo-filled chest cavities fatally excavated clean-through by a rushing mechanical fist.

Outside, finally freed from the mutants' den of torture, the handsome female character exchanges gratulations with the hero. She asks only for his name, and receives only a cold, irisless stare – names, like places, are all meaningless here in the Wasteland. Again, Deth Böat (with or without the umlaut) accompanies the closing credits.


Like everything even tenuously associated with “alternative” art (metal music, “hard” forms, or supply your own nomenclature), it's easy to make fun of Mutilator: Hero of the Wasteland. This is because it doesn't take itself seriously, not even a little bit. But why should it? After all, this was originally a student film, created by Eric Fogle during his time at NYU's Tisch School, a place I'm sure had its share of over-serious art-school narcissists who could desperately use the exposure to a way of thinking that wasn't servile to the opinions and “tastes” of others, or their own grasping existential quandaries. But more importantly, Mutilator is a good example of the rapid decay of MTV, who picked it up and later produced other shows by Fogle. At this time, during the very early 90s, the network was not only accepting, but encouraging, weird alternative television, instead of fostering only masterpieces of banality, universally palatable chunks of safe hegemonic vices. Granted, an argument can be made that Mutilator, like Jersey Shore, is still the same type of masturbatory entertainment that is good by virtue of the fact that it is superficial. The difference is that Jersey Shore depicts the very real, and very depressing, depths of human nature, while Mutilator is just a fantasy, probably induced from the margins of a spiral-bound notebook. Also, although it's not as finished in conception as Fogle's more well-known ventures (The Head, and Celebrity Deathmatch), Mutilator still took a considerable amount of effort to accomplish. Despite that it's derivative and amateurish, producing an animated film (especially hand-drawn, as this was) requires enormous patience, not like sticking a film crew in the middle of an orgy of pathetically charismatic alcoholics. At any rate, you probably don't need me to tell you: It's not the same thing. No, not the same thing at all.

Nathaniel Hoyt is an inconceivably complex system of sentient organic materials dedicated to eating poorly and playing video games frequently. He has a Tumblr account that he doesn't quite know how to use, which you can view at dedolence.tumblr.com, although admittedly there's probably better ways to waste company time. As a do-er of many things, feel free to seek Nathaniel out if you have any things that need doing, like bicycle fixing, coffee making, artwork drawing, or opinion giving. END COMMUNICATION.