It’s the mid 90s. You’re wearing a Starter jacket or a collared shirt donning freeze-framed Saved By The Bell patterns, and it’s definitely at least one size too big. Your jeans are particularly light blue and your hair, if not hidden by a snapback, is flared and looking like some sort of sprout. You’ve come in from school and devoured a pack of Kraft Handi Snacks Breadsticks ‘n Cheese. You turn on the TV ready to kill time, content with the world built around you, and probably not by you, unless you’re in a bedsheet fort.
And then the day’s programming melts your face off.
Doug is on. You’ve caught The Beets. THE BEETS! “Killer Tofu” just started and you’re mesmerized. It ends and suddenly you’re wearing a jean jacket with pinned-on patches and your hair is in a stiff and pointy mohawk. And you’re ready to fight the man!
“Killer Tofu” is another instance of cartoons putting something serious in front of kids which they’ve probably processed on some subconscious level but are entirely unaware of. A single look at the lyrics as a grownup shows us everything we need to see:
Fast food feels fuzzy
‘Cuz it’s made from stuff that’s scuzzy
I always thought I was such a nerd
I refuse to touch that strange bean curd
I wouldn’t eat it-
But it tastes good
Ah Ee Ooh
For real? Look at the first two lines! And that’s nearly a decade before Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me. There’s classic punk ethos in the rest of the verse: digging something, but finding you’re alone or the minority. And you’re not into it because you’re the minority; it’s simply something that dug into you before the masses could…like somehow finding Digimon before Pokemon or something. That’s a miracle with the way “popular” opinion can cascade on people.
The second verse doesn’t let up, either.
I eat my sugar cereal
But it makes my teeth bacterial!
Ee Ah Ee Oh Oh
Ee Ah Ee
If you’re feelin’ kind of cruddy
Ee Ah Ee
Just stick right by your buddy
It keeps on with the idea of eating responsibly and in a way that makes you feel good. Are you with me here? How many times have you gone to a Twix or a Coke seeking, even relying, on its promise to deliver, and then end up feeling cheated because it was clearly stale or flat? It’s the mystery box you choose because of the allure instead of the visible cash prize. It might work out, or it might not.
Let’s hone in on the last three lines in the second verse. They contain more classic punk ethos. You’ve found yourself. You’ve found some others. Value the opinion you share but came to on your own and stick together. If you’re feeling like garbage about the world, at least you can feel it with someone wearing sunglasses of the same tint. Maybe it will even spur you to do something.
Let’s not skip over the “Ee Ah Ee,” either. Backing vocals like that act as an audible heartbeat. The song’s tempo will tell you how fast it’s pumping. In a song like “Killer Tofu,” which I’ll guess is about 120 or 130 BPM, it’s equivalent to being in the middle of a good run.
Here’s the funnest part of the song: it’s easy to misread the message, just like it is in a lot of punk music. Hearing “Killer Tofu!” over and over might make an unsuspecting person think The Beets are saying tofu sucks. In reality, they’re using the alternate meaning for “killer,” meaning excellent!
Sure, the odds that any kid in grade or middle school picked up on this as they were watching Doug is slim. But it’s another example of cartoons getting heavy and I love it.