Venture Bros “What Color is Your Cleansuit” part 2

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Dean, in his flight from his identity, moves into “the attic.” The episode breezes by it, but it’s the same room where the deformed Dean clone made his home in an earlier episode. What Dean has to “clean up” to live there, to dispose of his identity, is the remnants of a Dean who died in order to have the identity Dean wants to escape. Seeing as how Dean is already a clone several times over, the issue of identity is already a complex one. In the previous scene, he complains about having spent “years” learning useless facts in his Teaching Bed, but in fact this Dean hasn’t even been around that long. Which brings up the question explored in Moon and Oblivion: is identity genetic, or are we born as clean slates? If Hank and Dean are always Hank and Dean, no matter which Hank and Dean they are, then is the Venture family always the Venture family, or could there be variations? More important, can the family grow, and change? That is, can it break the cycle? Since “What Color is Your Cleansuit” explores the creation and evolution of another kind of family, the question is pertinent.

But back to the story. Rusty wants to fulfill his contract for JJ’s ray shields. To do this, he has to spiff up some of the Venture compound outbuildings. New beginnings for the Venture family! Which, at this point, includes a middle-aged boy adventurer, a hydrocephalic dwarf with a mechanical hand, an albino, a child molestor and two cloned teenagers. In America we call this a “blended family.” To give his family a new start, Rusty must destroy an existing family, namely the gorillas who have been breeding in Eden 1, the compound’s bio-dome.

And so begins the Palaemon Project, named after, if I had to guess, one of the Argonauts. To fund the project, Rusty must sell off some of his childhood to Augustus St. Cloud, a collector of pop-culture ephemera. It’s a real narrative pretzel, putting a pop-culture geek into a show where characters are already all references to other pop-culture icons, as well as being aware of other pop-culture artifacts (this is a universe where Batman is a comic book character, but Batman archetypes also appear everywhere in “real life.” The idea that St. Cloud collects pop-culture artifacts both from our universe and the Venture universe is something to consider. The script drives the point home by cutting directly from St. Cloud’s entrance to a cardboard promotional standup of the young Rusty Venture. Which raises the question: was Rusty’s TV show a show about Rusty, or was it episodes of his real life? (For that matter, was it an animated show about him, while The Venture Bros takes place in “reality?”)* In any case, Augustus St. Cloud, a Dan Clowes character come to (animated) life, in a b-plot, seeks to become an arch-enemy of Billy Quizboy, because of a run-in they had many years earlier on a quiz show. It seems there is no wound in the Venture universe that cannot fester into a life-long hatred.

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Meanwhile, Dean is at the local college recruiting students to work for Rusty. One of them is a girl named Thalia (one of the three Graces, in keeping with the Greek mythology angle) and the other is Martin (who isn’t Greek at all). Martin’s Frisbee smacks Dean in the face, an event Thalia describes as “Your Frisbee golf just became violent.” As goes Martin’s Frisbee, so goes Martin’s civilization, as we shall see.

Sgt Hatred and Dean somehow recruit a respectable number of students for the Palaemon Project, and Rusty’s first task is to divide them into classes. White suits go to the smart kids, orange suits go to the strong kids, and green suits go to what was once referred to in the US as the “house slaves.” Again, families spring up everywhere, complete with built-in resentments, in this case designated by color assigned by Rusty, who simply can’t help being a bad father – just as he shows real promise with Hank and Dean, he becomes a monster to scores of new children. It’s not a coincidence that Rusty treats his recruits exactly like children: when Martin fails a test, he “earns himself a time-out” and has to go “sit in the Faraday Cage.” Rusty also proves himself to be just as abusive and neglectful to his new charges as he is to his old: radiation levels are dangerously high in the Palaemon building (which does not affect Rusty in his Dr. No suit).

While Henchman 21 tries to keep up his end as the lone member of his new SPHINX family, “patrolling his perimeter,” The Monarch finds his own blended family at a crossroads: he remembers watching Game of Thrones with Dr. Girlfriend, but she reminds him that it was 21 he used to watch it with. The Monarch greatly misses 21, while Dr. Girlfriend’s own surrogate children, the Moppets, horn in on his private time. Meanwhile, back at the Venture compound, Rusty basks in the attention of the “green class” (whose names are all, for some reason, variations on Thomas) and reminds us that parenthood, for many, is primarily a reflection of self: you have children in order to have someone who has no choice but to look up to you. As happened with Dean, Rusty’s neglect and cruelty will backfire on him as his new children will, through his rule, rebel in spectacular fashion, complete with intense sibling rivalry.

*To say nothing of  the Game of Thrones problem. “Operation PROM” aired in November of 2010, “What Color is your Cleansuit” begins the next morning with a ticking clock of 90 days, and yet Game of Thrones  didn’t air until April of 2011, but The Monarch is already reminiscing about having watched it some time earlier. Game of Thrones apparently appeared in some kind of time-crack in the Venture Bros universe.


18 Responses to “Venture Bros “What Color is Your Cleansuit” part 2”
  1. Lee Leslie says:

    I assume all the servant class being called a variation on Thomas to be an “Uncle Tom” joke.

  2. whoami says:

    It’s “golf”, not “goal”.

    “Your Frisbee golf just became violent.”

  3. Justin says:

    “(whose names are all, for some reason, variations on Thomas)”

    Uncle Tom

  4. themant says:

    I was guessing the “Palaemon” they were referencing was the Latin word for “shrimp” (I had to look it up), in order to contrast it with Jonas Jr.’s “Gargantua” project.

  5. WhateverlyBrothers says:

    Your screenshot of a frisbee, the plastic gold disc, is perhaps a reminder of the mutation of the original Olympian sport of discus-throwing as well. It recalled for me a later line from ‘evolved’ Martin in battle confrontation with Dean, on choosing weapons; “let it be the skill of [] the blade that shines like the moon! I dominate that!” The visual then shows his weapon of skill is the inversion of a gold disc, a silver blade that is shaped around the perimeter of a circle.

  6. In all fairness, perhaps the Monarch read the books.

  7. Philloz says:

    “(H)e complains about having spent “years” learning useless facts in his Teaching Bed, but in fact this Dean hasn’t even been around that long.”

    I believe it was explained in the first episode of Season 2 how the boys’ memories are recorded and stored digitally and downloaded into the new “slugs” via synaptic relay in their bed-boxes. Thus, the current Dean and Hank have the memories of their predecessors up until their last sleep/learn cycle.

  8. -H. says:

    Palaemon most likely refers to Melicertes… “The harbor god”, or more appropriate in context of developing a ray shield for Gargantua 2… “The Gaurdian of Ships”.

  9. Marq says:

    I kind of thought Thalia was a caricature of Daria myself.

  10. Sully says:

    I assume the reason (in universe) all the green suits are named Tom is that Doc chose all the Toms in the group of students to be is his assistants because he didn’t want to memorize a bunch of different names.

  11. Bradford says:

    at the very beginning of Orb, Billy specifically calls it “the old Rusty Venture cartoon.” [the irony wasn’t lost on me, pulling out my dvd to check a detail of a scene where a character is obsessing over minute details on a dvd of his favorite show.] but the animated versions of team venture and company certainly are true-to-[non-animated?]-life!

    • JtAF says:

      Because I too obsess over minute details of the Venture Brothers:

      In the episode “The Invisible Hand of Fate” there is a conversation between Billy, Brock, and Hunter Gathers where they explained that the old Rusty Venture cartoon was a dramatization of real events. The implication being that a lot of the people, events, and objects shown in the cartoon also exist in “real life”, or at least the Venture Bros version of it.

      The show is not set in the same world we live in. It exists in a timeline where all those Jet Age (1960s) ideas of what the future will be like (flying cars, hover-bikes, super-sciencey stuff like that) are actually possible, but humanity in general and Rusty in particular has failed to capitalize on any of the possibilities. Super-science can make shrink-rays and teleporters, and can even bring the dead back to life, but somehow none of it can pay Rusty’s bills. Cloning is outlawed, the boys are arrested for riding hover-bikes on a highway, and there are secret branches of the government devoted to maintaining the status quo (“The president’s not the real president anyway” -Hunter Gathers in “Assassinanny 911”). Trying to figure out how the show matches up to real life is pointless. It is in it’s own universe, where situations that are impossible here are normal, but people are still people just like you and me.

      One of the things I love most about this show is that it explores what life would really be like if we had super-villains, talking robots, and the occasional genetic mutation. I love the idea that someone would hate another person so much that simply killing them isn’t enough, they want to dress up in a scary costume (or what they assume is scary) and ruin every aspect of their arch-enemies life. What would that person be like when they aren’t menacing their arch-enemy? The Monarch, Phantom Limb, Sgt. Hatred, and Dr. Z are all presented as different perspectives on this idea. Common themes emerge, but they are uniquely incompetent, ambitious, lazy, or troubled as anybody else might be in our real world. They just have a job that involves dressing up and harassing someone in imaginative ways.

      What would a successful super-scientist be like in this world? The people who can build space stations and travel the world in supersonic planes that they built themselves? Jonas Venture Sr. certainly achieved greatness, but at a high cost to his family life. The same can be said for Professor Impossible before his meltdown. Jonas Jr. doesn’t have children, but his work is clearly shown to get in the way of his relationship with Sally. Just like in real life, dedication to success has a price.

      And all the while Rusty scrapes by, constantly struggling to attain his father’s (and brother’s) greatness, but mostly struggling to pay the rent next month. Billy is shown as a true genius, someone who has the potential to be a world famous medical doctor, but he can’t seem to get past his circumstances to actually achieve anything significant.

      I love the Venture Brothers for exploring a world I grew up watching on TV in a way that is real, relatable, and somehow, in the midst of genetic mutants and super-villains, believable. No other show takes such a silly premise and explores it so seriously. That is what makes it so funny to me.

      Wow. This started out just as a simple reply to what Bradford said and really took a turn for the long winded. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think i need to re-re-watch the season 5 premier with an eye towards Todd’s excellent analysis.