Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver enlists Richard Kind's sad blobfish to expose plastic manufacturers

John Oliver and friend
John Oliver and friend
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Ah, to be liberated from the burden of trying to make comedy from the lunatic, white supremacist rantings of Donald Trump, and thus free to look at the myriad other ways in which we as a country and species are completely and irrevocably screwed. You can practically feel John Oliver’s relief as, in his main Last Week Tonight story on Sunday, the host took time for asides from a horrific goat-headed man-beast and a blobfish, inevitably voiced by Richard Kind. Kind’s sluggishly animated psychrolutes marcidus, Slurp, spilled the beans that he’s going to pull another Bing Bong by stealing three upcoming “fun but intermittently touching” Pixar films, because of course he is. (Slurp dies in the third one, but don’t worry. Slurp has excellent representation.)

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Oliver, sadly never freed up from laying out our seemingly intractable and life-threatening societal ills, wasn’t all fun and blobfish, however, as he spent most of Sunday’s show showing how we’re up to our collective ass in sketchily manufactured plastics. Yes, plastics, that The Graduate punchline that’s worked its way into our ecosystems (and plain old systems) to the extent that, as Oliver noted, we ingest about a credit card’s worth in our food and water every week. Plastics, which we’ve dumped into our beleaguered oceans so much that it’s estimated the total tonnage there will outweigh fish by 2050. (Sorry, Slurp.) And plastics, the material whose environment-despoiling ubiquity plastics manufacturers have been scolding us for years is the fault of consumers who make fake Native Americans cry on TV and ignore the hastily thrown-together efforts of local recycling mascots to do our part. (That’s where the unholy goat-man comes in. His name is Totes McGoats, and disobey his well-intentioned recycling message at your peril, hapless residents of Niagara Falls, New York.)

And, of course, we should continue to do our part by filling those (plastic) curbside totes (Ohhhh— “Totes McGoats,” there it is)—and filling them with a lot more care. Oliver notes that you can’t recycle umbrellas, as much as you want to, and that those plastic single-use garbage bags really gum up the recycling plants’ works. But the host also dug deeper into the often two-story heaps of festering and slowly degrading-into-ingestible-microparticles plastics to show that the real plastic polluters are those selfsame plastic manufacturers who keep tut-tutting at us for daring to use their products while they routinely produce misleading propaganda ads and make and break promises about recycling every damned year.

As Oliver notes, companies like Coca Cola (the number one top global polluter) has been reciting the same old rosy predictions and assurances about company-wide plans to reduce, reuse, and the other thing for decades. At the same time, they’ve been part of the plastics manufacturers’ lobbying efforts to scuttle legislation like citywide plastic bag bans (now preemptively themselves banned in many states), and any proposed governmental regulations that would force them to take the responsibility for disposing of and recycling the literal metric tons of plastic crap they continue to churn out every day. (Such legislation is called Extended Producer Responsibility, and it’s a new thing to pester your representatives about now that we can all stop just primal screaming, “Get that fucking racist sociopath out of the White House before he kills us all, you spineless nothings!” into our lawmakers answering machines.)

As Oliver concluded (before turning things back over to Kind’s Slurp for some final credits sequence scene-stealing), yes, we need to do a much better job at cleaning and sorting our recyclables (and finding out exactly what those numbers on the bottom of our plastic containers mean). But what’s really going to make a difference is pressuring plastics manufacturers to pick up after their own, fish-poisoning, landfill-overflowing mess. Also, stop comparing the noble blobfish to noted environmental despoiler Ted Cruz. Slurp has feelings, you guys.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.