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Ugly Americans continues to deconstruct monster flicks in season 2 opener

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Instead of being subjects of horror movies, zombies, aliens as well as all different kinds of monsters have assimilated into society in the world of Ugly Americans. The main character Mark Lilly processes them regularly in his job as a social worker in New York City. His work and surroundings humanize them and breaks down the monster genre in an intelligent way, backdropping it within the droll city life.

Here’s a summary of episode 1 of the second season:

The episode Better Off Undead mostly focuses on Mark’s roommate Randall, who “went zombie” a while back for a girl only to find out she had moved onto warlocks a week later. Out of frustration for his unrequited love, Randall attends a confidence-building camp that teaches him to release his “inner zombie.” The camp, headed up by a maggot-filled ghoul, teaches him how to do stereotypical zombie things such as how to crawl out of a grave and stagger about yelling “Brains!” Little glimpses of the history that led up to the integrated human-monster society are revealed when Randall has to do a report on his zombie heritage, which includes a Zombie-human war that and eventually led to the domestication and then assimilation of the remaining zombie population.

Meanwhile, Mark reluctantly takes in one of his clients, one half of a two-headed monster who got separated because the other half abused him. Even though he’s a social worker, Mark doesn’t know how to deal with the monster’s abusive past (or his newly born second head for that matter), and against his better judgment, Mark order the two parts of the monster sewn back together so he can get rid of him.

Mark then gets worried that his roommate has become part of a zombie cult. To help Mark solve his problem, his co-worker Leonard Powers, a 500-year-old wizard, casts a spell that ends up being a curse that traps Mark in the rapidly aging body of Randall’s love interest. As with most cartoons, by the end of the episode Mark finds a way back to his body, Randall ditches the camp for his slacker lifestyle and things are back to normal… or at least as normal as they can be in that world.

The first season of Ugly Americans sort of slipped into the mainstream because it happens to air on Comedy Central, but it includes lots of inside gags on everything from The Wolf Man to Cthulhu. The animation is as stunning as anything from Augenblick Studios, the people who make the hand-animated ultra-violent show Superjail!

With this episode we see a continuation of Ugly Americans’ sharp premise. The fact that Randall needs to be taught how to act like a zombie brings up the show’s recurring argument that maybe monsters aren’t as evil as the media portrays them but misunderstood.

But even if they were integrated into society, they would still be treated as second-class citizens at best, subjugated to strict bureaucracy they don’t understand and only accepted (to an extent) by a “bleeding heart” social worker like Mark Lilly. In doing so, the show makes the subtle commentary that the true Ugly Americans aren’t the monsters in the story.

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