The recent news that Ren & Stimpy is being revived at Comedy Central wasn’t exactly greeted by unanimous joy. Many took to social media to condemn the decision. Some asked why old shows continue to be recycled when the industry is bursting with young talent. Others questioned the wisdom of bringing back a show created by an accused child abuser.
The reboot now has a notable critic in Robyn Byrd, who has accused John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy, of abusing her when she was underage. Byrd has launched a petition calling for ViacomCBS to reverse course on the reboot. The petition has garnered more than 11,000 signatures so far.
Kricfalusi will not be creatively or financially involved in any reboot. Even so, Byrd argues that the show, if made, will “cause trauma and endanger fans and crew.” By placing the creator back in the spotlight, she writes, it will give him a platform to do more harm. “This man used Ren & Stimpy to lure young people to his studio and into his confidence, only to abuse them, stunt their careers, and molest young girls. He WILL DO IT AGAIN.”
In 2018, Buzzfeed published a report detailing Kricfalusi’s inappropriate and abusive behavior toward two underage girls, Byrd and Katie Rice. In the article, Byrd described her traumatic relationship with the artist, which began when she was a minor. She later revealed on Twitter that she’d had an abortion during her relationship with Kricfalusi, criticizing his handling of the situation.
“I know how some of John’s other victims feel,” Byrd tells Cartoon Brew, “because many of us are friends. I’ve known Katie Rice since the 1990s, and I have met more women who John either groomed as children or emotionally abused as grown women. So I’m speaking for many of us, and we are in agreement on the reboot.”
A new documentary, Happy Happy Joy Joy — The Ren & Stimpy Story, traces the history of the show’s initial run, and also addresses the later revelations about Kricfalusi. In the film, Byrd encourages fans of the original episodes to keep watching them if they want to, suggesting that they try to divorce their enjoyment from Kricfalusi’s input.
“The difference between a reboot and watching old episodes is a big one,” she tells us. “We can’t erase Ren & Stimpy, but we don’t have to popularize it all over again and bring new attention to its creator. I don’t care if people want to watch the old shows. But a new one isn’t an appropriate way to spend young artists’ time … I think young people, marginalized voices especially, should be who the execs are listening to.”