Roaches are respectfully disgusting

My name is Joe, but thank God I don't live in Joe's apartment.

After all, who would want to share a place with thousands of filthy, rude and ill-humored roommates? Who on Earth would live in condemnable conditions which resemble a sewer better than they do a building?

Joe would. Joe's the star of the movie heralded to be MTV's first feature film - "Joe's Apartment." And who are Joe's roommate co-stars? Cockroaches.

Anyone who has watched MTV for more than 20 minutes at a time has surely seen commercials for this flick, but just in case you don't have cable, let me fill you in.

The 50,000 roaches Joe shares his apartment with aren't your average insects - these roaches are awfully talented (no pun intended). As far as I could see from commercials for the movie, these roaches' talents include singing and dancing in formation on a toilet seat, launching a massive aerial assault from a chandelier, and, best of all, thrusting their little roachie private parts while making noises like they are going to hurl. Talk about good, wholesome, American entertainment.

But that's not all. These roaches use their talents for good, not evil. Apparently, Joe's six-legged buddies help him fight off a landlord and his thugs who want to evict Joe. The landlord wants to sell the building to the city so the site can be used for a new prison. Of course, even roaches won't stand for a prison being built in their neighborhood. I mean, who wants that kind of filth in their town?

What's more frightening than a bunch of talking roaches, though, is the unsanitary silliness of such a movie. If the commercials contain the best clips that the producers believe will draw people to the theaters for this thing, I'm honestly afraid to find out what the rest of the feature holds. Now, I usually won't consider a movie to be "bad" without seeing it first, but watching very realistic-looking cockroaches jumping around and landing on top of people for an hour and a half is not my idea of a good time. Who would dare eat popcorn during such a flick? I'd be afraid I'd swallow a roach, and I'd probably have nightmares for weeks. But sure enough, the same people who will stay up late to watch "Beavis and Butthead" will probably line up for this one. If this thing ever makes it to television, for the sake of our children, I hope the V-chip is put to good use.

I think I can handle seeing some pretty sick stuff without getting queasy, but just watching the commercial for the first time was revolting. I was introduced to Joe and his pals at dinner a few nights ago. After grabbing my Pizza Pocket out of the microw ave, I foolishly turned on MTV expecting to be entertained. Instead, I watched the mighty beach house tiki god introduce "Singled Out," and, a few minutes later, a commercial for "Joe's Apartment" appeared. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Rather, I was disgusted. It took several minutes before my stomach was ready to let me finish my dinner.

So why a movie about bugs? Don't most people think bugs are gross? Haven't the millions of dollars of American money that go toward bug spray, roach motels and professional exterminators each year convinced us that people hate these little vermin and enjo y getting rid of them? A colleague of mine told me of a recent triumph when her fianc­ stomped on a cockroach, and she saw thick, white ooze come out - a sign that convinced her he had stopped a "pregnant" cockroach from nearly infesting their home.

Maybe there is an instinctual need to save our dwellings from infestation, but at the same time, we seem to have an eerie respect for bacteria-carrying creepy-crawlies. There has to be some sense of amazement with the fact that the world's roach populatio n is probably greater than that of humans, and scientists report that roaches would survive a nuclear holocaust after everything else on Earth had died. And don't forget that now, they're saving people's apartments from evil landlords.

Unintentionally, we find ourselves carrying out strange rituals to show our respect for bugs. A Tucson exterminating company paid a woman $1,000 last month when she captured Tucson's largest cockroach - 1.735 inches long. KFMA radio announced recently tha t Toxic Ranch Records will give anyone who brings a dead bug to their store $5 off a T-shirt in commemoration of "Joe's Apartment." As kids, many of us had ant farms that allowed us to observe the wonders of little ant communities. Bugs have to be pretty powerful to demand such an interest from us humans.

I don't know. It seems like a very strange love-hate relationship is going on here. Who knows? Maybe in a few thousand years, evolution will create roaches that really can talk. And then we've got a real problem - not only can we not get rid of them, but we won't be able to shut them up either.

Please, help save the human race. Don't give these bugs the respect they want. Don't give in to your strange desire to sit in a dark room watching talking roaches for over an hour. Arm yourself with Raid and prepare to fight.

Joseph Altman Jr. is a journalism and political science junior and editor in chief of the Arizona Summer Wildcat. He will be back next week after he stocks up on bug spray.