Friend Qualifiers

Bart Sells His Soul

An example of a functioning friendship.

You meet new people every single day – it’s pretty impossible not to – unless you’re a hermit or mentally unstable. Strangers acquaint each other by exchanging pleasantries, the usual “Hi, how are you? I’m so and so. Nice to meet you.” But what each person is really wondering is, “Am I even going to build a friendship with this person? Is it worth it? What’s in it for me?” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the process of building friend networks is to enhance your power in this big, blue world.

For the Simpsons fan, a very different series of questions runs through his head when meeting new people. He’ll begin pondering, “Is this person going to know Apu’s last name? Do she know who Stampy is? Does she know who shot Mr. Burns?”  I am not being cheeky: if you aren’t a fan of the Simpsons, or if you can’t respect why I’m such a big fan, we can’t be friends. Period.

Does anyone else feel the same way? Common interests are important when establishing new relationships. Having an affinity for the Simpsons is like having a key to the most exclusive (and coolest) club in the world. It gives you access to knowledge you’d otherwise never gain.  For example, being able to identify a kwijibo out of a crowd or knowing how to utilize sappy journalism as a means of revenge.

I just love The Simpsons. It perplexes me when I meet people my age who aren’t huge fans of the show. Your cool points dwindle when you can’t decipher between Patty and Selma. God forbid you don’t know who Jub-Jub is – turn around and walk away.

22 Short Films About Springfield

Whenever I explain my affinity for The Simpsons to someone, he or she will typically ask me, “Which episode is your favorite?” In my previous blog post, I explained why season four was my favorite season. As a collection, season four has the best sampling of episodes. Choosing one episode, one twenty-two minute snapshot into the world of Springfield is, as one blogger put it, is like “asking a parent to pick a favorite child!”

After much deliberation, I have come to my final decision. My favorite episode of The Simpsons is season seven’s “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

22 Short Films About Springfield

I like several different aspects of this episode. First of all, eleven different contributors wrote this episode, including the creator of the show, Matt Groening. Collaborative writing leads to a more well rounded piece of writing in any genre, but it is especially effective for comedy shows. I also love the different perspectives shown from local Springfieldians. The constant point of view switches works well in this episode. The viewer gets a more introspective look into each character’s lives.

In order to explain the final reason why I love this episode, I’m going to flash back to 1999. Remember the days of dial-up Internet connection, slow downloads, and constantly frozen computers? My parents had an ancient computer with all three of these problems. However, my oldest brother barred my other brother and I from using the computer because we would just mess it up. He was probably right. But when he let his guard down, the first thing my brother and I did was search for “22 Short Films About Springfield” to download. We opened up Napster and got to downloading. As the download began, we left the computer alone to let the download finish uninterrupted. Four hours later, the download was complete, and we watched the episode and laughed together. I’ve been sneaking around people’s backs to watch The Simpsons for over half my life.

Without a further ado, I will introduce the episode synopsis. A blogger from the Daily Kos provides an excellent recap. He states:

An episodic show with no real plot, “22 Short Films” pushed the envelope of what an episode of “The Simpsons” should be, while at the same time containing everything that makes the show great. Virtually every ancillary character in the show has a moment: Bumblebee Man, Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, Apu, Professor Frink, Burns and Smithers, and most hilariously of all, Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers. A new character, the Very Tall Man, is also introduced — and I love that guy. I love this show because it expands the show to include the entire city of Springfield rather than just limiting it to Bart, Homer, Lisa, Marge and Maggie.

I like this blogger’s interpretation because 22 Short Films does shed light on the complexities that occur in the town of Springfield. The Simpsons isn’t just about one family; it is about an entire community. This episode shows sides of periphery characters and that establishes their role in the Simpson family’s lives.

Dale Abersold, a contributor for The Simpsons Archive, reviewed the episode as well. Abersold states:

An instant classic! Here’s to our favorite writers for giving us this wonderfully kinetic portrait of our favorite city. The great moments are too numerous to mention, but the Van Houtens in Herman’s store, Lisa’s new hairstyle, and Nelson’s comeuppance were highlights. Grade A+. Best of the season.

I agree!

References:

Abersold, D. (June 10, 1996). Reviews. Message posted to http://www.snpp.com
Droogie 6655321. (June 26, 2009). My Top Ten Episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ (Now with No.6!). Message posted to http://www.dailykos.com

The Simpsons Attained Perfection in 1992

I’ll be blunt: the fourth season of The Simpsons is the best season of the show ever produced. Period.

The Simpsons may be in their twenty-first season, but the heart and soul of the show died years ago. My boys over at Dead Homers Society will wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Lucky for me, I have access to seasons one through ten of The Simpsons, so I can watch the golden years whenever I want. Whenever plagued with the “Hmm…which season to watch?” question, I always lean toward season four. I never quite knew why. In this post, I hope to show you why I feel this fondly about every episode in this season.

David Medster, a contributor for Bullz-Eye.com, wrote a intriguing review of season four. He states:

They picked a good episode to start with, too: “Kamp Krusty” has Bart and Lisa going off to a summer camp (as the bus pulls away, Lisa says, “If the pets die, don’t replace them, I’ll know.”) that’s supposedly run by Krusty the Klown. But Krusty being Krusty, he just sold his name to some goon who’s in fact running a sweatshop. Bart and Lisa mutiny, they make national news, and eventually Krusty does the right thing: he takes the kids to Tijuana.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The Simpson children were allowed to attend camp if both Bart and Lisa earned C averages in school. Before receiving their grades, Lisa states, “with no false modesty, you’re looking at one happy camper.” However, Bart isn’t as lucky: he gets all D’s on his report card. After some minor alterations, Bart presents his report card to Homer.

Bart Simpson: Well Dad, here’s my report card. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Homer Simpson: (incredulously) A plus?!? You don’t think much of me, do you boy?
Bart Simpson: (almost proudly) No sir!
Homer Simpson: You know a D turns into a B so easily. You just got greedy.

George Meyer penned the classic episode “Homer the Heretic.” In this episode, Homer decides to skip church on an especially frigid day. Homer proceeds to have the greatest morning ever. He cranks up the heat; dances around in his underwear; makes his patented “space-age out-of-this-world moon waffles”; and gets to watch a football game with a Duff in hand. When his family returns from a less than stellar morning, he decides that he is never going to church again. The episode comes full circle when Homer accidentally burns down his home on Evergreen Terrace and the local firefighters come to save him. Each firefighter is representative of different religions in town: Ned Flanders, Christian; Krusty the Klown, Jew; and Apu, Hindu. This episode is so effective because the plot is well thought out. Homer has a religious epiphany and makes his way back into church, asleep in the front pew.

Space-Age Out-Of-This-World Moon Waffles

If I had it my way, I’d ramble on about how “A Streetcar Named Marge” made Tennessee Williams’ play accessible to a new generation; how “Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie” shows that Homer wants to be a strong, disciplined parent toward Bart; or how “Lisa the Beauty Queen” provides integral character development for Homer. This last statement is worth elaborating on. While at the town fair, Lisa feels ugly after an artist draws an unflattering picture of her. At the same fair, Homer wins a ride on the Duff blimp. He sells his beloved ride in order to enter Lisa into the Little Miss Springfield pageant. Marge questions Homer’s motives for entering Lisa into a pageant without her consent:

Homer Simpson: Hey, nobody’s prettier than my little girl!
Marge Simpson: Mmmm, you’re looking at her through a father’s eyes.
Homer Simpson: Well if I could gouge out somebody else’s eyes and shove them into my eye sockets I would; but to me she’s beautiful!
Marge Simpson: (moved) That is so sweet.

David Medsker recaps season four with extreme accuracy. He states:

And then there is the 1992-1993 season. To paraphrase Matt Johnson and The The [sic], “The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season” is when things fall into place. Each episode in this four-disc set is not only good, it’s spectacular, jam packed with physical humor, social commentary, massive character development, the best animation yet (a slightly larger budget will do that), and some of the most unforgettable lines in TV history (“Uh, Amanda Hugginkiss? I’m looking for Amanda Hugginkiss? Why can’t I find Amanda Hugginkiss?!”). There were episodes in the years down the road that rivaled the ones here, but in terms of one season’s worth of work, it doesn’t get any better than this.

References:
Medsker, D. The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season. Posted to http://www.bullz-eye.com.
Holtz, M. (1994). Homer the Heretic. Posted to http://www.snpp.com

A Mathemagician

mathematician

Lisa Simpson: But seven goes into twenty-eight four times.

Mathemagician: Uh.. this is a MAGIC seven!

Marge Simpson – Playboy Bunny?

Ready to see Chesty La Rue in all her glory? The Simpsons camp announced that Marge Simpson will the latest Playboy cover girl. Marge is debuting her yellow birthday suit as a celebration of The Simpsons’ twenty year anniversary. The magazine hits the shelves October 16th.

Playboy CEO Scott Flanders (Ned’s illegitimate child?) says he is trying to appeal to readers younger than the magazine’s 35 year old average. Marge will be featured on the cover and inside with a three-page spread with “implied nudity”. Mrs. Simpson also has an interview featured in the magazine.

Marge-Simpson-01

Nudity on The Simpsons is not an unfamiliar occurrence. According to The Simpsons Archive, there are over a hundred documented references to or instances of nudity on The Simpsons. The show’s animators are creative in their efforts: placing a thin flower of Mr. Burns’ genitals; exposing Barney’s bare bottom; or showing movie goers Bart Simpson’s package.

Troy McClure: I’m Troy McClure and I’ll leave you with what we all came to see- hardcore nudity!

The writers and animators of The Simpsons see humor in nudity. Several moments come to my mind when I think about nudity on the show. In season two’s “Brush with Greatness”, Marge is hired by Mr. Burns as a portrait artist. For those of you unfamiliar with the episode, she has a difficult time painting Mr. Burns because she doesn’t see any beauty in him. Marge sees Mr. Burns stepping out of the shower and decides to paint a portrait of C. Montgomery Burns in the buff.

Montgomery Burns: Thanks for not making fun of my genitalia.
Marge Simpson: (aside) I thought I did.

Marge does her best to explain that she painted him naked because it shows that he is a human being, albeit an evil, sinister one. The illustrators must have had fun trying to decide what inanimate object would block Mr. Burns’ junk. A daisy worked beautifully.

The Simpsons Movie brought a whole new meaning to cartoon nudity. Bart Simpson takes a naked skateboard ride through Springfield after being dared by Homer. Throughout the entire ride, the audience is just waiting for Bart’s penis to be exposed, but it is always hidden behind something.  Eventually, Bart’s yellow package is shown. This is reminiscent of Mr. Burns’ portrait scenario. I don’t like this scene from The Simpsons Movie because it has already been done before. There was no need for the audience to see Bart’s noodle.

When Homer and Marge lose the spark in their relationship, they discover that the fear of being caught for sexing in public is a huge turn on. The Simpson parents run throughout Springfield au natural. After finding shelter in a hot air balloon basket, Homer and Marge wind up in the middle of a football field, completely naked. The pair holds hands and waves to the crowd. Marge is quite the exhibitionist.

Appearing in Playboy isn’t out of character for Marge Simpson. She is an artistic woman; she will appreciate the tasteful Playboy spread. Marge is in great shape for being in her thirties for twenty years. If I have a body like hers when I’m that old, I’d pose for Playboy too.

References:
Mutchler, Andrew. (June 6, 2004). The Simpsons Nudity List. Message posted to http://www.snpp.com
Guy, Sandra. (October 9, 2009). Playboy’s Next Cover Girl: Marge Simpson. Message posted to http://www.suntimes.com
Bruno, Mike. (October 9, 2009). Marge Simpson in Playboy: What ‘toon Do YOU Want To See Naked Next?. Message posted to http://popwatch.ew.com

Saturday Morning Wisdom

LISA'S DATE WITH DENSITY

Lisa Simpson: ‘Nuke the whales.’ You don’t really believe in that, do you?

Nelson Muntz: I dunno, gotta nuke something.

Now Here’s The Tricky Part…

Critics and fans agree that “Mother Simpson” is one of the most heart-warming episodes of The Simpsons ever written. The show’s viewers wondered for years- where is Homer’s mother? In season seven (1995) fans discovered her whereabouts.

After faking his own death, Homer explains to an employee at the Springfield town hall that he is indeed alive. His records show that his mother is alive. Homer argues that she passed away when he was a child. He stresses this fact by pointing to a statue in a nearby cemetery and says that angel is his mother’s grave. When he sees that the angel is Walt Whitman’s grave, he shouts, “DAMN YOU WALT WHITMAN! LEAVES OF GRASS MY ASS!” Then he tumbles into a pre-dug grave site, which happens to be his own. Here’s a glimpse into the scene:

Mona Simpson: You awful, awful man! Get out of my son’s grave!
Homer Simpson
: I hate to rain on your parade, Lady, but this is my grave. Hey, wait a minute – – Mom?
Mona Simpson
: Homer?
(They look at each other)

Homer Simpson
: I thought you were dead!
Mona Simpson
: I thought you were dead!

Mother-Simpson-01

This episode resonates well with most fans of the show. Some dissenters argue that the episode tries too hard to be emotional while others praise its ardent subtleties. One review praised how the episode was groundbreaking and full of pathos without appearing forced. Other reviews state how the story works well and fits in with current characterizations.

“Mother Simpson” isn’t in my top ten episodes.  However, this episode works because Homer reveals a side of himself that no viewer had seen yet: he is a simple man that wants to win the affection of his mother. In true Freudian tradition, Homer is walking on his hands to show his mother his infinite capabilities. She missed the events of his life that shaped him into the man he is today. Therefore, Homer feels compelled please her in any capacity. Homer isn’t spewing laugh out loud lines in this episode (aside from shouting at Walt Whitman’s memorial). Homer Simpson gained a lot of depth in this episode. Viewers get to see Mother Simpson sing Homer a lullaby, even if it is a Nabisco Fig Newton television jingle.

MOTHER SIMPSON

The plot of this episode comes full circle when Mona Simpson’s past is revealed. The viewers learn that Chief Clancy Wiggum was a student security officer at C. Montgomery Burn’s now defunct germ lab. Mona Simpson and her radical friends destroy the germs with an antibiotic bomb. Wiggum’s asthma disappears due to the inhalation of the healing gas.

Clancy Wiggum: Wait a minute- bronchial tubes clearing… Asthma disappearing! Acne remains, but…asthma disappearing!

Despite hiding with underground hippies for decades, Mona Simpson’s re-emergence into society doesn’t go smoothly. Mr. Burns recognizes Mona Simpson at the post office and he enlists help to track her down. However, someone tips the Simpson family off and Mona Simpson escapes to safety. Some of the most touching lines of the episode are uttered as mother and son say goodbye to one another.

Mother Simpson: Well, there’s my ride. The underground awaits.
Homer Simpson
: (sniffles) At least this time, I’m awake for your goodbye.
Mother Simpson
: (sniffles) Oh. Remember, whatever happens, you have a mother, and she’s truly proud of you.
(they hug)

Hippie
: Oh! Hurry up, man. This electric van only has twenty minutes of juice left!
Homer Simpson
: Don’t forget me!
Mother Simpson
: Don’t worry, Homer: you’ll always be a part of me. (hits her head on the door frame) D’oh!

Charlie Sweatpants, a blogger for Dead Homer Society, wrote a review of “Mother Simpson.” In his review, he commented that he liked the episode because it has an ending. In later seasons of The Simpsons, the writers are criticized for leaving ends unfinished. However, this particular episode is very concise in its actions. Having drawn out suspenseful or emotional scenes in this episode would have threatened the episode’s ability to touch audiences on a deeper level. The viewer caught a glimpse into Homer’s motherless young world instead of being forced to watch a montage of sad memories.

An anonymous tipster phones Homer and tells him that the police are coming. When Mother Simpson’s hippie friend arrives at a secret location to take her away, Homer addresses the anonymous tipster and asks why he helped them. Turns out, Chief Clancy Wiggum was able to enter the police academy after his asthma disappeared… a result of Mother Simpson’s germ lab bomb. He felt compelled to help the Simpsons out. This plot twist is endearing and it fits in well with Wiggum’s dim-witted but big-hearted character.

The episode’s ending is worth mentioning as well. Homer sits atop his pink car and watches the stars come out in what appears to be a desert sky. The music is reflective and different than normal episodes. Homer’s character went through a range of emotions in this episode. He is taking time out to reflect on his crazy life as he bids his mother farewell. This is the kind of tear-jerking usually omitted from The Simpsons’ repertoire, but it serves a meaningful purpose.

References:
Sweatpants, Charlie. (July 1, 2009). Wednesday Evening Cartoons. Message posted to http://deadhomerssociety.wordpress.com
Gooden, Doc. (June 6, 2008). Message posted to http://www.nohomers.net