There’s No Disgrace Like Home

There’s No Disgrace Like Home

My recollection

The song Marge sings, taking the padding off the mallets, and the electro-shock therapy with the seldom seen again Marvin Monroe. About the only interesting thing Monroe ever did was pitch the Monroe box to Grampa Simpson. This is reflected in the fact that he only appeared in 13 episodes and was canonically dead until the writers got bored and needed a shitty joke in season 15.

The Episode

You didn’t burst out a cunt the fully formed, rad character you are today, that took some time and growth. With some occasional exceptions (sans a massive change, Rick and Morty feels pretty set out-of-the-box), early seasons in a TV series will have characters that can differ a bit from their popular conceptions. The Internet gave a name to this, a mirror of the “jump the shark” concept, called “grow the beard” named for the appearance of William Riker’s facial hair heralding the arrival of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s quality seasons. There’s No Disgrace Like Home is clean shaven Riker. A close shave, too close, and now Riker is bleeding. You made Riker bleed and Marge is acting like Homer. Are you happy now? Am I? Well I’ve committed myself to 11 years of writing these, so no. This episode has no beard, few jokes, and no honour.

The story is literally a bizarro version of later seasons, wherein this mirror reflects to us a vision of Homer being the stable anchor of an out-of-control family who don’t respect or appreciate him. There’s a company picnic! This is being held by a remarkably always on-character Mr Burns and a now WHITE Smithers. Ah, white Smithers, I finally have something to identify with. Burns Manor, and Burns himself, are all here in recognizable form: a demented late 19th century robber-baron so devoid of humanity that he needs to rig and win a father/son sack race by himself to feel joy. Mr Burns, his loathing of gelatin desserts, and his desire to release hounds on his employees are the highlights of another dull tread through season 1 mediocrity.

Homer just wants his family to not be a puddle of worthless scum for a few hours so his boss won’t fire him for… reasons? This seems to happen in cartoons a lot, bosses able to fire you for things that are insane or have nothing to do with work. Maybe this isn’t cartoons and is a reflection of what happens when the USA successfully eliminates its unions. One guy gets fired because his kid says he doesn’t want to be at the company picnic. Capitalism is freedom! So with their potential slide from lower middle class to my level, Toilet Person, as a threat, the family decide to be a fresh batch of fuckknuckle cookies anyway. Bart is understandable as that’s his character, so he can be a tool and it won’t stand out. Shine on, you shithouse emerald.

“You spoke! You spoke! Now LEMONDADDY gets to suck on a certain little boy’s ears!”

Early Lisa was a little more bratty and this is often seen as a sloppy early character trait before she developed out of it but I think it’s part of her and something that does pop up from time to time. She may be a measurable genius but she is still a child, and forgetting the former has flanderised her into a parody of the latter in later seasons. Here though, there is less a sense of childish mischief and a more, as the French say, bartesque purposelessness to it. There’s not a whole hell of a lot but it manages to sit awkwardly compared to the calmer person she’s been in even the earlier 3 episodes so it adds another lump of poo to a shit salad of an episode.

Marge comes off worst here, not only at the picnic but for the entirety of the episode. Some cite her almost neglect of Maggie as being out of character, she dumps her in front of the TV and wanders off, but she has frequently danced on the line of poor mother with the youngest Simpson so I argue that this is within the scope of Marge as a character. Maggie’s been dumped in a ball pit, been given a pacifier in spite of the directions of Dr Wolfe and is often ignored so Marge dumping her to be raised by Television and a Thunderdome-like civilisation of other abandoned babies is fine. The rest of the episode, less so.

I’d disagree again, because I am right, about the assessment of Marge getting drunk as being out of character as it sort of sneaks up on her. She doesn’t just make a Homer like beeline for a bottle of vodka, so the active agency of the character isn’t directed toward getting hammered. Take that away and you have the “never drinker” getting drunk and that functions as a fair excuse for character differences and the hi-jinks that follow. Trust me, I was drunk for 8 years and did bar work for 6, the most insane Jekyll and Hyde changes in people are in the ones who never drink. Me? Fucking stable as a carpenter’s level because I’m 4 years into a bender and this is just who I am now. It’s the fucking normals and office types you’ve gotta watch out for. They don’t know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, I do, I’m Alec Baldwin.

The scene is an interesting blending of cartoon reality and reality, which later episodes milked for a joke but here it doesn’t know if it’s a collective hallucination the characters are experiencing or a comic novelty the audience is. Having a musical episode or sequence within a show that isn’t one otherwise requires either a good explanation or it has to never be acknowledged. Musicals are their own, aberrant level of reality so cancerous they kill anything they sit beside if not adequately quarantined or cured using the healing power of Gwyneth Paltrow sweat. Marge gets hammered and sings, which is normal, the other housewives sing along with her in a coordinated bit, which is less normal. Fun enough for a joke but it’s seen occurring as its own absurdity in the background of other, normal scenes. As with absurdity in earlier episodes, later seasons directly address it to make a joke out of it such as in the “We Put the Spring in Springfield” song in Bart After Dark. Here it just kind of occurs and stands as a signpost that the creative team hadn’t exactly hammered down The Simpsons reality yet. Reality levels are important considerations when discussing something and I don’t see them brought up much so I’m harping on them a bit here. LEARNING IS FUN!

Characterisation aside, the story starts somewhere sensible and flows into a real situation a family may find itself in. Homer is not disappointed in his family so much as worried they aren’t functional. It’s a love based concern that does fit the character even if it’s a little serious. The comic buffoon can have honest moments of serious emotion, I’d argue that those are even necessary to keep them from devolving into parody, so structuring an episode around this is not out of character. What is out of character is Marge. The only times Homer is concerned and Marge isn’t is when the fault that is causing concern is Marge’s. $pringfield is a good counter example to this episode. The family was going to hell and Homer was either worrying openly or coping poorly. Here, Homer is concerned and Marge just doesn’t care. She is not even slightly embarrassed about getting hammered in front of Homer’s boss. She wants to shovel food into her face in front of the TV and isn’t interested in a nice family dinner. This is not Marge. This is Moe in Marge’s skin which was a fanfiction I wrote and an actual episode in season 33.

One Reply to “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”

  1. Americans don’t call it “Gelatin desserts,” we use the brand name, Jello, as a generic.

    We also don’t call jam jelly. We call jam jam, we call jelly jelly, and we call marmalade marmalade. I prefer jam to jelly. If what you call jam is what we call jelly I don’t like your jam.

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