Category: Gabriel Morton versus The Simpsons

You won’t enjoy it on as many levels as I do

Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

My Recollection

Lisa being really Jesus-y. The whole idea of “cable” which was TV but loads more. Drederick Tatum.

Religions are shaped by the societies that spawn them. Their deities are a reflection of their needs, fears, and cultural worldview. Farmers have gods of the seasons; warriors have gods of battle; city states have aloof politicians. That sort of thing. Even imports get adapted to local customs. This is why the Germanics had a kind of Battle Christ, because and all-loving, pacifist saviour depicted wielding spears and killing monsters makes sense for a society built around using weapons to take things. The gutter Christianity of the outer suburbs undergoes a similar flavouring.

Actual faith is so hard it’s typically managed only by the genuinely mad and madly genuine. Maniacs and monks can manage the mindless focus or intellectual energy to believe without the nagging human need for even a primitive standard of evidence. Most have faith in the social structures, buildings, books, important hats, and other verifiably real components of their religion. This is also why people wildly defend things like this even though they are trivial in the face of omnipotence. Real faith is hard, and it’s the kind of hard the anxieties inherent to a borderline existence make impossible.

Feeling like you are part of a community, even one that nominally wants you, is tricky when you are otherwise choked by a sense of alienation, so it was only the outer suburban fundies that regularly attended church. A more organised protestant approach was thwarted by a literacy level that made any reading a challenge let alone a deep reading of an already convoluted mass of thrice-interpreted nonsense. So the outer-suburbs had a kind of Christ by osmosis whose resemblance to the Christ of the Church was more an accident of proximity rather than any liturgical similarity. A little like when someone’s your childhood friend because they live on your street.

Without the luxuries of regular meals, education, and structure; without the reliable leash of pulpit or book; with only the dehumanising effects of being the dirt the economic ladder stands in, the Christ of the gutter becomes an animal Christ, a near shapeless Alpha tuned to whatever sensation is coursing through the believer at any given time.

Most of the time, Gutter Christ is a stern parent. Not too far from the mainstream interpretation, itself a reflection of the way humans struggle to understand power through any other lens than the one’s they’re born to, this one is a vague threat who exists to maintain a thin strand of social cohesion. There is little compassion to Gutter Christ because there is little compassion in the lives of its faithful. There’s only a cycle of desperate animal grasping for the brief moments of joy brought by objects and prestige, and the want for revenge when those aren’t forthcoming. Gutter Christ is a genie to be begged for wishes, the older brother who’ll bash you up later, the father who’ll be mad when he gets home even if, like in real life, he never does.

I’ve heard this exact quote, “If this car gets towed, God’s own angels will come for you”. A double-parked hick lady summoning the awesome force of THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE to punish anyone for towing her fucking car.

It’s easy to see Gutter Christ as a peasant degeneration, because it is, but I’d always thought it quite a long one from the outwardly respectable Church Christ I saw on TV and elsewhere. Then I went to some local quasi-scout thing.

Before the internet, cutting things, hitting things with other things, and fire were among my top hobbies, so when neighbours said that there was some kind of youth group that did all this, I was fairly up for it. It was the evening on a weekend and we traipsed through the bush land behind the housing commission strip toward the special school at the top of the hill. Walking toward the special school at all was weird for the local kids. Legend had it that going there made you retarded. Or that going there meant the retardeds would get you. Or we’d all just call you retarded for being seen in the vicinity of it because it’s important to single out and abuse people if only to keep from being a target yourself.

This particular evening, the school was haunted by the weirdness of existing at night and the weirdness of the hypersmile friendliness common to Christian youth groups. There’s two types of Christian youth workers: People who look like a Wiggle and people who look like a groundskeeper. These were the groundskeeper types which made me happy as I didn’t want to hear a song about Jesus or acoustic guitar. They organised a game of touch Bullrush and then took us inside to explain their fun group of normal fun.

Say what you will about Gutter Christ, at least its relevant to the problems of its believers. Completely Normal Youth Ministry’s presentation on the benefits of faith started odd and got batshit at a pace remarkable even for religion.

I think there’s something in one of the books about moving mountains with prayer which I always took to be somewhat allegorical. Not Completely Normal Youth Ministry! Nope, spent a whole bit on how you could actually mind-hadoken a continent nipple out of the way with the power of CHRIST as though he were the X-gene. No evidence was presented. The rest of this section presented CHRIST like a Jewish sham-wow, capable of doing all this and more, only without the demonstration. It was the same genie functions of Gutter Christ, just instead of the sad but ultimately feasible wishes of the underclass it was the deranged and impractical wishes of dingbats with food and two cars.

The great thing about CHRIST is that he’ll defend you from all the dangers common to the modern first world, like witch-doctors and their bone curses. A witch doctor could point a bone at me and tell me I’m going to die, but CHRIST will stop that curse. There was no evidence presented for this, not that I was expecting any because I had never, and have still never, personally seen a fucking witch doctor. These people are meant to be Building Christ, the smarter one, and I’m sitting here watching the Jim’s Mowing sign tell me that I should cast my lot in with their nut-club because it guarantees me protection from witch-doctors. Why not spiders? I’ve seen those around, fucking gimmie a Christ that shoos huntsmen out of the corner of the house for me. Nope. He moved on to how CHRIST can use his Aegis Reflector to shield me from Devil Magic.

After the evening turned out to be 30 minutes of Bullrush with the tackles taken out and 40 minutes of yammering about how CHRIST has frame advantage on hobgoblins, I opted to never return. Even the Gutter Christ folk stopped going after a while, as they’d little use for protection against bone curses when Gavin was at the end of the street throwing rocks again.

The Episode

I’ve written about the primary skills of critique more extensively here, but it always helps to harp on about important things when a good example comes up so I’ll do it again now. A critic, to qualify as one and not just a reviewer or entertainer, must be able to separate things they like from things that are good. I fucking hate the religious moralising in this episode. At the very least, it’s built from a lie. Religion is not the source of any human morality and presenting the ten commandments as that is measurable lunacy. Rape’s not in there anywhere. There’s a whole thing about not making images for worship because god’ll get jealous but nothing about rape. The idea that there is any level of relevant moral education one can draw from the scrawlings of primitive desert morons is a joke and yet it’s the seriously taken foundation for this episode.

Foundation points like this are tricky as there’s a proportional relationship between how much a work can get away with overt preaching and how much that preaching is related to demonstrable reality. This relationship has some nominal subjectivity in the form of whether the receiver agrees with it or not. I say nominal because it’s either true or not, in this case not, but that is a separate problem to the one of reception of the work. “We should all get along” is both broadly accepted and based in reality so it tends to pass by unnoticed. “Look out! Niggers!” may be positively received in certain circles but those are circles divorced from reality.

Of note here is the fact that reality asserts itself. Arguments that one thing may or may not have been seen as real at some point in our history are irrelevant. That people thought ear goblins caused toothaches doesn’t matter because it isn’t the case. The real can be misunderstood, covered up, smeared in relativism, even denied, but never changed. If you believe it can be, try leaping from a building and disagreeing with the fall. Report back with the results.

Part of the critical understanding of these foundation elements is to reduce them to their lowest terms. The above mentioned, “Look out! Niggers!” is phrased in a way to cause maximum discomfort to audiences raised in the modern western grasp of race. It’s basic component is simply “Look out! Others!” with the other being whatever a society happens to feel like making an enemy of. This is a good way of understanding the core idea of a work (or element thereof) and being able to correctly contextualise it. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs provide useful contrasting points for this understanding. I.Y. Yunioshi is a joke where “Ha, Japs” is the punchline, and one so grotesque even reviewers of the time regarded it as racist. Conversely, the (to modern eyes) frighteningly racist caricatures of Coal Black were not built with “Ha, Blacks” as the punchline. They were caricature absurdities that fit within their animation style, they were made for a black audience, and even featured black artists as voice talent. Whether you feel the end result trumps the intent is irrelevant to whether or not the intent was there, and deliberate xenophobic othering is wildly different to slights and slurs one must construct from post-fact interpretations. One has a lasting negative intent at its core, the other is of its time.

Religion co-opts and monopolises human kindness as a threat to ensure its own survival and this episode’s basis supports that threat. Lisa hallucinating eternal torment because her father is stealing cable (of all fucking things) is presented as a positive source of moral instruction and not the result of cult brainwashing. But it’s still a good episode because it’s not the lowest term of the narrative, just the structure the term is hung on, and most of the rest of it lives within temporal contexts like the humble ear goblin.

Now this is not to say that the moralising doesn’t cause actual problems, it does and these stem from the weakness of the core immorality. Nobody cares about stealing cable in the same way one would care about burglary, if they care at all, which is by design as this shifts the conflict to a matter of principle. This conflict shift is necessary to drive the narrative toward its strongest, and most sensible for a family sitcom, point: how Homer and Lisa interact. The problem is that this shift to a matter of philosophy and principle is something the Homer character is not specced to deal with, particularly as any combative interaction with Lisa frames him as an unreasonable buffoon or oaf. So what is a story mostly about character winds up with some lazy narrative points needed to drive the philosophically weak Homer toward the narrative’s goal.

This sticking point comes in the form of the cable repair guy, who degenerates from realistic scumbag to ridiculous cartoon villain because STEALING BAD. It’s as based in reality as a school talk on the dangers of marijuana use and is emblematic of the problems inherent in whining about something that isn’t really a problem. Nobody cares if you steal cable any more than someone would disown you for pirating Game of Thrones. One marijuana won’t make you a junkie so the very real, character appropriate conflict between Homer and his daughter gets polluted by the nefarious Cableburglar and his moustache twirling criminality. His amorality can’t stop at something simple and understandable or the moralising will look like what it is, petty whining, so the story makes a ridiculous leap and turns him into a monster. All because of one joint, kids.

Homer is not equipped, at all, to notice or care about the moral implications of stealing cable. He’s a sad animal grabbing at joy. What he is very capable of picking up on, though, and what this episode does extremely well, is the feelings of his children (eventually). He’s not a great man, but he does try as a father, and the episode doesn’t even try to present him as having changed his mind in regards to the morality of what he was doing, he buckles because what he does is threatening his relationship with the daughter he loves.

The Cableburglar, and Homer’s paranoid reaction to him, detract from this both by being divorced from reality and by weakening the reason for Homer’s eventual change. Is he buckling to his daughter because he loves her and believes in her so much that he trusts her moral instincts over his, or is he frightened out of it by criminals and prison dream sequences? These are at cross purposes and sadly detract from what is an otherwise quality Homer/Lisa episode.

The religiosity of the episode annoyed the hell out of me for years. The Simpsons were always a religious family, but more the kind of pragmatic deists whose churchgoing was a combination of habit and community interaction. A characterisation hammered home by its juxtaposition to the Flanderseses’ comic fundamentalism. But this episode was so insistent on making religion the source of moral pressure that it may as well have been written by Ned.

But it has focus. It’s paced well. The narrative is, largely, structured to pit an adult’s knowledge that this theft is okay against a child’s crude but honest view of right and wrong, and it turns this into a wonderful character dive. I don’t like Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment (I mean, the title alone is a mess), but it is good.

Yours in hiding the stuff I borrowed from work, Gabriel.

Jokes, lines, and stray thoughts.

The opening “10 Commandments” gag features another feature of early Simpsons, non-Springfield characters. Modern episodes wedge side characters in wherever they can and I’m looking forward to finding the tipping point.

“Sneaky Pete” being Flanders’ go to insult is funny.

 

Cable companies ARE big faceless corporations and every Australian has an obligation to damage anything owned by Murdoch.

“This is where Wall St gets arrested” is another decent rule of 3 joke.

Bart excited about hell even though he saw it a few episodes ago.

Our first time meeting Troy McClure!

The natural absurdity of Lisa’s 8th commandment madness is emphasised in the supermarket scene. It needs to be irrational, because the episode is about Homer yielding to his daughter, not realising stealing cable is wrong.

Other churches have the stealing thing as their 7th commandment. The commandment itself has undergone growth over the years, starting with basic interactions between neighbours, presumably to help maintain social cohesion, but it grew into a form of basic consumer rights law under Martin Luther.

Homer knocking Lisa over as he jumps up at the TV is funny.

Lenny and Carl’s dismal way of catching the fight is a similarly good joke in an episode a little short on them

“I can picture it now. The screen door rusting off its filthy hinges, mangy dogs staggering about looking vainly for a place to die” Burns’ line is mean but accurately describes the underclasses.

“I don’t watch him every minute” a lot of the good jokes in this episode are the kinds of little, missable lines that, like salt, are seemingly small and meaningless but you’d notice their absence.

Bart’s porn is barely relevant to the episode but it eats time and produces one excellent joke.

 

Yup, that’s vaginas alright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two scenes sum up so much activism.

Our first time seeing Tatum! He’s a little more sensible here, but the idea of dedicating the fight to his opponents dead manager is fucking hilarious.

Perspective in animation is tough. A lot of shows will basically never show characters in certain ways because the stylised animation style gives them a physiognomy that looks monstrous from a lot of angles. Lou and Eddie here, both look like weird birds.

Who’s the random skinhead in the bottom right corner?

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge

My Recollection

Maggie bashing Homer in the head. Marge episode. The frightening wide-eyed stare of “nice” Itchy and Scratchy.

My neighbour in Goodna was a kid called Steven. His father was a stunted wookie with an 80 IQ called Devlin and his mother was a garbage bag full of cottage cheese. He was so skinny he could fit behind the gas bottles behind the house and the one time I used the toilet there the paper was a school exercise book. The only time he got a good Christmas present, a working 50cc peewee motorbike, his dad insisted on using it first and his huge ass blew out both tires while Steven watched. His relationship with his father was tense.

Feral families don’t have pets so much as they just cohabitate with animals. I’ve seen two kids sharing a room because one of the rooms was the dog’s and the fact that I was never sure whether that arrangement was the dog’s idea or not pretty much answered the question. Sometimes they are fun animals, like a friendly dog with its own room who only occasionally tries to rape you. Sometimes they are insanely dangerous things hemmed in by 7 foot high chicken wire that turn the back yard and rear door into absolute no-go areas. Sometimes they’re a savage duck that only likes Devlin.

Most animals are just kind of there. They react to things and that’s about it. Any negative experience you have with them — being bitten, chased, or what have you — are side-effects of natural systems that aren’t really about you at all. Then there’s birds. Birds are smart and can fly. This means they aren’t besieged with the kind of minute-to-minute mortal terror that occupies the mind of something like a mouse. They can sit up on a pole, far from any threat, and get fucking bored. Birds are one of the few animals that will look at something that is neither food, foe, or mate, and decide to interfere in its existence purely for the chuckles. This has always given their misbehaviour the tangy aftertaste of thoughtful malice you just don’t get with anything else.

I don’t remember the duck ever being a duckling and with that goes the only explanation I could ever have for why a duck liked Devlin. Nothing liked Devlin. Trees instinctively fell on him. I spite of this reality, he and the duck got along. I subscribe to the theory Steven advanced, that Devlin and the duck were exactly the same type of asshole, because Steven’s relationship with the duck was tense. I’ve had relatives who had birds as pets and it’s left me with a negative to confused view of the idea. In retrospect, having a corner of a room you can no longer access because a sulphur crested cockatoo will go berserk is strange. Can I pet it? No, it will screech and bite you. Can I feed it? No, it will screech, bite you, and eat the food once you’ve run away screaming. Does it fill the house with pleasant music? No, it sounds like Gilbert Gottfried stabbing another Gilbert Gottfried. Even with this as my baseline understanding of bird pets, the duck was a bad pet.

Stealth sections aren’t a fun addition to most games and they’re even less fun when a psychotic bird imposes one on your house. I found this out by taking a normal step for a small male child of about 11 and being told that it was too loud. Too loud for what? It turns out there’s nothing in the human fear instinct pile that corresponds to hateful quacking so I stood there wondering what the fuck that sound was until it had chased me out of the house. Don’t step too loudly. Don’t make eye contact with it. Don’t speak above a whisper. These were the rules a child had to live by because of a duck. Steven had a tense relationship with his father. Steven had a tense relationship with the duck. This was one tension too many.

A critical state is, broadly, a point at which a system can change. Think of sand in an hourglass and the way it doesn’t just pile up forever. Critical states are whole circumstance before collapse, not the individual cause. Because sometimes, particularly in large or baflfingly complicated systems, the catalyst is an impossible variable to know. It might be the very first grain has been on an odd angle this whole time. It might be a particularly fat grain about to tumbled down on top of the pile. I cannot remember what started the fight because it ultimately doesn’t matter. Steven, Devlin, and the duck were a critical state. Then there was a collapse.

A broken human is an amazingly capable thing because when you’ve nothing left to fear you suddenly find yourself without any limits.

When Steven broke, he did the last thing I expected him to do and picked up the duck. Among the list of things the duck didn’t like — Steven, being touched by Steven, and being picked up by Steven —  it was most certainly not prepared for all three to happen at once. It went into an apoplectic fit of beaks and feathers. At the sight of this, Devlin entered a similar state but struggled to get out of the semi-collapsed yard couch he was aggressively gesticulating from.

To throw something is to toss it with the intent of being caught. To peg something is to throw a thing with the intent of it fucking caning whatever you’ve pegged the thing at. Steven pegged a furious duck into his hollering father’s face and the following explosion of feathers, toothless hillbilly, and mindless rage was something to behold.

Animals react to things like being pegged at a face and having something pegged at their face with a near equal level of directionless hostility so it wasn’t too surprising that what started as a fight between Steven and Devlin became a kind of brawl between Devlin’s face and the duck. The duck didn’t fucking care what it was doing, like a slightly vexed Donald, it was just thrashing whatever was nearest. Devlin seemed to want a peaceful resolution to this but couldn’t decide whether he wanted his arms to wobble him up to a standing position or deal with the bitey ducknado assaulting him so neither happened. Devlin’s face was furious at both these problems but could do nothing but endure an horrendous pinching until the duck tired and waddled back to its corner of the yard.

The cottage cheese, disturbed from playing Centipede on an Atari, wandered into the back yard and began a quick assessment of which party she could give away with the least effort. Steven didn’t have to stealth level around his own home anymore and I eventually got to watch Devlin get regularly bitten by his own dog.

The Episode.

There’s a moment in the commentary track for Itchy and Scratchy and Marge where they argue the episode isn’t trying to make a point. This is a variant of the Idiot Defence. Letterman used the Idiot Defence a lot. He’d argue some point, sometimes quite articulately, but because he has to speak to a broad audience that would contain the exact morons he had contempt for, he’d finish his piece by grumbling that he was an idiot and struggled with these ideas. It’s called the Idiot Defence because only an idiot could fall for it. This episode’s makers don’t want you to think they have a point, lest they upset any idiots, but they do and its existence creates a very strong episode.

There’s a tension between comedy and narrative. For a comedy to work, it needs to make you laugh so this prioritises jokes over everything else and is what generally separates it from a drama that’s funny. Shows like The Simpsons (and other animated sitcoms), 30 Rock, and Community will often run multiple plot threads, ones that typically shorten and weaken other dramatic elements, as they need the surface area for more jokes. This is why you see a lot of multi-thread storytelling, something that makes sense in hour long programs, jammed into 22 minute comedies. It mostly works because the comic characters tend to be more archetypal and require less fleshing out to feel appropriate for their worlds, but the current era, and its easy to binge/catch up distribution methods, has spoiled us with serialisation to make up for the shortfall. The Simpsons has always played loose with its serialised elements. They’re definitely there, think of the character growth and life changes for Apu, but it is often hard to tell which bit of what episode is going to be blessed with absorption into the canon. Its unreliable nature, and relative scarcity besides, means the show typically relies on the multi-thread approach as enough good jokes easily drown out the bad ones.

It’s easy to look at a broken lamp surrounded by rotting foodstuffs and forget that it’s also garbage. It’s similarly easy to look at Marge as the suffering angel surrounded by pigs. The glimpses we get of her in most other episodes lean into the archetypal and non-serialised, housewife generally and cop episode for example, and these tend to obfuscate her more than develop her. So we’re left with a woman in the shadow of Homer, a chaotic monstrosity, in which she will only ever look a saint. What flaws that get their own episodes, gambling addiction for instance, are always treated as problems Marge is a victim of. She is seldom overtly treated as bad so you can only catch glimpses of real faults in the corners of focused episodes like this one.

We get to see a lot of Marge here, it’s her story and her quest. The obvious things part of the not-message this episode has, like the hypocrisy of some crusading nitwit demanding an end to only the art she doesn’t like, are depicted as only the overzealous result of a core positive trait. But with time and focus we see more.

Marge is not a good mother. Loving to the point of anxiety, sure, but fretting and parenting are different things. Marge dumps her child in front of the TV and this child immediately imitates what she sees as though there’s no other competition in its developing mind for behavioural role-models. What does Marge do all day that this is Maggie’s reaction to violent imagery? Lisa doesn’t do this sort of thing at all. Even Bart, gob of novelty malice as he’s frequently depicted, doesn’t just bash Homer over the head. Marge spends all her time with Maggie and yet it’s like she’s not there at all.

Marge is present in her children’s lives as a being but not as a parent. She cares a lot, but it is a care mutated by domestic stagnation and garden variety ignorance. She is bored by her children, so rather than spend time with her youngest, she reaches out for the broader recognition she craves and becomes an activist, guaranteeing her less time with her child. We never see her address this problem in her own child at all. The most she interacts with Maggie after this is to say, “Bad baby” before abandoning her to campaign against Itchy and Scratchy. This is like starting a letter writing campaign to change leash laws while the dog is still mauling your child.

And all of this is excellent.

Archetypes are easy but will inevitably skew dull, particularly when they are the actual Nuclear Family. The other characters developed softening and hardening traits that gave cookie-cutter beings depth. Marge has always been a tough one to do this to as narrative balance requires a straight-man and the resulting victim status makes polluting her with genuine awfulness dangerously close to punishing viewer sympathy. There are other instances (I don’t count her getting drunk in season one as being on-character though so I exclude it) of this throughout the good years and I’ll bring them up as we go. They’re often, and by comparison, surprisingly brief but they add depth to a woman whose character is often little more than an archetype draped in baubles. This episode’s focus gives her the time and narrative developments to be whole and it’s a pleasant change. Remember, a bad character isn’t the same as bad characterisation.

Beyond a better look at Marge, the episode’s singular focus makes it a structural feat, albeit one aided by the setting. Crafting a structurally cohesive ensemble comedy, or anything really, is tricky when you’ve broad character variety. Coming up with reasons for all the characters to be together or a story that naturally involves all of them can be hard and many shows struggle with this. Archer particularly resorts to lazy contrivances it then obnoxiously plays of with self-awareness. The core narrative of this episode is a godsend for being naturally imbued with things for everyone to be doing and the story fills these gaps well. The result, like a lot of focused Simpsons episodes, is a story where even the absurd detours feel necessary to the story. The musical interlude where the children return to the idyllic hobbies and manners of a never real yesteryear is silly, but it’s a silliness that narrative impetus casts as a brief detour from the norm with the promise of a return to normality functioning as a stabilising agent.

It would be easy for Itchy and Scratchy and Marge to be a real drag of an episode. Its core plot point is identical to last week’s Bart the Daredevil. It’s a Marge episode. And it’s about something as fundamentally stupid as a crusading ninny whining about cartoon violence. I said at the start that the directors commentary tried to fob off any point and I called them liars but now I’ll meet them halfway. There is a point, but each character’s individual ones are treated as it while they’re on screen. This focus of theme, plot, and character lets side characters operate in ways that are minor but still meaningful, resulting in an episode that stands out as one of season two’s betters.

Yours in going to Janey’s to watch cartoons, Gabriel.

 

Jokes, lines, and stray thoughts

Marge is actually a good cook here, with a wide variety of spices and MSG. This is pretty much ditched for a later characterisation of her being a boring cook who doesn’t even know what oregano is.

The whole scene of Homer being bashed is a quite accurate parody of Psycho made easier by it arriving on VHS around when this was written. Homer’s tongue waggling scream and the brief but focal shot of him being bashed in the head are great visual gags.

 

Things like the multi-threading for more joke potential aren’t hard rules, but they are rules. Reducing the number of active points in your work puts more weight on the ones that are there. If that focal story you have winds up weak, then that’s going to basically collapse your whole thing. It’s not impossible, just much harder and often not worth the risk. Later series, like the aforementioned 30 Rock and Community, use serialisation and the ability to target more sophisticated audiences to craft densely layered narratives and meta-narratives which gives them access to the best of both worlds.

The joke of Marge being in an Itchy and Scratchy episode about cartoon violence while herself in a cartoon about cartoon violence is a level of meta made fun by its depth and, for its time, freshness. Homer laughing his ass off at the obvious parallel, to Marge’s frustration, is a great example of a joke that works to use and build character as opposed from taking away from it. Many shows use absurd reality levels of similarly ridiculous premises, South Park and American Dad come to mind, to do both but getting it to work within a dryer, realer setting is real skill.

“Dogs Tricked” on Marge’s list of violent events is amusingly incongruous and I’m a sucker for a basic list gag.

Roger Meyer’s reply is great and I wish more creators would reply to loud morons in similar fashion.

“There’s peas everywhere”

One of the last appearances by Marvin Monroe. He was making fun of the early wave of bullshit TV psychiatrists, pre Dr Phil, and his list of  topics, “women who love to much, fear of winning, and sex-aholism” were the clickbait of checkout aisle rags.

Krusty’s character in these early seasons was refined but quite different from the one that ended up taking over. His naivety and illiteracy were dumped for the more fertile ground of bitter comedy legend that a bunch of comedy nerds would know intimately.

The banality of the Marge-approved Itchy and Scratchy is an exaggerated but not by much prod at the awful “positive” children’s programming you’d see around and still sometimes do. Nickelodeon’s 1991 run of madness, while not the first or only, fucking set a tone for children’s animation actually being deep and interesting. Prior to that it was almost universally awful. Go watch an actual episode of He-Man, it’s on Netflix, I dare you to sit through a whole episode. Now imagine everything was that.

The great fiction of this episode is a moral crusader relenting after being confronted with a basic hypocrisy.

There’s a moment when Marge is dragged back on Smartline to discuss the statue of David and the animators gave her angry eyes by mistake. She’s not mad, she’s smiling and her tone of voice isn’t negative, and it fixes itself after a few seconds but dammit it’s a funny shot.

Maggie is seen here getting the idea of how to shoot from an episode of I&S which I’m taking as a long term setup for her eventually gunning Mr Burns down.