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Simpsons Tall Tales

I should not be twenty one by now

Couch gag: The family are sitting on a subway station and catch a passing train.

Director: Bob Anderson

Synopsis: On a train to Delaware, the Simpsons meet a hobo who tells them three tales.

Discussion: This isn’t the first non-Halloween episode to have three different segments involving the Simpsons as different characters. Here we find the family having won yet another trip, this time to Delaware. Homer refuses to pay a small tax and the family are forced to hitch-hike on a train (I don’t think that’s the right word…) They meet a singing hobo, not one of those stabbing hobos you hear so much about. In exchange for a sponge bath (or three), he tells them some tall tales to while away the hours.

Now, I have no idea who Paul Bunyan is (or I didn’t, before Wikipedia told me) but Homer’s story reminds me of the creation stories from the Australian Aboriginal people… but less pretty. Homer, as Paul, is quite a disgusting character, e.g. using Marge as a giant cotton bud to clean out his ears. Eww. The blue ox story fascinates me as well. I find it original even though the stories probably are just an exaggeration of the mythology of Paul and Babe.

However, I am familiar with the story of Johnny Appleseed, thanks to a book I read as a kid. Lisa’s portrayal as Connie Appleseed fits with her vegetarianism but the family changing their name to Bufflekill as a sign of their prowess of killing buffalo is, well, a bit gross. Many of the buffalo deaths occurred off-screen, but it’s still quite confronting for a Simpsons ep. The main part I have a problem with is that, and I’m stand to be corrected, buffalo still roam over the plains of the US. Since this is a tall tale, maybe changing buffalo to something mythological, rare or extinct would hold up better?

Finally, Bart and Nelson portray Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Lisa notes that this isn’t a tall tale, it’s based on a novel. She’s right (and I highly recommend both novels, BTW). There are elements from the novels as well as Simpsons-esque embellishments. It’s probably the most enjoyable segment out of the three of them.

Still, I don’t really love the episode. It just doesn’t feel original or fresh. The idea has been done before, the stories aren’t instantly familiar and it just feels tired. Then again, it’s the last ep of the season so maybe the writers desperately needed a break…?

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