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Posts tagged ‘bullying’

He’s a hero sandwich full of bologna

Bull-E

Couch gag: Homer is a soccer goalie trying to fend off soccer balls.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Johnny Mathis as himself
Albert Brooks as Dr Raufbold
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony

Synopsis: When Bart is bullied at school, Marge outlaws bullying in Springfield. The Flanders boys try to see the good in Homer.

Discussion: Johnny Mathis as a guest star? Who the hell remembers Johnny Mathis?? And what’s with the Puberty Demon?

Anyhoo, Marge is on another crusade, this time to outlaw bullying in Springfield. Cue townspeople in various situations getting arrested under the new law interspersed with Homer annoying the Flandererses.

Yawn.

Albert Brooks returns to The Simpsons, this time as a doctor of some sort who hosts a group for bullies where they talk about their feelings and possible circumstances which led them to being a bully. Nothing is mentioned about the original bullies; Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney.

Yet again we’re rehashing old ground with no satisfying conclusion. Albert Brooks has had some cracker appearances on The Simpsons but here, he sounds tired and bored. Homer’s big epiphany that he hates Flanders because he’s better than Homer is hardly a surprise. It feels like the writers got to the table read, having not had an actual reason for the situation (over the past 28 years…) and someone’s dog farted out Scrabble letters spelling out “he’s better than me”. There are echoes of the opening scene from Wreck-It Ralph where the baddies sit around coming to terms with being the Bad Guy… but far less convincing let alone entertaining. For some filler right at the end, we have Otto’s hallucinations. Oh boy.

It’s a weak plot, weaker script and weaker still performance. The show is tired and way past its use-by date. This episode managed just 2.77 million viewers in the US; I imagine the numbers here in Australia will be abysmal (for comparison, our highest rating show of the year would attract about 2.5 million viewers).

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Duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck

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Sleeping with the Enemy

Couch gag: The couch is missing, but falls from the sky and squishes the family

Director: Lauren MacMullen

Synopsis: Feeling neglected by her own kids, Marge takes her mothering to Nelson. Meanwhile, Lisa is having issues with her weight after girls at school start teasing her.

Discussion: This little endeavour of mine sure is painful sometimes. Today we have two issues which are real-life situations but dealt with in a normal, non-Simpsons way.

Lisa is suffering body dysphoria, which is basically unhappiness with her weight even though she’s within average limits for her age and height. Every woman has felt this at some point. There’s some opportunity to have some biting satire in the scene where Lisa is looking at clothes in Saks Fifth Grade, but apart from the guy earning $4 an hour planing off the thighs, the satire is completely missing. After a stint of binge eating and humiliating her bullies, the issue isn’t resolved. I’m not sure I’m OK with this- sitcom convention of narrative says the issue HAS to be resolved in half an hour (or have a Part Two), however because weight IS such an issue and isn’t easily resolved, maybe it is OK not to have Lisa change her mind and be happy with her body image.

Then there’s the Bart-Marge-Nelson dynamic. It’s mildly interesting for about five minutes, but gets real old, real quick. Bart has been promised a party if he has a perfect score on a test. When he produces the goods, with validation from Mrs K that Bart didn’t exactly cheat (if the whole class looked at the map, is that still cheating?) Marge produces the world’s worst party. Feeling that the kids don’t need her, she finds Nelson eating tadpoles and decides to use her mothering skills on him instead. It’s a bit cutesy but never really hits the heights I know the show is capable of. And how exactly does Bart know that Nelson is singing Streisand??

It’s an average episode; capable of being a lot better but not really getting anywhere.

 

She thinks she’s Babe: Pig in the City

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Bye Bye Nerdie

I will not scare the vice president

Couch gag: The family zoom around the living room in dodgem cars, cornering Homer.

Director: Lauren MacMullen

Guest Voices:
Kathy Griffin as Francine
Jan Hooks as Manjula

Synopsis: Lisa discovers poindexttrose, a substance in nerd sweat that attracts bullies. Meanwhile, Homer has a baby-proofing business to protect the babies of Springfield.

Discussion: Although this episode received positive reviews, I’ve never loved it. To be more precise, I’ve never loved the Francine storyline; Homer’s baby-proofing business is much better.

There’s a new kid in school and she’s a bully. She targets only the nerds and leaves the cool kids alone. This leads Lisa to scientifically examine the sweat of nerds and isolate poindextrose, which sends Francine (and other bullies, as demonstrated by Nelson on heavyweight champion Drederick Tatum) into a bullying frenzy.

I think my main problem with this is that it’s making light of bullying, giving the bullies an excuse to be jerks: “Oh well, they can’t help it”. Bullying is a serious problem and it’s been made light of here. There are many reasons a kid is bullied. At school, I was teased because of my name, my weight (I was a skinny kid and, in the midst of AIDS fears, there was a rumour that I had AIDS), my marks and my hair (it was always oily). To suggest I was giving off pheromones attracting bullies doesn’t address these issues.

Besides, Bart isn’t smart and he’s often been bullied by Nelson and Jimbo, two professional bullies. I know, I know, it’s a TV show and continuity isn’t a strong point. I’m just sayin’.

Homer’s babyproofing business is much more fun, and lightens the ep considerably. A saleswoman comes into the Simpsons home and tries to sell Homer a system to baby-proof their house. It’s too expensive so Homer branches out and forms his own business. One of the funniest scenes is when Homer pours Jell-O into a swimming pool to prevent drowning. Hey, you can’t argue with logic like that!

He’s pretty chunkified

Bart the General

Couch gag: none

Director: David Silverman

Synopsis: Bart is being bullied at school and decides to fight back with the help of some friends and an ex-military man named Herman.

First appearance of:
Herman
Nelson Muntz
(Mrs Hoover is mentioned but not seen)

Bart may be cool at school, but he’s still bullied. Enter Nelson Muntz, Goliath to Bart’s David. This is a common theme throughout the series although the audience does eventually seen softer sides to Nelson. Today’s episode shows Nelson to be one chunkified mother of a bully. Bullying itself is a common theme of The Simpsons; later we’ll meet Jimbo & co as well as Lisa’s experiments with Francine and nerd sweat. At the end of this episode is Bart with a disclaimer that wars are not cool (with a few exceptions). This is interesting because, generally speaking, the only episodes with disclaimers are the Treehouses of Horror.

Throughout the episode, I wondered how it might play differently had the episode come later in the series and came to the conclusion that it probably wouldn’t be too much different. Lisa might defend Nelson, considering her brief relationship with him. Marge might talk of Nelson’s sensitivities. No doubt Homer would still advise violence. Grandpa would probably be less useful; in this episode he advises Bart as to revenge but if this was later in the series, no doubt Grandpa would go off on a tangent about walking-birds when Lincoln was president. Having said that, this is probably the first episode which could slip into later episodes and keep the same dynamics that have been built up over 23+ years.

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