Itchy and Scratchy and Marge
I will not pledge allegiance to Bart
couch gag: the couch is missing
Director: Jim Reardon
Synopsis: After watching Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, Maggie hits Homer on the head with a mallet, causing injury requiring him to take the week off work. Marge concludes the cartoons are inducing Maggie’s violence and takes steps to reduce the violence in cartoons. As a result, Itchy and Scratchy become best friends and the cartoons are showing loving actions, such as sharing lemonade on the porch. Bored kids turn off the TV and go outside to play. Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, tours Springfield and Marge is asked to protest about it but she feels art is not the same as violent cartoons and refuses to protest. Cartoons violence returns and kids return to the TV.
First appearance of:
Roger Meyers Jr (spelled Myers in this episode)
Discussion: Let’s face it, censorship and violence are huge issues. Wikipedia tells me that the writers tried not to take sides in this episode, which I think they’ve done a fair job with. The majority of people watching violence are not going to take that violence into the real world, and we’re desensitised to graphic violence, but should it be censored by The Powers That Be or should we self-censor? If you know something will offend you, change the channel.
The principle of censoring brings me to one of my favourite topics: the Production Code (also known as the Hays Code). For those unfamiliar with the Code, here’s the 101: The Code was developed in 1930 and rigidly enforced until the 1960s, abandoned altogether in 1968. Under the Code, there were a number of acts not allowed to be shown (or implied) on screen. Sex, violence (unless the Bad Guy got justice), homosexuality, childbirth etc all were banned (for a full list, see here). If your movie did not adhere to the Code, it was not allowed to be shown to the public, end of story. In the 1960s, studios began pushing the envelope and eventually the Code was abandoned in favour of letting individuals decide for themselves what is appropriate viewing. We still use this system today (Australia is slightly different than the US with our ratings, but the principle is the same).
The scene where Maggie hits Homer is a parody of Hitchcock’s Psycho. The music from the infamous shower scene, the camera angles, the iconography of Homer pulling the cloth and the red paint spilling all echoes this film (even though the film was black & white and the “blood” was chocolate syrup). Psycho was filmed during the Production Code era so actual violence wasn’t allowed to be shown. In that shower scene, the knife is never seen to strike Marion Crane. Blood is never shown on her body, only running down the drain. The enforcers of the Code watched and rewatched that scene many times in order to allow it to be shown.
But I digress. Marge’s attempts at censoring the cartoons echoes not on the Code’s enforcement but the many individuals also attempting censorship on network television’s various atrocities. My own opinion is one of self-censorship. If you know something will offend, don’t watch it. (Don’t get me started on the brouhaha of religious groups when they all sat down to watch Ellen’s coming-out episode and then protested because it was offensive).