This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 29 Episode 15
The Simpsons season 29, episode 15, “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” throws the book at The Simpsons as the family decides to get edumacated. Marge is fed up with all the devices, and the distractions and the mind-numbing clatter of technology and unplug. She invokes moral law which, like guilt, causes people to be in complete accord with their ruler and follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. Or in the Simpson family’s case, discomfort.
“All warfare is based on deception,” Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote in his battle classic The Art of War. “No Good Read Goes Unpunished” begins with a defensive maneuver. The comedy runs a serpentine course to its main objective, not unlike Alan Arkin and Peter Falk going from their plane to their car in The In-Laws. The Simpsons promises the audience a marathon of the show-within-the-show that represents the show without, “Itchy and Scratchy.” Even Krusty needs a bucket of iced seltzer water to buck up the enthusiasm it takes to announce each two-minute sequence of the Everyslaughterever marathon.
Simpsons fans are ready for an “Itchy and Scratchy” binge, and just as it seems things can’t get any better, it gets much worse. For the family there is no peace on earth, as promised in the opening. Not only do they have to spend the afternoon braving silverfish and papercuts in the Springfield Library, they have to walk there without texting, gaming or fiddling their apps. They can’t even google how the best way to avoid it.
Winding up at Bookaccino’s, which corrects bad Yelp reviews with auto-praise, Marge tasks the family to find their way with words. Without regret, Homer assigns With No Apologies: The Memories of Barry Goldwater to the bookworm daughter, which isn’t so far off because he opposed the religious right. Marge pushes her own childhood favorite, The Princess in the Garden by Heloise Hodgkin Burwell. She is sure the book, for children ages 10 and up, will replace Gravity’s Rainbow in Lisa’s literal libido, and I don’t use literal literally.
Another childhood classic bites the dust. The book was written for girls just like Lisa, she’s manned and well fed and white. But it seems a little dated in the age of social justice and microaggressions. To be honest, the way Marge describes the main character, who baptizing savages without their permission who visibly pulls back from Hungarian men whose mustaches reeked of garlic, is a horrid little creature in any age. This brings on a sequence comparing the white man’s burden to literature. To this reviewer, who also reviews gangster movies, Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din is a rat, who turns on his own people. To the Simpsons he does far worse in the first draft of The Jungle Book, with Mowgli stomping Hindu peoples who wanted voting rights, all in good fun, of course.
Then The Simpsons turn the joke on themselves. They make reference to Apu, who has come under attack recently for being a tired racist stereotype. The series’ creative team recently acknowledged the dilemma, but haven’t quite decided what do to about it. Or if they will ever do anything about it. They pointed out what a success Apu is, being a major business owner in town who may someday rival Mr. Burns, but for now, all they are doing is reminding us to remind them to maybe do something at some point. Or not, as Lisa points out.
But Bart is fighting his own battle, and he gets equipped with the wit and wisdom of The Art of War at the bookstore. Bart is caught playing TunnelCraft, where you have the potential to build replicas of classic architecture, but because you can get killed in it, is just a video game. Bart wants to go to TunnelCom, and not just to see Daniel Radcliffe torn apart by Rupert Gint-hungry zombies like it’s some kind of Walking Dead convention, but Homer is standing in his way. Homer does not seek war, but nor does he turn away when his stash of Drake’s cakes is on the line. He bests Bart after reading only the first few pages with the help of Ned Flanders and Harold Lloyd.
“No Good Read Goes Unpunished” plays out the two arcs deftly. They spin the racist book into a revisionist parable where the terrible princess is actually a repressed Lesbian icon. They acknowledge that nobody would ever believe that, and rip apart the historic destruction of good intentions. They also knock ancient wisdom on its ear when a quick skim through the monarch notes provide as good a strategy as any military tome.
The Beverly Hillbillies tag harks back to the “Everybody Loves Ned Flanders” sequence from years ago. Poor Ned is long-suffering but still keen and deserves a small shout-out every now and then. Not only does he provide the best role model to drive Bart back to Bartdom, he never forgets the organist.
The Chalkboard chalking, “April Showers did not date the president,” works on two levels, like a football in the groin. Bill Maher already pointed out that he can’t prove, but just knows somewhere there is a weatherman named Stormy Daniels. The Simpsons adds the dribble of the golden rumors.
“No Good Read Goes Unpunished” was written by Jeff Westbrook, and directed by Mark Kirkland.
The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest stars: Daniel Radcliffe as himself and Jimmy O. Yang as Sun.
Chalkboard: April Showers did not date the president.