This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 32 Episode 3
While it may not be a masterpiece, The Simpsons season 32, episode 3, “Now Museum, Now You Don’t” can hang in most galleries. Beyond the humor, the visuals are quite impressive, and varied.
This is another story-time episode for The Simpsons, repopulating pages from history with Springfield residents. Lisa is home sick, so delirious she thinks she’s in school. Marge, ever the enabler, encourages her in her fantasia. When Lisa asks if she will be graded on whatever she reads, Marge promises pop quizzes galore.
This really encapsulates the mother-daughter relationship in the Simpson family. Marge is incredibly encouraging, often overly so, when she sees opportunity. This is a chance for Lisa to indulge her most intellectual pursuits, without the resistance of reality, with just a little sweat. Who cares if it’s a fever in the making?
Lisa lives up to expectations because the book she picks to get her through the fever dream is a coffee-table book waiting for a coffee table, an illustrated history of art. She opens to the year 1462, and the first segment is set in Vinci, Italy. Lisanardo is a young artist with a promising future in criminal sketching. She studies with contemporaries such as Barticelli, Gregor the Inconvenient, and Ralfael Mediocrito. Not everyone can be a genius, and Lisa’s arc is more uplifting, until she pisses off a Cardinal in flight.
The takeoff of Janis Ian’s “At 17” is sweeter than it is comedic. It does show Lisa’s dilemma, and self-conscious awareness. Although her “brilliance genius” is shown, she spends her last supper all alone in 1470. The show mixes some very interesting tidbits about the Renaissance artist.
The notebook Barticelli steals is written while Lisanardo is dreaming, pulling in information from the astral realms, and of course a Magic 8 Ball. This shows sick Lisa can read between the lines of an illustrated art book. The bits about the “secret diary that no one will see for 400 years” works on an esoteric level but also sets up the “Da Vinci Code”/Ron Howard joke, which we were waiting for whether we knew it or not.
The best social commentary of the segment comes from Mr. Burns’ historical counterpart’s idea of killing his way to pope. Because there’s nothing more evil than Christians who are slightly different than his kinds of Christian. The playing of Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” was a bit too obvious. The Italian stereotypes are thicker than pasta fasul, so thick the cat prefers the sweet death of hemlock to hearing Abe go on and on in the dialect. It seems extremely self-satirical to do an entire episode of exaggerated accents so soon after having to shut down the Apu character.
They’ve done this kind of subversive self-humor before. The “Itchy and Scratchy” show was a stand-in for the flak The Simpsons was getting for celebrating bad role models. But then there’s the “Don’t Smoke” message after Patty and Selma visit Marge, portraying Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, as angels. The show has never done anything like that before. This pulls the show further into political correctness, as if there is some kind of scale and they’re exchanging karmic debt.
The Paris segment is as much a single entendre as it says it is. Barney makes an appearance as a Dionysian supermodel, who keeps in shape by eating and drinking all day. Moe Lautrec gets to enjoy the can-can and keeps liquor in his cane. He may not know enough to hollow it out first, but he can spot talent and sees it in Bart.
Everyone else paints traditional pieces which wouldn’t look out of place in a dentist’s office. Homer plays Mulan Huge, a monarch with Ned Flanders’s mustache who loves challenges to the establishment almost as much as he loves cubed cheese. He issues a royal decree against cheese wheels. Expressionism fits cleanly on the walls of the ruling class, while the necks of Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers have to be measured for the guillotine.
Maggie’s segment as the representative of Renaissance artists’ baby angels goes for the cute, even though Lisa makes us worry why heaven would be so full of them at the time. This brings dark hues to the cherubic proceedings. It is a standard, but exciting, “Maggie Segment,” set to the tune of “Flight of the Valkyries,” as she plunges from the heavens chasing a falling nipple and kills a bunch of unibrow cherubs, along with Homer, who is one half of a young couple. Maggie mistakes one of the Cupid love arrows for a killing one. It’s very Maggie.
The best bit of the Frida Kahlo sequence is the Bernie Babies. Defiant artist Marge tells the biggest capitalist in New York, played by Mr. Burns, that a young socialist has just been born who will take down his empire. Bernie Sanders is of course only a toddler in this tale. Even though he has sandbox goons shaking down nannies for health benefits, Baby Bernie would approve of the message.
Another subtle comedy passing tone was Homer saying he’s never heard of Jackson Pollock or Lee Krasner, yet he is able to name them. Homer wears ridiculous anti-intelligence well. The other gag that works through its sheer obviousness is how $21,000 in today’s money is $21,000.
The rest of the segment maintains a steady comic balance. Burns’ tycoon hires Homer’s Diego Rivera to design a mural for Rockefeller Center. It is the biggest building for seven blocks, but they are long blocks filled with people bumping you. After promising to sell out and also be the model for the Atlas statue, Homer gives the mural a red spin in honor of his wife. She earned his artistic respect by painting her misery. He pays her back by sleeping with other women and realizes his true place in art. This is a fun nod and show of respect for Rick and Morty. The Simpsons doesn’t often give props to their competitors, usually they find a way to lampoon them.
Vincent Van Moe’s rendition of “Barry, Barry, Night” closes out the episode on a high note. Actually a half moaned baritone, but satisfying in the comedy sense. The perennially sad bartender, who Lisa pegged as a poet several seasons ago, admits he’s been using the darkness of his soul to water down the dregs, and bemoans there is something growing on his eggs. It is both funny and poignant.
“Now Museum, Now You Don’t” works as a variety show, even though it follows through on one concept. It’s not a side-splitting episode, but the segments allow it to be a varied one. All three segments were well produced, funny and had enough historical trivia to keep it clever.