This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 33 Episode 15
The Simpsons season 33 episode 15, “Bart the Cool Kid” takes on schoolyard peer pressure and conspicuous consumption, best exemplified by footwear fads. Everyone can identify with the public humiliation of walking hallways in shitty sneakers.
“You can’t record me, I’m recording you.” This is the second week in row The Simpsons has plumbed viral videos for content. Ralphie, who first sets the standard for the style, comes to school in genuine, “SLIPREME” sneakers. He is the youngest, and least cool, at Springfield Elementary, which hints at the generational divides to come.
The segment where Bart returns the bogus sneakers to the outlet is done well. It has the right mixture of mockery and pathos, with an overriding sense of shame. The Simpsons do well when they are wallowing in degradation, and Bart goes the extra mile. He takes one of Groucho Marx’s rules of comedy literally: if all else fails, drop your pants. It becomes not only a meme, but a running gag even Marge can dance to. “Homer turned me into a GIF,” Bart bemoans, and no one does the pants kid shimmy like Lisa, who also pulls off some of her best vocal deliveries in a long time.
The Weeknd guest stars as both Orion Hughes and his famous dad Darius Hughes, an actor who reveals too much too soon in very subtle foreshadowing. The concept of his last film, “Copy Cop,” is a carbon copy of a cop movie, and works as a standalone gag, mainly because it doubles as a tongue-twister. It also is an underlying theme throughout the proceedings. The sneakers Homer buys, in order to avoid standing in line, are knockoffs, copies. They look the same but are made of used Band-Aids and old Korean newspapers. Even the special Bart SLIPREME Sneakers are a copy of Bart.
There are some great individual lines which resemble older Simpsons classics. When Bart is almost convinced he will no longer be a nobody at school, and has never been a nobody at home, Homer shushes Marge with “Don’t lie to the boy.” Bart’s offer of being able to erase 10 years of second-rate parenting also rings true to the traditionally subversive humor of the series as a whole. Even Marge has to admit it’s a good offer. And it pays off in dividends when Bart says “I finally love you,” to Homer who appreciates that “bought love is the best kind of love.” These are the kinds of traditional uprootings where the show still excels.
The hard-shell tacos segment is the comic high point of the episode, that and Homer’s line about being filmed “while yelling at parking meters.” Here he learns to be loved by appearance instead of judged for his actions, and it almost looks good on him. But the line about why people own more than one outfit is clearly aimed at him and the family.
It is also telling what is now considered uncool. It’s not cool to wear clothes you buy at a gas station or find on a beach, or actively enjoy Tim Allen standup. To say you’ve never walked out of an Arby’s is not a bragging point. Bart says Homer has been getting less cool every day for four decades. That he has never thought his dad was cool. The punchline lands sadly, as Homer wipes his tears on a Steely Dan CD of all things.
The hip section of Springfield had some very amusingly named stores, like Sarcastic Golf Wear, and the Hasidic surf-wear store, Kosher Pacific, but the store that sells a single action figure is probably the most vindictively indicative of the common elitism of Millennial mass consumption.
More could have been made of Bart teaching Orion how to skate, or more specifically, how things aren’t mastered on a first try. It was refreshing to see the Orion fall and bleed, and his yell of “let’s go again” made it almost feel authentic, but the biggest influencer in Springfield comes across as bland. His aura is less indigo, even when he is “redefining his generation’s notions of relaxation.”
As Lisa points out, cool is arbitrary and constantly changing. The Simpsons used to be cool but changes in awkward growth spurts. The generational standoff deserves more than a speech from Marge and a trip to the Aviation Museum, but the last segment pushes “Bart the Cool Kid” up a half star. It is completely out of left field, both as an added twist and as a concept in itself. It is funny, and ties all the little bits together like the laces on a really cool sneaker.