In The Simpsons episode “The Man Who Grew Too Much,” Springfield brings back an old friend. Enemy? I don’t remember where they left off, but I’m always happier to see him than Bart is. Not as happy as I am on Taco Tuesday, though. Especially those really oversized overstuffed ones you get from Monsarno. Tonight’s episode gave me my first non-evil laugh in years.
The Simpsons are one of the most self-referential and self-aware shows on TV. This happens with acts when they become institutions. The Simpsons are like The Beatles this way. The bigger they got, the more they made light of themselves. The Beatles also referenced their own songs the way The Simpsons reference earlier episodes. They add it to their repertoire of any other topics they might want to digest to produce more pieces. You have to be an institution to reference yourself like that without seeming presumptuous.
The Simpsons are of course a presumptuous institution and when they point out their own idiosyncrasies, they point out the foibles of the larger universe. It doesn’t really matter whether that universe is animated or breathing, flat screen or 3D. When Marge says “close your eyes, they’re too bright” or bemoans the fact that Bart and Lisa will never be teenagers, she’s speaking of the larger cartoon world. We all know no one ages in a cartoon, but we keep it to ourselves. It’s a dirty secret. When Marge spills on this most basic suspension of disbelief, she breaks the fourth wall. Leave it to a cartoon to shine a better spotlight on reality than reality TV.
Marge really is the voice of reason in this episode. Though she comes to it reluctantly. Marge has to get horny teens to sign an abstinence pledge. When Marge asks “Are you saying I’m wasting my time?” Homer explains “I’m saying you’re wasting everyone’s time. But it’s a Church thing, so that’s a given.” This sums up the two halves of the sky that is the Simpson household. It works on a much larger, community, world, and universal level and the lesson isn’t lost on Marge. She points out that one molecule at a time is a slow way to change the world. She points to the most easily followed steps to abstinence. As embarrassed as she is about teens and the tender act of ah-oo-gah, Marge’s advice continues to solidify her role as the America’s greatest enabler.
The Genetically Modified Buffet, sponsored by Monsarno, seems to have something for everyone. Monsarno is obviously Monsanto, in the news for destroying the family farm and poisoning us where we eat. It looks like The Simpsons is setting them up for a fall, Springfield Elementary’s top investigator, Lisa Simpson is on the job. But wait, before you start thinking for yourself, it looks like all the evidence isn’t in yet. Monsarno just might have the solution to the problem of world hunger. We’re so ready to write Monsarno off as an evil corporate empire that we don’t see the good they do. Like we didn’t give Mojo Jojo enough credit when he ruled the world, nicely, in one of many penultimate Power Puff Girls episodes. Just when you think they can’t get any more evil, they save the world. The head of their research is Dr., well, Ph.D., Sideshow Bob.
I get tired of “cookie cutter” shows, the ones that follow a specific formula every week. You always know when the hero, marriage or talking pet will be threatened, on the rocks or need a walk. The resolution always comes in the last five minutes, regardless of whatever corners they have to cut, unless it’s a two-part episode. The Simpsons have their own formulas. Sometimes they break things up, waiting until almost half an episode before changing direction to the real ending, to justify their subversive roots. Sometimes the formulas play into the subversion.
Sideshow Bob episodes have their own special arc. He will always be sprung on the Simpson family as a surprise. He will always change his ways. Sideshow Bob will always save one of the Simson family. The Simpsons will always grow to trust him. He will always try to kill them. He will step on a rake. You can usually get him to sing. It seems his face, which he sliced off and replaced in last year’s prison break, will now fall off as a new recurring gag. One can only hope. The more Kelsey Grammar has to juggle, the better.
Lisa, the one rose petal that floats above the cesspool of Simpsonery, is on ethically slippery ground here. It kinda looks like she’s getting a crush on Monsarno, er Sideshow Bob. She comes out for genetically modified foods on moral grounds and is even more easily flattered than usual.
Edna was mentioned in this episode and appears at the GMO+Danger+? assembly at Springfield Elementary. She signed Ned up for a Tango class. Rod and Todd Flanders represent the suppression of the Christian right. Sure, those skipping lessons are paying off now, but they should learn to gallop. Marge may be able to curb the appetites of the hardly horny, but the truly lascivious prance away unbridled.
“The Man Who Grew Too Much” was written by Jeff Westbrook and directed by Matthew Schofield. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Krusty and Hans Moleman, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson, Harry Shearer as Skinner and Jasper Beardsley, Pamela Hayden as Milhouse and Jimbo, Tress MacNeille as Dolph.
I would like some pomato juice please. They don’t give out free cookies anymore. Now, how about those Impressionists?
But It All Went By So Fast: The Abstinence Pledge reads: I __ hereby pledge to keep my body pure and my mind elevated, and my hands to myself but not on myself. Signed before God and Helen Lovejoy on this date. The Emergency PTA Meeting was about Genetically Modified Organisms: Modestly Beneficial or Ultra-Catastrophic. Apocalypse Chow got 54,323,261 likes and only one dislike. The comments included “You gave my son nightmares” from firstname.lastname@example.org and the ad said “Want to earn 50K? Do it the Ponzi way.” Sideshow Bob’s license plates read CLA$$Y, L84AD8, GR8 PL8, I(HEART)2 TXT, DUI DAD and PUN H8R. Monsarno’s research to spare monkeys via Sideshow Bob’s voltage tests was funded by Michael Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz. The Abstinence Seminar taught Say Yes to Nothing. Springfield Metropolitan Museum is exhibiting Art We Stole From Greece.
George Washington’s Fun Facts: Once had tooth termites. Favorite music: Of The Time. Never met Hitler. Born a girl. Babysat James Monroe. Could not whistle. Also had wooden toenails.
Albert Einstein’s Fun Facts: Used hair product. Slow to submit expense reports. Sarcastically called dumb guys “Einstein.” Drafted by the Yankees. Real Name Albert Brooks.
Florence Nightingale’s Fun Facts: None.