The Simpsons episode “The War of Art” pits art lover against art collector and both lose. After signing an ironclad, but unenforceable, parent-child contract, Lisa gets a pet guinea pig. The guinea pig destroys the Simpsons’ living room ship art and they replace it with painting they get at the Van Houten’s yard sale, for $20 and some violin kindling, that turns out to be worth upwards of $100,000. Marge wants to split the money with the Van Houtons but Homer says “woah, woah woah woah.” Everyone wants an economic “cushion.”
In The Simpsons episode “The War of Art,” we see a community divided. Possession is nine tenths of the problem. (Except Kettle corn, the heroin of the farmer’s market.) What is ownership? What is commerce? What is art? Art is a mirror held up to reflect reality, and no mirror has been made large enough, so all art is forgery. Everyone knows the value of art can be measured by its nudity, holograms or horrible things happening to Jesus. So stop looking at it so you don’t wear it out.
You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society. Leave it to The Simpsons to find the beauty of forgery and who better to reflect that reality than Max Von Sydow. Von Sydow began his career in one of the most artfully filmed and artistically debated slabs of celluloid in cinema history, The Seventh Seal: A movie where you have to wait a half hour before the first line of dialogue. Death on a beach, I’ve been to Coney Island hundreds of times and never once saw death on the beach. Dead things, maybe. Max von Sydow has been god, the devil, Jebus and the exorcist. He was even Ming the Merciless. If anyone can copy the myriad styles of the most celebrated painters in history, Max can. But hey, I drink Strupo.
Marge has an eye for art and Lisa has the soul of an artist, but ask not for whom the painter paints. He paints for Homer. Let’s back track to a bit of Simpson history. Marge is a painter. Her portrait of the legendary Beatle drummer Ringo Starr caught the attention of Richard Starkey, whose tardy appreciation gave her the inspiration to commit the true Mr. Burns to canvass. Monty said he knew what he hated in art and he didn’t hate what she created, in spite of the embarrassment it caused him. Art communicated. It makes perfect sense that Marge would appreciate the artistry of the forgery and still appreciate the simple boat painting she might have gotten in a supermarket.
Lisa can be pretentious, but she can also be unbridled enthusiasm personified. Lisa’s appreciation for art, the arts, jazz, it something she gives herself to without hesitation. It’s a lifelong commitment. As is Lisa’s enthusiasm for animals. I remember when she was not much younger than she is now, in an episode from over twenty years ago when she wrote an impassioned poem for her cat Snowball. Or when she rode ponies on the bow of a yacht. Or braved her allergies to appreciate a Northern Reticulated Chipmunk. The scene where Lisa is deciding on which guinea pig to bring home reminds me of her planning dinner for Mr. Bergstrom. Well, we don’t want Lisa to be one of those girls who waits until she’s sixteen to see if she’s ready for a pet and finds that it’s too late.
Even El Barto was a great graffiti artiste.
I’ve said before and will say again that The Simpsons towers over all current TV sitcoms. That the worst episode of The Simpsons will still have more laughs per minute than the best episode of, say Modern Family. Not that there’s anything wrong with Modern Family. It wins awards, it is considered a quality show. It’s funny, well written, but ultimately tame. The artists behind the Simpsons will still pack more laughs and they will do anything for a laugh. This kind of humor goes back to, at the very least, Vaudeville. Irving Thalberg told the Marx Brothers he could produce one of their movies with half the jokes and get twice the audience. The Simpsons usually pour on the jokes. This particular episode, while still crammed with bits, is more like A Night At The Opera than Monkey Business. They use less actual larfs, bits for an overall finer quality of comedy.
I wonder why Snake would be on the side of the Van Houtons, but I do get why Marge’s sisters would be against the Simpsons.
“The War of Art ” was written by Rob LaZebnik. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Selma and Patty Bouvier, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson, Pamela Hayden as Millhouse, Hank Azaria as Kirk Van Houten and Maggie Roswell as Luann Van Houten.
But It All Went By So Fast: The sign for Crystal County reads Welcome to Crystal County, Home of the Meth High Fighting Tweakers. Guinea Pig Rescue and Adoption Center sign adds Cavy et Emptor. Gavelby’s Auction House: Buy Art The Impulsive Scary Way. Canadian Duff beer is Le Duff Beer, Oh Team, Mais Oui, Avec Codeine.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars