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enyaocean:

Gustav Klimt - The Music (1895) 

enyaocean:

Gustav Klimt - The Music (1895) 

(via random-and-retro)

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #71
New Kids on the Blecch
Season 12 – Episode 14 (Airdate: Feb 25, 2001)
Yvan Eht Nioj! Ok, this one is not a classic by any stretch, but it is an entertaining little episode that gets a bad rap. I recognize that a lot of the issues people have is aimed at the guest appearance of N’Sync. It’s too easy to throw the blame on boy bands since they are parodies on themselves, but I personally believe it was a stroke of genius to cast N’Sync. They do a terrific job at the self-deprecation thing, and like with the Michael Jackson episode, they are at the full brunt of all the jokes. Yet, they are just themselves in character, full of modesty, and they carry on with no reservations or self-doubts. The songs are brilliant pieces of self-contained satire – so bizarre they almost sound like the real deal – and there is nothing more ridiculous than hearing that baritone voice come out of Ralph’s mouth. My personal favourite is ‘Silent G’: “I saw you last night at the spelling bee” / “I knew right then that it was L-U-V” / “I gotta spell out what you mean to me” / “Cause I can no longer be a silent ‘G’.”
I would not have put New Kids in this poll if it wasn’t for the subliminal messaging idea. I think that has got to be one of the funniest and most inspired jokes in the series. I love all the clues leading up to the dramatic twist, like the “Classified Records” recording studio, the abbreviation in L.T. Smash’s name, then of course the brilliant music video in the second act revealing to Lisa that the Party Posse is just a ploy to get people to enlist with the navy. We have all come to realize there are some disturbing goings-on behind manufactured pop acts, but this motive is just staggering. It goes beyond moral thought, but it provides an entertainment value which fits in the same vein as all the government conspiracies. We have some memorable new characters in this episode: L.T. Smash and the choreographer. Both are comical, eccentric and oddball, which makes them all the more watchable. I particularly like the choreographer’s dance lesson monologue, and L.T. Smash’s introduction to Bart: “Who are you?” “You’ll find out in due time.” “Well, it says here your name is L. T. Smash.” “The time has come, I’m L.T. Smash”. This somewhat establishes that here we have an unhinged gentleman that could go slightly crackers later on.
We know from the start that the writers are entirely not conflicted about their stance on boy bands, as the title of the episode indicates, so it is already clear that N’Sync will be the target of the jokes. The majority of the material is everything but the kitchen sink in terms of parodying boy bands, from Justin Timberlake repeatedly saying “Word!” to their completely outrageous entrances and exits (the one with the speedboat). Given the boy band craze is one of those perfect examples of an utterly ridiculous cultural phenomena for a show like The Simpsons to lampoon, it’s a pity they aren’t torn to shreds. Their appearance simply compliments the storyline about Bart and his friends forming a boy band, which in itself is pretty far-fetched. All the clichés are there. I love the studio magic joke. The sinister objectives of L.T. Smash go far beyond common logic, but they are analogously fitting to the plot. It’s just incredibly stupid, yet still possible in this crazy universe, which is just what makes it so funny. Good comedy is a commitment to the absurd.

There are just so many wonderfully absurd moments in this episode; it fits right in with the kooky surrealism of The Prisoner episode and the one with the jockey elves. This episode was written by Tim Long but it has the surrealist fingerprints of John Schwartzwelder. I love all the reveals of L.T. Smash when Lisa discovers his secret, particularly the dot in L.T. to imply “lieutenant”, and also, when L.T. Smash and his superior officer exchange threats by operating various controls of the ship with a gun. It hardly makes a barrel of sense, but neither does this last act. Impervious timing of the broadcast in February 25th 2001, leads to an unsettling premonition of the World Trade Center attacks six months later in the final scenes where the MAD Magazine office building is destroyed by aircraft carrier missiles, which merely fuels the strangeness of New Kids. It is barely intolerable to think about those horrors when watching this scene. But for me, oddities like this only add to the fascination and mystique of the show.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #71

New Kids on the Blecch

Season 12 – Episode 14 (Airdate: Feb 25, 2001)

Yvan Eht Nioj! Ok, this one is not a classic by any stretch, but it is an entertaining little episode that gets a bad rap. I recognize that a lot of the issues people have is aimed at the guest appearance of N’Sync. It’s too easy to throw the blame on boy bands since they are parodies on themselves, but I personally believe it was a stroke of genius to cast N’Sync. They do a terrific job at the self-deprecation thing, and like with the Michael Jackson episode, they are at the full brunt of all the jokes. Yet, they are just themselves in character, full of modesty, and they carry on with no reservations or self-doubts. The songs are brilliant pieces of self-contained satire – so bizarre they almost sound like the real deal – and there is nothing more ridiculous than hearing that baritone voice come out of Ralph’s mouth. My personal favourite is ‘Silent G’: “I saw you last night at the spelling bee” / “I knew right then that it was L-U-V” / “I gotta spell out what you mean to me” / “Cause I can no longer be a silent ‘G’.”

I would not have put New Kids in this poll if it wasn’t for the subliminal messaging idea. I think that has got to be one of the funniest and most inspired jokes in the series. I love all the clues leading up to the dramatic twist, like the “Classified Records” recording studio, the abbreviation in L.T. Smash’s name, then of course the brilliant music video in the second act revealing to Lisa that the Party Posse is just a ploy to get people to enlist with the navy. We have all come to realize there are some disturbing goings-on behind manufactured pop acts, but this motive is just staggering. It goes beyond moral thought, but it provides an entertainment value which fits in the same vein as all the government conspiracies. We have some memorable new characters in this episode: L.T. Smash and the choreographer. Both are comical, eccentric and oddball, which makes them all the more watchable. I particularly like the choreographer’s dance lesson monologue, and L.T. Smash’s introduction to Bart: “Who are you?” “You’ll find out in due time.” “Well, it says here your name is L. T. Smash.” “The time has come, I’m L.T. Smash”. This somewhat establishes that here we have an unhinged gentleman that could go slightly crackers later on.

We know from the start that the writers are entirely not conflicted about their stance on boy bands, as the title of the episode indicates, so it is already clear that N’Sync will be the target of the jokes. The majority of the material is everything but the kitchen sink in terms of parodying boy bands, from Justin Timberlake repeatedly saying “Word!” to their completely outrageous entrances and exits (the one with the speedboat). Given the boy band craze is one of those perfect examples of an utterly ridiculous cultural phenomena for a show like The Simpsons to lampoon, it’s a pity they aren’t torn to shreds. Their appearance simply compliments the storyline about Bart and his friends forming a boy band, which in itself is pretty far-fetched. All the clichés are there. I love the studio magic joke. The sinister objectives of L.T. Smash go far beyond common logic, but they are analogously fitting to the plot. It’s just incredibly stupid, yet still possible in this crazy universe, which is just what makes it so funny. Good comedy is a commitment to the absurd.

There are just so many wonderfully absurd moments in this episode; it fits right in with the kooky surrealism of The Prisoner episode and the one with the jockey elves. This episode was written by Tim Long but it has the surrealist fingerprints of John Schwartzwelder. I love all the reveals of L.T. Smash when Lisa discovers his secret, particularly the dot in L.T. to imply “lieutenant”, and also, when L.T. Smash and his superior officer exchange threats by operating various controls of the ship with a gun. It hardly makes a barrel of sense, but neither does this last act. Impervious timing of the broadcast in February 25th 2001, leads to an unsettling premonition of the World Trade Center attacks six months later in the final scenes where the MAD Magazine office building is destroyed by aircraft carrier missiles, which merely fuels the strangeness of New Kids. It is barely intolerable to think about those horrors when watching this scene. But for me, oddities like this only add to the fascination and mystique of the show.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #72
Lisa’s First Word
Season 4 – Episode 10 (Airdate: Dec 3, 1992)
Lisa’s First Word is firmly rooted in the comfort zone of The Simpsons watching parties. I guess this one came about in lieu of the success of flashback shows, naturally following in the footsteps of The Way We Was and I Married Marge. The inevitable story involving Lisa’s introduction and the significant cliffhanger of baby Maggie’s first word – which is what this episode is really about – establishes a spotlight on the young, mischievous Bart Simpson and the starry-eyed couple, Homer and Marge. It is a great occasion that allows a sense of child’s-eye perspective to immerse the viewer. Also, it’s an opportunity for the writers to portray a young family within a historical timeframe that has a contemporary significance – ie. Homer and Marge, a young married couple living in the Ronald Reagan era. So there are some cultural references from the 1980s which the show lampoons, such as the Olympics, fast food restaurants, and Homer’s novel version of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Personally, it lacks that classic episode quality but Lisa’s First Word still packs some funny jokes and very sweet moments. It contains one of the most quotable phrases for not getting any sleep when Homer decides to build a terrifying clown bed for Bart: “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.” Homer’s efforts are genuine (“Now you can laugh yourself to sleep!”) but the bed only succeeds in giving Bart fright-based insomnia. There seems to be a cynical attitude the show’s writers have towards clowns in The Simpsons, and their presence in all our nightmares. Another running gag since the start of the show has been Maggie’s unspoken disposition, with pacifier noises replacing dialogue. This episode finally makes this point, and in doing so, it is a plot device in bringing the family together. Lisa connects with her silence through an old proverb: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Homer then supports this statement with a quote from the Book of Homerisms: “Takes one to know one!”
The characterization of Toddler Bart is so perfect and his antics are fun to watch. He seems so confident even at the young age of two. I love his fantasy of what a new baby sister would be like and the montage of events that occur when Bart realizes he is no longer the centre of attention. I also enjoy Homer’s reaction to Bart’s love for Krusty the Clown: “Krusty funny!” And Homer retorts with a “Duh.” A lot of credit is due for the cycle of words going around Bart’s head, culminating with the impressionable line from Flanders’ senile mother: “Hello Joe!” These dramatic reveries frequently appear in later shows and they are always hilarious. The Flanders’ introduction is a cornerstone testament to their annoyingly over-friendly presence in the Simpsons world. I like how loose ends are tied up in the flashbacks, such as how the Simpson family found their current home in Evergreen Terrace. I love the realtor showing Homer and Marge around lots of unappealing properties: “Once you get used to the smell of melted hog fat, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” Then there is the sequence of events of how Grampa ended up in a retirement home. Grampa giving Homer the financial lift to buy the house is a poignant moment, and the outcome of Homer kicking him out after three weeks is a shamefully amusing deed. Poor Grampa.
The focus on Lisa makes Bart feel left out and this is captured so beautifully in the latter part of Lisa’s First Word. The heart-rendering conclusion that after Bart’s discontent with the new addition to the family, her first word turns out to be him, is a classy touch. The final scenes are pretty much flawless. As Matt Groening wanted from the beginning of the series to exhibit a sense of realism and an accurate representation of life, thus, Lisa’s First Word portrays very true elements of human behaviour, such as Bart and Lisa’s sibling rivalry or Homer’s television habits. In this normal behaviour and seriousness lurks the absurd, which activates our sense of proportion when we relate to these common events. Only in the subtle discrepancies we discern as a viewer does the comedy emerge, which makes the gravity of drama – all the pain and conflict – comparatively the same as humour.

One of the special parts of this show is when Bart shows his unconditional love for Lisa, despite all the bickering and fighting, you get the sense that deep down they care for each other. This is emphasized in the transition from the flashback of Bart and Lisa hugging to arguing in the present day, which leads us to the anticipated set-up of Homer taking Maggie to bed: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back. I hope you never say a word.” This lays the icing on the cake for the cherry on top: Maggie’s first word (“Daddy”). Depending if you’re inclined to let your heartstrings be twisted into the whirlwind of sentimental mush, this ending can often cause the floodgates to open.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #72

Lisa’s First Word

Season 4 – Episode 10 (Airdate: Dec 3, 1992)

Lisa’s First Word is firmly rooted in the comfort zone of The Simpsons watching parties. I guess this one came about in lieu of the success of flashback shows, naturally following in the footsteps of The Way We Was and I Married Marge. The inevitable story involving Lisa’s introduction and the significant cliffhanger of baby Maggie’s first word – which is what this episode is really about – establishes a spotlight on the young, mischievous Bart Simpson and the starry-eyed couple, Homer and Marge. It is a great occasion that allows a sense of child’s-eye perspective to immerse the viewer. Also, it’s an opportunity for the writers to portray a young family within a historical timeframe that has a contemporary significance – ie. Homer and Marge, a young married couple living in the Ronald Reagan era. So there are some cultural references from the 1980s which the show lampoons, such as the Olympics, fast food restaurants, and Homer’s novel version of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Personally, it lacks that classic episode quality but Lisa’s First Word still packs some funny jokes and very sweet moments. It contains one of the most quotable phrases for not getting any sleep when Homer decides to build a terrifying clown bed for Bart: “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.” Homer’s efforts are genuine (“Now you can laugh yourself to sleep!”) but the bed only succeeds in giving Bart fright-based insomnia. There seems to be a cynical attitude the show’s writers have towards clowns in The Simpsons, and their presence in all our nightmares. Another running gag since the start of the show has been Maggie’s unspoken disposition, with pacifier noises replacing dialogue. This episode finally makes this point, and in doing so, it is a plot device in bringing the family together. Lisa connects with her silence through an old proverb: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Homer then supports this statement with a quote from the Book of Homerisms: “Takes one to know one!”

The characterization of Toddler Bart is so perfect and his antics are fun to watch. He seems so confident even at the young age of two. I love his fantasy of what a new baby sister would be like and the montage of events that occur when Bart realizes he is no longer the centre of attention. I also enjoy Homer’s reaction to Bart’s love for Krusty the Clown: “Krusty funny!” And Homer retorts with a “Duh.” A lot of credit is due for the cycle of words going around Bart’s head, culminating with the impressionable line from Flanders’ senile mother: “Hello Joe!” These dramatic reveries frequently appear in later shows and they are always hilarious. The Flanders’ introduction is a cornerstone testament to their annoyingly over-friendly presence in the Simpsons world. I like how loose ends are tied up in the flashbacks, such as how the Simpson family found their current home in Evergreen Terrace. I love the realtor showing Homer and Marge around lots of unappealing properties: “Once you get used to the smell of melted hog fat, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” Then there is the sequence of events of how Grampa ended up in a retirement home. Grampa giving Homer the financial lift to buy the house is a poignant moment, and the outcome of Homer kicking him out after three weeks is a shamefully amusing deed. Poor Grampa.

The focus on Lisa makes Bart feel left out and this is captured so beautifully in the latter part of Lisa’s First Word. The heart-rendering conclusion that after Bart’s discontent with the new addition to the family, her first word turns out to be him, is a classy touch. The final scenes are pretty much flawless. As Matt Groening wanted from the beginning of the series to exhibit a sense of realism and an accurate representation of life, thus, Lisa’s First Word portrays very true elements of human behaviour, such as Bart and Lisa’s sibling rivalry or Homer’s television habits. In this normal behaviour and seriousness lurks the absurd, which activates our sense of proportion when we relate to these common events. Only in the subtle discrepancies we discern as a viewer does the comedy emerge, which makes the gravity of drama – all the pain and conflict – comparatively the same as humour.

One of the special parts of this show is when Bart shows his unconditional love for Lisa, despite all the bickering and fighting, you get the sense that deep down they care for each other. This is emphasized in the transition from the flashback of Bart and Lisa hugging to arguing in the present day, which leads us to the anticipated set-up of Homer taking Maggie to bed: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back. I hope you never say a word.” This lays the icing on the cake for the cherry on top: Maggie’s first word (“Daddy”). Depending if you’re inclined to let your heartstrings be twisted into the whirlwind of sentimental mush, this ending can often cause the floodgates to open.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #73
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
Season 2 – Episode 15 (Airdate: Feb 21, 1991)
The Simpsons has skirted the surface on chance meetings between Homer and honest, hardworking people who deserve every penny they’ve earned. We will see in the standard Homer’s Enemy what it’s like for a normal person to cross paths with Homer Simpson. But in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Homer causes yet another downfall of an innocent everyman; this time it’s a family member, a long-lost half brother. For Herbert Powell; a successful owner of a car manufacturing company, wealthy and business-minded, a life without family is a lonely ride. He yearns for a sense of humanity and association. Underneath the power, conviction and boardroom-bullying, he still feels a connection with all the Homer Simpsons out there.
This episode is great for a number of reasons. We have the first appearance of Rainier Wolfcastle, flaunting a Schwarzenegger-esque action hero in the latest McBain film – a parody of the Die Hard series which comically delivers all the clichés of action films. It’s worth noting that if you play all the clips of the McBain movies drawn out in the Simpsons series, they actually form a mini-movie with a full storyline when played in order. They are a potent vehicle for Hollywood satire, and they always provide the foundations for great jokes or initiating plot-lines. Such is the case with Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, as Grampa suffers a mild heart attack in the cinema, and this close realisation of death prompts him to confess the dramatic family secret to Homer.
Herbert Powell was a man with all the money in the world, but what he didn’t have is a family: “Homer, you are the richest man I know.” Homer of course misses the point and his response sums up how unwitting he is, as he gazes upon Herb’s expensive manor: “I feel the same about you.” The closing moments of the show feature Herb leaving on a bus as he faces bankruptcy and he harshly remarks to Homer: “I have no Brother”. It’s a cruel story of the rise and fall of a man’s empire that is brilliantly portrayed through a satirical middle class American family situation. We feel bad for both Herb and Homer. But in the end, Homer Simpson remains the fortunate fool; the one that has a caring family to fall back on as Bart compliments his car, giving him a minor lift.
The joy of this episode is Danny DeVito’s performance as Herbert Powell who throws his body and soul into this character. The scene in the boardroom meeting where he imperially parades his sense of power, then reveals the vulnerability of a man with no roots. Herb later returns in Season 4 in a sequel of this episode: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?, which is too much dallying around but keeps in reserve some funny moments. It is a great pity that DeVito doesn’t return to reprise this role in the rest of the series. The other joy is witnessing his playful counteraction with Homer’s maniacal mood swings, and involuntarily fuelling the tumbling snowball of calamities. DeVito’s Herbert Powell is the perfect opposition to Dan Castellaneta’s Homer Simpson as both are alike in emotional reactivity and passion. But they differ in certain qualities, as Grampa Simpson grudgingly bemoans: “I kept the wrong one.” In any universe, you just would not want to meet Homer, for fear of luck suddenly turning bad. I love when Homer gets incredibly passionate about things, but you especially don’t want to give him free reign to design his own car - Homer’s blueprint of his car and the serious look on his face is a picture – these parts where Homer develops his car offers some of the episode’s best moments.
I love Bart and Lisa’s unspoken quarrel during dinner, with Bart signing: “I think you stink”, followed by Lisa’s response: “You drive me crazy”. I still use these signing gestures in real life situations. Bart and Lisa portray the archetype of young children in this episode, even upon meeting their “Unky Herb”, and their distance from adulthood is established as the adults (Homer, Marge, Herbert Powell and Grampa Simpson) come to face the real-life grown-up situations. This balance and portrayal is a key touchstone in the early Simpsons episodes. Bart and Lisa’s child-like naivety is amplified when Unky Herb puts an employee on speaker to impress them with falsified impressions of their father. My favourite moment is the slow, calculated read of the employee: “Homer Simpson is a… brilliant man with lots of… well thought-out, practical ideas. He is ensuring the financial security of this company for years to come. Oh yes, and his personal hygiene is above reproached.”
It is the classic method of tension and release that makes this episode work. The timing of the tension to the point of release is critical, and Herb’s trust in Homer to design a car for the common man is the tension that appropriately thrusts the final gag (the revealing of ‘The Homer’) to its climactic release. We, the audience, all know it will end badly, it’s just a case of anticipating what kind of disastrous conclusion will transpire. As we find out, Homer’s creation is an eyesore, causing unpopular gasps on the showroom floor. This inevitably drives Herb’s company out of business. As well as being a funny and fascinating look at the boorish nature of the common consumer, Homer’s car and the bulk of material in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is effectively a dig at car companies that roll out tacky car designs and accessories with an overpriced value. The all-encompassing irony is that The Homer was finally manufactured in 2013, pleasing several fanatics, myself included.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #73

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Season 2 – Episode 15 (Airdate: Feb 21, 1991)

The Simpsons has skirted the surface on chance meetings between Homer and honest, hardworking people who deserve every penny they’ve earned. We will see in the standard Homer’s Enemy what it’s like for a normal person to cross paths with Homer Simpson. But in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Homer causes yet another downfall of an innocent everyman; this time it’s a family member, a long-lost half brother. For Herbert Powell; a successful owner of a car manufacturing company, wealthy and business-minded, a life without family is a lonely ride. He yearns for a sense of humanity and association. Underneath the power, conviction and boardroom-bullying, he still feels a connection with all the Homer Simpsons out there.

This episode is great for a number of reasons. We have the first appearance of Rainier Wolfcastle, flaunting a Schwarzenegger-esque action hero in the latest McBain film – a parody of the Die Hard series which comically delivers all the clichés of action films. It’s worth noting that if you play all the clips of the McBain movies drawn out in the Simpsons series, they actually form a mini-movie with a full storyline when played in order. They are a potent vehicle for Hollywood satire, and they always provide the foundations for great jokes or initiating plot-lines. Such is the case with Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, as Grampa suffers a mild heart attack in the cinema, and this close realisation of death prompts him to confess the dramatic family secret to Homer.

Herbert Powell was a man with all the money in the world, but what he didn’t have is a family: “Homer, you are the richest man I know.” Homer of course misses the point and his response sums up how unwitting he is, as he gazes upon Herb’s expensive manor: “I feel the same about you.” The closing moments of the show feature Herb leaving on a bus as he faces bankruptcy and he harshly remarks to Homer: “I have no Brother”. It’s a cruel story of the rise and fall of a man’s empire that is brilliantly portrayed through a satirical middle class American family situation. We feel bad for both Herb and Homer. But in the end, Homer Simpson remains the fortunate fool; the one that has a caring family to fall back on as Bart compliments his car, giving him a minor lift.

The joy of this episode is Danny DeVito’s performance as Herbert Powell who throws his body and soul into this character. The scene in the boardroom meeting where he imperially parades his sense of power, then reveals the vulnerability of a man with no roots. Herb later returns in Season 4 in a sequel of this episode: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?, which is too much dallying around but keeps in reserve some funny moments. It is a great pity that DeVito doesn’t return to reprise this role in the rest of the series. The other joy is witnessing his playful counteraction with Homer’s maniacal mood swings, and involuntarily fuelling the tumbling snowball of calamities. DeVito’s Herbert Powell is the perfect opposition to Dan Castellaneta’s Homer Simpson as both are alike in emotional reactivity and passion. But they differ in certain qualities, as Grampa Simpson grudgingly bemoans: “I kept the wrong one.” In any universe, you just would not want to meet Homer, for fear of luck suddenly turning bad. I love when Homer gets incredibly passionate about things, but you especially don’t want to give him free reign to design his own car - Homer’s blueprint of his car and the serious look on his face is a picture – these parts where Homer develops his car offers some of the episode’s best moments.

I love Bart and Lisa’s unspoken quarrel during dinner, with Bart signing: “I think you stink”, followed by Lisa’s response: “You drive me crazy”. I still use these signing gestures in real life situations. Bart and Lisa portray the archetype of young children in this episode, even upon meeting their “Unky Herb”, and their distance from adulthood is established as the adults (Homer, Marge, Herbert Powell and Grampa Simpson) come to face the real-life grown-up situations. This balance and portrayal is a key touchstone in the early Simpsons episodes. Bart and Lisa’s child-like naivety is amplified when Unky Herb puts an employee on speaker to impress them with falsified impressions of their father. My favourite moment is the slow, calculated read of the employee: “Homer Simpson is a… brilliant man with lots of… well thought-out, practical ideas. He is ensuring the financial security of this company for years to come. Oh yes, and his personal hygiene is above reproached.”

It is the classic method of tension and release that makes this episode work. The timing of the tension to the point of release is critical, and Herb’s trust in Homer to design a car for the common man is the tension that appropriately thrusts the final gag (the revealing of ‘The Homer’) to its climactic release. We, the audience, all know it will end badly, it’s just a case of anticipating what kind of disastrous conclusion will transpire. As we find out, Homer’s creation is an eyesore, causing unpopular gasps on the showroom floor. This inevitably drives Herb’s company out of business. As well as being a funny and fascinating look at the boorish nature of the common consumer, Homer’s car and the bulk of material in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is effectively a dig at car companies that roll out tacky car designs and accessories with an overpriced value. The all-encompassing irony is that The Homer was finally manufactured in 2013, pleasing several fanatics, myself included.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #74
Blood Feud
Season 2 – Episode 22 (Airdate: July 11, 1991)
After a prolonged exposure to modern episodes, one begins to see the classics through rose-tinted glasses. Blood Feud is a standard model for characterisation, animation direction, jokes, dialogue, voice-acting performances, and everything beyond. It is one of Season Two’s finest episodes, and one of the defining moments of the story-centric episodes. It succeeds in underlining the value of the narrative and even generates some philosophical interest in the nature of applying moral reasoning to real-life situations and complex ethical dilemmas.
The story is quite a dramatic rendering of one of human nature’s dominant impressions; the act of goodwill. We begin with a poorly Mr. Burns needing a blood transfusion. Homer sympathises with his dire circumstances, but only because he recognises a profit-gaining opportunity in giving blood to this wealthy man: “There’s a human being out there with millions of dollars who needs our help!” Marge characteristically provides the stability in the midst of her family’s antics by telling Bart: “You have to help someone in need, it’s the only decent thing to do.” Marge embodies the voice of reason and common sense, and there is a sweet charm to her knowledge of every little bit of information about her family (blood types, shoe sizes, etc). On the contrary, Homer misses the point and overlooks all the ethical boundaries, as witnessed in his chat with Bart: “It’s not like you would be giving blood for free, that would be crazy!” Homer’s efforts to dispense this reasoning to him through a tale about Hercules, is absolutely brilliant. 
Dan Castellaneta is outstanding as the impassioned oaf, Homer, notably when he metes out his rage to the family after discovering there is no reward from Mr Burns, just a measly card. As Homer chews out his anger with a letter dictated to Bart, Marge attempts to douse the flames and emphasize the obvious: “You don’t do things like that to be rewarded, you do them because a fellow human being needs a helping hand”. Homer is essentially the rebel inside us, and we are completely rooting for him. The viewers want Homer to get his reward. They want him to write the angry letter. As a man of highly unstable emotions, Homer holds off the impulsion of sending the letter and decides to sleep on it. I love Nancy Cartwright’s delivery of Bart’s line, revealing fate of the letter: “The last time I saw it…was in my hand…as I was shoving it…into the mailbox.” The tension builds throughout this central part with some wonderful scenes, such as Homer’s dream, the written letter to Burns, the mail lady scene, the post office scene (unquestionably one of the classic moments in the history of the show), and the moment Burns reads the letter in front of Homer.
At this point of the show, it’s all about the consequences. Harry Shearer steals the show as the despicably evil Mr. Burns. The animation and scriptwriting, specifically in the scenes of Mr. Burns’ office, is perfect. Homer’s letter sounds even more dramatic when Burns angrily reads it out loud, and lines like: “I could crush him like an ant. But it would be too easy. No, revenge is a dish best served cold. I’ll bide my time until…Oh, what the hell. I’ll just crush him like an ant”, are captured in true raging form. This is classic Mr. Burns - a nefarious old man with a wealth of influential power. This episode plays an important part in defining the roles of each character. Smithers is Mr. Burns’ devoted dogsbody but in Blood Feud he comes into his own and we see him taking a stand against Mr. Burns’ tirade to have Homer beaten up by a hitman. his affectionate relationship with Burns in this episode is quite endearing at times. It’s interesting to see how he and Mr. Burns’ relationship parallels with Homer and Marge’s relationship. Mr. Burns utters: “As usual, you’ve been the sober ying to my raging yang.” Likewise, Marge’s willpower over Homer is well established in Blood Feud. Despite how irrational he can be, Marge is his centre of gravity and pulls him back down to ground when he is about to let loose: “You always do that hand thing. And it usually works.”
As with all great episodes, there are some minor elements that still stand out, such as the customary Moe’s Tavern prank call (“Mike Rotch”), the nuclear power plant sign skit (“Relax. Everything is fine,” “Minor leak. Roll up window,” “Meltdown. Flee city,” “Core explosion. Repent sins.”), the doctor at the hospital wasting time standing in the lift with the blood packet, forgetting to press the button, and finally, Moe and Barney’s insightful quote: “You should not drink to forget your problems…You should always drink to enhance your social skills”. Lisa teaching Maggie new words is also a cute side story that does no harm to the flow of the episode.

Regarding the final stages, we have Mr. Burns’ memoirs, “Will There Ever Be A Rainbow” (this would be a good read), the “big ugly head” gift, and the fun poke at programmes that always end with morals. This episode skirts around a few issues such as helping out a fellow human being, sticking by your partner, and acts of compensation for one’s actions. The stone head is a reward of sorts for the family (Homer is unimpressed), but the family debate the fact that they would have received nothing if Homer hadn’t written the angry letter. Marge attempts to provide a moral to the story, like “no good deed goes unrewarded”, but Homer marks out that maybe there are no morals; “it was just a bunch of stuff that happened”. What I like about Blood Feud is this fascinating anchorlessness that disconnects the characters in the show from the writers of the show. In the natural unraveling of events, while there is no underlying moral to this tale, all the focus is on the characters expectations and reactions. This is a key aspect of why this episode succeeds. The actions seem realistic and even the characters don’t know what to expect. All things considered, none of this chaos and disorder would have happened without the imbecilic, anarchic, and unpredictable nature of Homer Simpson.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #74

Blood Feud

Season 2 – Episode 22 (Airdate: July 11, 1991)

After a prolonged exposure to modern episodes, one begins to see the classics through rose-tinted glasses. Blood Feud is a standard model for characterisation, animation direction, jokes, dialogue, voice-acting performances, and everything beyond. It is one of Season Two’s finest episodes, and one of the defining moments of the story-centric episodes. It succeeds in underlining the value of the narrative and even generates some philosophical interest in the nature of applying moral reasoning to real-life situations and complex ethical dilemmas.

The story is quite a dramatic rendering of one of human nature’s dominant impressions; the act of goodwill. We begin with a poorly Mr. Burns needing a blood transfusion. Homer sympathises with his dire circumstances, but only because he recognises a profit-gaining opportunity in giving blood to this wealthy man: “There’s a human being out there with millions of dollars who needs our help!” Marge characteristically provides the stability in the midst of her family’s antics by telling Bart: “You have to help someone in need, it’s the only decent thing to do.” Marge embodies the voice of reason and common sense, and there is a sweet charm to her knowledge of every little bit of information about her family (blood types, shoe sizes, etc). On the contrary, Homer misses the point and overlooks all the ethical boundaries, as witnessed in his chat with Bart: “It’s not like you would be giving blood for free, that would be crazy!” Homer’s efforts to dispense this reasoning to him through a tale about Hercules, is absolutely brilliant. 

Dan Castellaneta is outstanding as the impassioned oaf, Homer, notably when he metes out his rage to the family after discovering there is no reward from Mr Burns, just a measly card. As Homer chews out his anger with a letter dictated to Bart, Marge attempts to douse the flames and emphasize the obvious: “You don’t do things like that to be rewarded, you do them because a fellow human being needs a helping hand”. Homer is essentially the rebel inside us, and we are completely rooting for him. The viewers want Homer to get his reward. They want him to write the angry letter. As a man of highly unstable emotions, Homer holds off the impulsion of sending the letter and decides to sleep on it. I love Nancy Cartwright’s delivery of Bart’s line, revealing fate of the letter: “The last time I saw it…was in my hand…as I was shoving it…into the mailbox.” The tension builds throughout this central part with some wonderful scenes, such as Homer’s dream, the written letter to Burns, the mail lady scene, the post office scene (unquestionably one of the classic moments in the history of the show), and the moment Burns reads the letter in front of Homer.

At this point of the show, it’s all about the consequences. Harry Shearer steals the show as the despicably evil Mr. Burns. The animation and scriptwriting, specifically in the scenes of Mr. Burns’ office, is perfect. Homer’s letter sounds even more dramatic when Burns angrily reads it out loud, and lines like: “I could crush him like an ant. But it would be too easy. No, revenge is a dish best served cold. I’ll bide my time until…Oh, what the hell. I’ll just crush him like an ant”, are captured in true raging form. This is classic Mr. Burns - a nefarious old man with a wealth of influential power. This episode plays an important part in defining the roles of each character. Smithers is Mr. Burns’ devoted dogsbody but in Blood Feud he comes into his own and we see him taking a stand against Mr. Burns’ tirade to have Homer beaten up by a hitman. his affectionate relationship with Burns in this episode is quite endearing at times. It’s interesting to see how he and Mr. Burns’ relationship parallels with Homer and Marge’s relationship. Mr. Burns utters: “As usual, you’ve been the sober ying to my raging yang.” Likewise, Marge’s willpower over Homer is well established in Blood Feud. Despite how irrational he can be, Marge is his centre of gravity and pulls him back down to ground when he is about to let loose: “You always do that hand thing. And it usually works.”

As with all great episodes, there are some minor elements that still stand out, such as the customary Moe’s Tavern prank call (“Mike Rotch”), the nuclear power plant sign skit (“Relax. Everything is fine,” “Minor leak. Roll up window,” “Meltdown. Flee city,” “Core explosion. Repent sins.”), the doctor at the hospital wasting time standing in the lift with the blood packet, forgetting to press the button, and finally, Moe and Barney’s insightful quote: “You should not drink to forget your problems…You should always drink to enhance your social skills”. Lisa teaching Maggie new words is also a cute side story that does no harm to the flow of the episode.

Regarding the final stages, we have Mr. Burns’ memoirs, “Will There Ever Be A Rainbow” (this would be a good read), the “big ugly head” gift, and the fun poke at programmes that always end with morals. This episode skirts around a few issues such as helping out a fellow human being, sticking by your partner, and acts of compensation for one’s actions. The stone head is a reward of sorts for the family (Homer is unimpressed), but the family debate the fact that they would have received nothing if Homer hadn’t written the angry letter. Marge attempts to provide a moral to the story, like “no good deed goes unrewarded”, but Homer marks out that maybe there are no morals; “it was just a bunch of stuff that happened”. What I like about Blood Feud is this fascinating anchorlessness that disconnects the characters in the show from the writers of the show. In the natural unraveling of events, while there is no underlying moral to this tale, all the focus is on the characters expectations and reactions. This is a key aspect of why this episode succeeds. The actions seem realistic and even the characters don’t know what to expect. All things considered, none of this chaos and disorder would have happened without the imbecilic, anarchic, and unpredictable nature of Homer Simpson.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #75
Homr
Season 12 – Episode 9 (Airdate: January 7, 2001)
An emmy-winning episode, I have a certain fondness for Homr. I approve of the character shift in Homer and what he attempted to achieve as a smart person. As his intelligence increased, he could relate to Lisa and her struggles with fitting in, and being happy. The first act is a bit run-of-the-mill involving a few overly dumb Homer moments. Homer volunteering for the motion-capture technology demonstration is funny. I particularly like the medical research skit. This lead-up satisfactorily lays the foundations for the better second half. After discovering he has a crayon lodged in his brain – which is the daft reason for his lack of intelligence – he volunteers to have it removed (to “increase his killing power”), his IQ suddenly increases and thus goes about the world with this newly-enlightened perspective. Far-fetched?
The writers are sensitive in their approach to the new smart Homer and the plot doesn’t get too caught up in implausible adventures. His theory against the existence of God, which he reveals to Ned Flanders of all people, is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religion. Making him smarter actually makes him sweeter, and more aware, but less funny and likeable. As Homer feels like more of an outcast, he finds a connection with Lisa. It’s a good Father-Daughter moment when she empathizes with him about the burdens of being a brainiac.

The plot twist predictably runs its course and Homer is unsurprisingly confused, unhappy, alienated, and wants to return to his normal state (smart move) – by asking Moe to perform crayon surgery on him. It’s a fantastical episode which probably would not have held up if it wasn’t for the poignant end to the episode. Before Homer has the procedure to turn him back to normal, he writes a sweet letter to Lisa: "I’m taking the coward’s way out. But before I do, I just wanted to say being smart made me appreciate just how amazing you really are.” So what’s established in Homr is that with intelligence comes less happiness. But no one would trade an ignorant Homer for a humourless one. Now, who wants lottery tickets?!

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #75

Homr

Season 12 – Episode 9 (Airdate: January 7, 2001)

An emmy-winning episode, I have a certain fondness for Homr. I approve of the character shift in Homer and what he attempted to achieve as a smart person. As his intelligence increased, he could relate to Lisa and her struggles with fitting in, and being happy. The first act is a bit run-of-the-mill involving a few overly dumb Homer moments. Homer volunteering for the motion-capture technology demonstration is funny. I particularly like the medical research skit. This lead-up satisfactorily lays the foundations for the better second half. After discovering he has a crayon lodged in his brain – which is the daft reason for his lack of intelligence – he volunteers to have it removed (to “increase his killing power”), his IQ suddenly increases and thus goes about the world with this newly-enlightened perspective. Far-fetched?

The writers are sensitive in their approach to the new smart Homer and the plot doesn’t get too caught up in implausible adventures. His theory against the existence of God, which he reveals to Ned Flanders of all people, is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religion. Making him smarter actually makes him sweeter, and more aware, but less funny and likeable. As Homer feels like more of an outcast, he finds a connection with Lisa. It’s a good Father-Daughter moment when she empathizes with him about the burdens of being a brainiac.

The plot twist predictably runs its course and Homer is unsurprisingly confused, unhappy, alienated, and wants to return to his normal state (smart move) – by asking Moe to perform crayon surgery on him. It’s a fantastical episode which probably would not have held up if it wasn’t for the poignant end to the episode. Before Homer has the procedure to turn him back to normal, he writes a sweet letter to Lisa: "I’m taking the coward’s way out. But before I do, I just wanted to say being smart made me appreciate just how amazing you really are.” So what’s established in Homr is that with intelligence comes less happiness. But no one would trade an ignorant Homer for a humourless one. Now, who wants lottery tickets?!

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #76
Mom and Pop Art
Season 10 – Episode 19 (Airdate: April 11, 1999)
Once again, everything is “coming up Milhouse” for Homer, despite his moronic tendencies. Of all the soul-searching that Homer does in The Simpsons, this could be the one that establishes the answer to his rage and ignorance. We look to The Blunder Years and the brilliant El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer for those deeply introspective studies on what goes in his brain, but Mom and Pop Art tackles this issue through one particular topic: Art. A few scenes in, we hear the line “Art is an expression of raw emotion”, and that is a telling statement given this, one of Homer’s first ventures into art, is the product of his recurrent anger problems. I believe this is a grander episode than it gets credit for, as there is a nice balance of highly sophisticated art satire and an insightful appreciation for modern art. Not to disregard the hilarious and incisive wit we encounter in Mom and Pop Art, which punctures our judgments about art and artists, such as the very concept of Outsider Art being more about the person or people promoting it than the art itself.
Despite its flaws and absurdities, this episode works on many levels. Beyond the memorable laughs and gags, and the nonsensical plot, we are once again witnessing The Simpsons as the masters of satire. The programme raises some deep discussions about culture and social class in many complex ways, but they never miss an opportunity to mock pretentious and snobby art types. The core idea, that a clown like Homer could be praised for his unintentional masterpiece, is the cream of the crop. It raises fundamental questions that artists face day to day, like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘Who is an Artist?’ These questions reverberate in many minds of artists; some are referenced in the show – Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Turner, Andy Warhol & Piet Mondrian. Homer provides some philosophical thought on the subject when he is thrashing at a lump of clay, yelling: “Why won’t you be art?!”. Homer’s art pieces are shrewd statements about our judgments of art and artists, thus liberating all the confusion and ‘otherness’ about contemporary art that we ought to embrace with discussion, pleasure and emotion.
Regarding the plot, Homer purchases a build-your-own barbeque set and gets to work on assembling it. Predictably, the task proves difficult for Homer, and in his rage, he creates a messy heap of brick and metal. Unable to return it to the store, he arbitrarily offloads the mangled barbeque grill into an art dealer’s car, which astonishingly launches his accidental career as an “outsider artist.” The art dealer confronts Homer about the barbeque grill, asking – to his surprise – if she could display it in her gallery. Despite his confusion, referring to the attempted barbeque set as “this hunk o’ junk”, Homer agrees to the arrangement. After exclaiming earlier, “why is life so hard”, whilst lashing at the barbeque, it is a paradoxical contrast that the object that was giving him grief is now placed in an art gallery, receiving attention for its artistic merit. Despite being completely devoid of artistic talent, Homer is now seen as an “Outsider Artist”. He is in awe of the love and acceptance when audiences see his work, and this turn of events hint at what great lengths he will go to – to maintain this sense of identification and approval that society lavishes on a successful artist.
Calling Homer Simpson an outsider artist would be to state the obvious. Outsider Art comprises all artworks made by people without formal artistic training. It is like jazz or blues compared to classical music, and Simpsons’ viewers will know too well that the only member of the family with any technical skill in art is his Marge. Homer conveys his thoughts on Marge’s art work: “Your paintings look like the things they look like”, which is basically every non-art person’s reaction to art. You have to wonder how well Marge copes with the torture of Homer’s accomplishment in the field that she herself has strived all her life to be successful in. Yet, she still remains supportive of him, despite the reality that he is once again stealing her dreams. “It’s like Marge’s dream come true…for me!”
When Homer’s new art pieces – lest to mention their fantastic names: (1) “Failed Shelving Unit With Stupid Stuck Chainsaw and Applesauce”, and (2) the “Thing De Resistance: Attempted Birdhouse 1” – are displayed in his new exhibition, they draw a less enthused response from the audience. Art dealer, Astrid Weller’s reasoning states that Homer’s pieces are just like his other work and that audiences only love what’s new and shocking. It is characteristic that outsider artists lose their freshness after their original work. His pretentious art friends all agree and lose interest. This sequence suggests that there is a vexed connection between social class and art. Beneath Homer’s art crisis, captured through a wonderfully perceptive dream sequence where he is attacked by various famous artworks – “Why does art hate me? I never did anything to art” [spoken with a fist through a Warhol painting] – we witness this fascinating subtext of ‘Mom and Pop Art’. Scanning the rejection he felt after the failure of his exhibition, we read into the elitists’ disdain for unrefined types such as Homer Simpson.
With the help of Marge and Lisa, who educate Homer about the art world with an insightful look into contemporary art (Marge: “Great artists are always trying new things”), his desire to regain the love and approval of his audience leads him to a revelation; a vision of Springfield, fused in the style of Turner’s Venetian Canals and Christo’s environmental projects. The final scenes entail the aftermath of this resoundingly absurd idea, and most farcical of all outcomes, it is met with the approval and delight from both the residents of Springfield and the art community. Homer is triumphant, and receives Marge’s approval, after she acknowledges the delight of the ‘real people’ of Springfield (I’m sure the people in the burn ward are happy). The episode ends with schmaltz, but the old classic kind, as Homer delivers the line to Marge: “You’ll always be the artist in the family”.
Mom and Pop Art questions the term “Outsider Art”, which is fundamentally a label, a creation of insiders for the purpose of commodity – like any term given to an art culture. So for Homer to become part of this culture, he needs to be invited, and the art dealer, Astrid Weller welcomes him to be part of the circle, with the line: “Congratulations, Homer. You’re now a professional artist.” The word professional, of course has no relevance to his “outsider artist” status, it just means he is just now an “insider”. This lets Homer into the elite circle, and he befriends some Eurotrash snobs. The appearance of outsider artist Jasper Johns implies similar comparisons to Homer in that petty theft is really just the same to Homer’s lazy, rage-fuelled art. When Bart is helping Homer steal doormats and open up fire hydrants to concoct his final work of art, Bart questions Homer: “Are you sure this is Art and not Vandalism?” There is a feeling that the writers are simply suggesting, immaturity, insolence and basically unlawful activity is the key and source to great creativity. After all, The Simpsons is a cartoon, a medium associated with a general perception of immaturity, which could be another subtle undertone of irony.
As Jean Dubuffet puts it, Outsider Art is “the unselfconscious imagery born of pure, uninhibited expression”. It was art that was not based on established traditions or techniques. It did not follow styles or trends, and it was not made primarily to be sold for monetary gain. But in The Simpsons, Homer realizes the success of his work as a commodity and is happy that people worship him for “screwing up” – also evident in Homer The Great. Over the history of the show, we have always been driven to acceptance by the writers of the show that cartoons aren’t important and don’t really have any deep meaning, they are just “stupid drawings that give you cheap laughs”. Homer is almost always the protagonist of this view. In parallel contrast to this criticism, the programme regularly praises the genre, often referencing various comic-strips and animations. It is presumed that in the director’s commentary, a one-third of the staff at The Simpsons went to art college. There are many references of the art world in ‘Mom and Pop Art’, from Warhol’s wrath to Dalí’s delights, and there is a lot of visual loyalty in context with their role. My favourite is the Simpsonized version of Turner’s Venetian Canals. In this scene in particular, the animation is beautiful. We also learn in the Simpsons animated universe that all artists wear berets, and lions are aquatic animals.
 As I have stated at the beginning, this is a funny episode. Without a doubt, Homer is at his most annoying, whiny self (“Why is life so hard?”), causing all the infuriating chaos with all the hilarious costs. Notable jokes include the advert for the barbeque set: “Snapping fingers may not make food appear”. I like when Homer sings the “Shaving My Shoulders” song, brings a shotgun to answer the front door and leaves it in the baby’s crib. And when Homer draws Lenny and Carl in the shower, which surely provokes more than a hint of homosexuality? I like Barney’s secret artistic talents (why has no one recognized his multi-gifted flair for the arts?). The most memorable part is Homer trying to build the barbeque set – this represents a very real situation in trying to put together anything from a hardware store. From this episode, you can roughly deduce a formula for a Simpsons episode centred around Homer: (1) Has an accident, (2) Fortune goes his way, (3) Profits from this accidental luck, (4) Everything comes crashing down, (5) Learns a lesson through some epiphanous feat which resolves all the issues. It is a very complex and astute episode, which has even appeared under analysis in an academic art journal. Anagrams for names appear (Isabella Rossellini’s character, Astrid Weller = “sell weird art”), among a barrel-full of pop culture references, current event bits, film allusions, and art history homages. It is basically a Simpson fan’s dream come true as there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover and an array of discussions to challenge and mull over.

In conclusion, Mom and Pop Art attempts to let our confusion roam freely concerning the implications of interpreting love and acceptance as criteria for defining art. As it provokes our ambivalence and awareness, it refrains from presenting any clear judgment or arguments, allowing the viewers to continue the debate. The whole essence of The Simpsons is about our identification with them. The family members rush home, sit on the sofa and watch TV, just like we sit on our sofas, and watch our TVs. The Simpsons are a reflection of us. They are like us, but different of course because they are cartoon characters, and we are not. When we see Homer frowning upon a contemporary art sculpture in an obnoxious and uncultured way, we view him this way, yet we identify with him. This identification mirrors the subconscious ambivalence about who we are by giving us the liberty to laugh at ourselves. Ironically, Homer parodies this correlation in a discussion with Marge about describing her artistic past, revealing the inability to properly make the distinction between her life and his own life – “I think I remember my own life, Marge!” This also highlights the versatile nature of the show to make fun not only of distinctions that may seem vague or arbitrary (like art and artists), but also the inability to tell the difference between people, as in this case.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #76

Mom and Pop Art

Season 10 – Episode 19 (Airdate: April 11, 1999)

Once again, everything is “coming up Milhouse” for Homer, despite his moronic tendencies. Of all the soul-searching that Homer does in The Simpsons, this could be the one that establishes the answer to his rage and ignorance. We look to The Blunder Years and the brilliant El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer for those deeply introspective studies on what goes in his brain, but Mom and Pop Art tackles this issue through one particular topic: Art. A few scenes in, we hear the line “Art is an expression of raw emotion”, and that is a telling statement given this, one of Homer’s first ventures into art, is the product of his recurrent anger problems. I believe this is a grander episode than it gets credit for, as there is a nice balance of highly sophisticated art satire and an insightful appreciation for modern art. Not to disregard the hilarious and incisive wit we encounter in Mom and Pop Art, which punctures our judgments about art and artists, such as the very concept of Outsider Art being more about the person or people promoting it than the art itself.

Despite its flaws and absurdities, this episode works on many levels. Beyond the memorable laughs and gags, and the nonsensical plot, we are once again witnessing The Simpsons as the masters of satire. The programme raises some deep discussions about culture and social class in many complex ways, but they never miss an opportunity to mock pretentious and snobby art types. The core idea, that a clown like Homer could be praised for his unintentional masterpiece, is the cream of the crop. It raises fundamental questions that artists face day to day, like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘Who is an Artist?’ These questions reverberate in many minds of artists; some are referenced in the show – Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Turner, Andy Warhol & Piet Mondrian. Homer provides some philosophical thought on the subject when he is thrashing at a lump of clay, yelling: “Why won’t you be art?!”. Homer’s art pieces are shrewd statements about our judgments of art and artists, thus liberating all the confusion and ‘otherness’ about contemporary art that we ought to embrace with discussion, pleasure and emotion.

Regarding the plot, Homer purchases a build-your-own barbeque set and gets to work on assembling it. Predictably, the task proves difficult for Homer, and in his rage, he creates a messy heap of brick and metal. Unable to return it to the store, he arbitrarily offloads the mangled barbeque grill into an art dealer’s car, which astonishingly launches his accidental career as an “outsider artist.” The art dealer confronts Homer about the barbeque grill, asking – to his surprise – if she could display it in her gallery. Despite his confusion, referring to the attempted barbeque set as “this hunk o’ junk”, Homer agrees to the arrangement. After exclaiming earlier, “why is life so hard”, whilst lashing at the barbeque, it is a paradoxical contrast that the object that was giving him grief is now placed in an art gallery, receiving attention for its artistic merit. Despite being completely devoid of artistic talent, Homer is now seen as an “Outsider Artist”. He is in awe of the love and acceptance when audiences see his work, and this turn of events hint at what great lengths he will go to – to maintain this sense of identification and approval that society lavishes on a successful artist.

Calling Homer Simpson an outsider artist would be to state the obvious. Outsider Art comprises all artworks made by people without formal artistic training. It is like jazz or blues compared to classical music, and Simpsons’ viewers will know too well that the only member of the family with any technical skill in art is his Marge. Homer conveys his thoughts on Marge’s art work: “Your paintings look like the things they look like”, which is basically every non-art person’s reaction to art. You have to wonder how well Marge copes with the torture of Homer’s accomplishment in the field that she herself has strived all her life to be successful in. Yet, she still remains supportive of him, despite the reality that he is once again stealing her dreams. “It’s like Marge’s dream come true…for me!”

When Homer’s new art pieces – lest to mention their fantastic names: (1) “Failed Shelving Unit With Stupid Stuck Chainsaw and Applesauce”, and (2) the “Thing De Resistance: Attempted Birdhouse 1” – are displayed in his new exhibition, they draw a less enthused response from the audience. Art dealer, Astrid Weller’s reasoning states that Homer’s pieces are just like his other work and that audiences only love what’s new and shocking. It is characteristic that outsider artists lose their freshness after their original work. His pretentious art friends all agree and lose interest. This sequence suggests that there is a vexed connection between social class and art. Beneath Homer’s art crisis, captured through a wonderfully perceptive dream sequence where he is attacked by various famous artworks – “Why does art hate me? I never did anything to art” [spoken with a fist through a Warhol painting] – we witness this fascinating subtext of ‘Mom and Pop Art’. Scanning the rejection he felt after the failure of his exhibition, we read into the elitists’ disdain for unrefined types such as Homer Simpson.

With the help of Marge and Lisa, who educate Homer about the art world with an insightful look into contemporary art (Marge: “Great artists are always trying new things”), his desire to regain the love and approval of his audience leads him to a revelation; a vision of Springfield, fused in the style of Turner’s Venetian Canals and Christo’s environmental projects. The final scenes entail the aftermath of this resoundingly absurd idea, and most farcical of all outcomes, it is met with the approval and delight from both the residents of Springfield and the art community. Homer is triumphant, and receives Marge’s approval, after she acknowledges the delight of the ‘real people’ of Springfield (I’m sure the people in the burn ward are happy). The episode ends with schmaltz, but the old classic kind, as Homer delivers the line to Marge: “You’ll always be the artist in the family”.

Mom and Pop Art questions the term “Outsider Art”, which is fundamentally a label, a creation of insiders for the purpose of commodity – like any term given to an art culture. So for Homer to become part of this culture, he needs to be invited, and the art dealer, Astrid Weller welcomes him to be part of the circle, with the line: “Congratulations, Homer. You’re now a professional artist.” The word professional, of course has no relevance to his “outsider artist” status, it just means he is just now an “insider”. This lets Homer into the elite circle, and he befriends some Eurotrash snobs. The appearance of outsider artist Jasper Johns implies similar comparisons to Homer in that petty theft is really just the same to Homer’s lazy, rage-fuelled art. When Bart is helping Homer steal doormats and open up fire hydrants to concoct his final work of art, Bart questions Homer: “Are you sure this is Art and not Vandalism?” There is a feeling that the writers are simply suggesting, immaturity, insolence and basically unlawful activity is the key and source to great creativity. After all, The Simpsons is a cartoon, a medium associated with a general perception of immaturity, which could be another subtle undertone of irony.

As Jean Dubuffet puts it, Outsider Art is “the unselfconscious imagery born of pure, uninhibited expression”. It was art that was not based on established traditions or techniques. It did not follow styles or trends, and it was not made primarily to be sold for monetary gain. But in The Simpsons, Homer realizes the success of his work as a commodity and is happy that people worship him for “screwing up” – also evident in Homer The Great. Over the history of the show, we have always been driven to acceptance by the writers of the show that cartoons aren’t important and don’t really have any deep meaning, they are just “stupid drawings that give you cheap laughs”. Homer is almost always the protagonist of this view. In parallel contrast to this criticism, the programme regularly praises the genre, often referencing various comic-strips and animations. It is presumed that in the director’s commentary, a one-third of the staff at The Simpsons went to art college. There are many references of the art world in ‘Mom and Pop Art’, from Warhol’s wrath to Dalí’s delights, and there is a lot of visual loyalty in context with their role. My favourite is the Simpsonized version of Turner’s Venetian Canals. In this scene in particular, the animation is beautiful. We also learn in the Simpsons animated universe that all artists wear berets, and lions are aquatic animals.

As I have stated at the beginning, this is a funny episode. Without a doubt, Homer is at his most annoying, whiny self (“Why is life so hard?”), causing all the infuriating chaos with all the hilarious costs. Notable jokes include the advert for the barbeque set: “Snapping fingers may not make food appear”. I like when Homer sings the “Shaving My Shoulders” song, brings a shotgun to answer the front door and leaves it in the baby’s crib. And when Homer draws Lenny and Carl in the shower, which surely provokes more than a hint of homosexuality? I like Barney’s secret artistic talents (why has no one recognized his multi-gifted flair for the arts?). The most memorable part is Homer trying to build the barbeque set – this represents a very real situation in trying to put together anything from a hardware store. From this episode, you can roughly deduce a formula for a Simpsons episode centred around Homer: (1) Has an accident, (2) Fortune goes his way, (3) Profits from this accidental luck, (4) Everything comes crashing down, (5) Learns a lesson through some epiphanous feat which resolves all the issues. It is a very complex and astute episode, which has even appeared under analysis in an academic art journal. Anagrams for names appear (Isabella Rossellini’s character, Astrid Weller = “sell weird art”), among a barrel-full of pop culture references, current event bits, film allusions, and art history homages. It is basically a Simpson fan’s dream come true as there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover and an array of discussions to challenge and mull over.

In conclusion, Mom and Pop Art attempts to let our confusion roam freely concerning the implications of interpreting love and acceptance as criteria for defining art. As it provokes our ambivalence and awareness, it refrains from presenting any clear judgment or arguments, allowing the viewers to continue the debate. The whole essence of The Simpsons is about our identification with them. The family members rush home, sit on the sofa and watch TV, just like we sit on our sofas, and watch our TVs. The Simpsons are a reflection of us. They are like us, but different of course because they are cartoon characters, and we are not. When we see Homer frowning upon a contemporary art sculpture in an obnoxious and uncultured way, we view him this way, yet we identify with him. This identification mirrors the subconscious ambivalence about who we are by giving us the liberty to laugh at ourselves. Ironically, Homer parodies this correlation in a discussion with Marge about describing her artistic past, revealing the inability to properly make the distinction between her life and his own life – “I think I remember my own life, Marge!” This also highlights the versatile nature of the show to make fun not only of distinctions that may seem vague or arbitrary (like art and artists), but also the inability to tell the difference between people, as in this case.

enyaocean:

Gustav Klimt - The Music (1895) 

enyaocean:

Gustav Klimt - The Music (1895) 

(via random-and-retro)

(Source: pinterest.com, via todf)

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #71
New Kids on the Blecch
Season 12 – Episode 14 (Airdate: Feb 25, 2001)
Yvan Eht Nioj! Ok, this one is not a classic by any stretch, but it is an entertaining little episode that gets a bad rap. I recognize that a lot of the issues people have is aimed at the guest appearance of N’Sync. It’s too easy to throw the blame on boy bands since they are parodies on themselves, but I personally believe it was a stroke of genius to cast N’Sync. They do a terrific job at the self-deprecation thing, and like with the Michael Jackson episode, they are at the full brunt of all the jokes. Yet, they are just themselves in character, full of modesty, and they carry on with no reservations or self-doubts. The songs are brilliant pieces of self-contained satire – so bizarre they almost sound like the real deal – and there is nothing more ridiculous than hearing that baritone voice come out of Ralph’s mouth. My personal favourite is ‘Silent G’: “I saw you last night at the spelling bee” / “I knew right then that it was L-U-V” / “I gotta spell out what you mean to me” / “Cause I can no longer be a silent ‘G’.”
I would not have put New Kids in this poll if it wasn’t for the subliminal messaging idea. I think that has got to be one of the funniest and most inspired jokes in the series. I love all the clues leading up to the dramatic twist, like the “Classified Records” recording studio, the abbreviation in L.T. Smash’s name, then of course the brilliant music video in the second act revealing to Lisa that the Party Posse is just a ploy to get people to enlist with the navy. We have all come to realize there are some disturbing goings-on behind manufactured pop acts, but this motive is just staggering. It goes beyond moral thought, but it provides an entertainment value which fits in the same vein as all the government conspiracies. We have some memorable new characters in this episode: L.T. Smash and the choreographer. Both are comical, eccentric and oddball, which makes them all the more watchable. I particularly like the choreographer’s dance lesson monologue, and L.T. Smash’s introduction to Bart: “Who are you?” “You’ll find out in due time.” “Well, it says here your name is L. T. Smash.” “The time has come, I’m L.T. Smash”. This somewhat establishes that here we have an unhinged gentleman that could go slightly crackers later on.
We know from the start that the writers are entirely not conflicted about their stance on boy bands, as the title of the episode indicates, so it is already clear that N’Sync will be the target of the jokes. The majority of the material is everything but the kitchen sink in terms of parodying boy bands, from Justin Timberlake repeatedly saying “Word!” to their completely outrageous entrances and exits (the one with the speedboat). Given the boy band craze is one of those perfect examples of an utterly ridiculous cultural phenomena for a show like The Simpsons to lampoon, it’s a pity they aren’t torn to shreds. Their appearance simply compliments the storyline about Bart and his friends forming a boy band, which in itself is pretty far-fetched. All the clichés are there. I love the studio magic joke. The sinister objectives of L.T. Smash go far beyond common logic, but they are analogously fitting to the plot. It’s just incredibly stupid, yet still possible in this crazy universe, which is just what makes it so funny. Good comedy is a commitment to the absurd.

There are just so many wonderfully absurd moments in this episode; it fits right in with the kooky surrealism of The Prisoner episode and the one with the jockey elves. This episode was written by Tim Long but it has the surrealist fingerprints of John Schwartzwelder. I love all the reveals of L.T. Smash when Lisa discovers his secret, particularly the dot in L.T. to imply “lieutenant”, and also, when L.T. Smash and his superior officer exchange threats by operating various controls of the ship with a gun. It hardly makes a barrel of sense, but neither does this last act. Impervious timing of the broadcast in February 25th 2001, leads to an unsettling premonition of the World Trade Center attacks six months later in the final scenes where the MAD Magazine office building is destroyed by aircraft carrier missiles, which merely fuels the strangeness of New Kids. It is barely intolerable to think about those horrors when watching this scene. But for me, oddities like this only add to the fascination and mystique of the show.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #71

New Kids on the Blecch

Season 12 – Episode 14 (Airdate: Feb 25, 2001)

Yvan Eht Nioj! Ok, this one is not a classic by any stretch, but it is an entertaining little episode that gets a bad rap. I recognize that a lot of the issues people have is aimed at the guest appearance of N’Sync. It’s too easy to throw the blame on boy bands since they are parodies on themselves, but I personally believe it was a stroke of genius to cast N’Sync. They do a terrific job at the self-deprecation thing, and like with the Michael Jackson episode, they are at the full brunt of all the jokes. Yet, they are just themselves in character, full of modesty, and they carry on with no reservations or self-doubts. The songs are brilliant pieces of self-contained satire – so bizarre they almost sound like the real deal – and there is nothing more ridiculous than hearing that baritone voice come out of Ralph’s mouth. My personal favourite is ‘Silent G’: “I saw you last night at the spelling bee” / “I knew right then that it was L-U-V” / “I gotta spell out what you mean to me” / “Cause I can no longer be a silent ‘G’.”

I would not have put New Kids in this poll if it wasn’t for the subliminal messaging idea. I think that has got to be one of the funniest and most inspired jokes in the series. I love all the clues leading up to the dramatic twist, like the “Classified Records” recording studio, the abbreviation in L.T. Smash’s name, then of course the brilliant music video in the second act revealing to Lisa that the Party Posse is just a ploy to get people to enlist with the navy. We have all come to realize there are some disturbing goings-on behind manufactured pop acts, but this motive is just staggering. It goes beyond moral thought, but it provides an entertainment value which fits in the same vein as all the government conspiracies. We have some memorable new characters in this episode: L.T. Smash and the choreographer. Both are comical, eccentric and oddball, which makes them all the more watchable. I particularly like the choreographer’s dance lesson monologue, and L.T. Smash’s introduction to Bart: “Who are you?” “You’ll find out in due time.” “Well, it says here your name is L. T. Smash.” “The time has come, I’m L.T. Smash”. This somewhat establishes that here we have an unhinged gentleman that could go slightly crackers later on.

We know from the start that the writers are entirely not conflicted about their stance on boy bands, as the title of the episode indicates, so it is already clear that N’Sync will be the target of the jokes. The majority of the material is everything but the kitchen sink in terms of parodying boy bands, from Justin Timberlake repeatedly saying “Word!” to their completely outrageous entrances and exits (the one with the speedboat). Given the boy band craze is one of those perfect examples of an utterly ridiculous cultural phenomena for a show like The Simpsons to lampoon, it’s a pity they aren’t torn to shreds. Their appearance simply compliments the storyline about Bart and his friends forming a boy band, which in itself is pretty far-fetched. All the clichés are there. I love the studio magic joke. The sinister objectives of L.T. Smash go far beyond common logic, but they are analogously fitting to the plot. It’s just incredibly stupid, yet still possible in this crazy universe, which is just what makes it so funny. Good comedy is a commitment to the absurd.

There are just so many wonderfully absurd moments in this episode; it fits right in with the kooky surrealism of The Prisoner episode and the one with the jockey elves. This episode was written by Tim Long but it has the surrealist fingerprints of John Schwartzwelder. I love all the reveals of L.T. Smash when Lisa discovers his secret, particularly the dot in L.T. to imply “lieutenant”, and also, when L.T. Smash and his superior officer exchange threats by operating various controls of the ship with a gun. It hardly makes a barrel of sense, but neither does this last act. Impervious timing of the broadcast in February 25th 2001, leads to an unsettling premonition of the World Trade Center attacks six months later in the final scenes where the MAD Magazine office building is destroyed by aircraft carrier missiles, which merely fuels the strangeness of New Kids. It is barely intolerable to think about those horrors when watching this scene. But for me, oddities like this only add to the fascination and mystique of the show.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #72
Lisa’s First Word
Season 4 – Episode 10 (Airdate: Dec 3, 1992)
Lisa’s First Word is firmly rooted in the comfort zone of The Simpsons watching parties. I guess this one came about in lieu of the success of flashback shows, naturally following in the footsteps of The Way We Was and I Married Marge. The inevitable story involving Lisa’s introduction and the significant cliffhanger of baby Maggie’s first word – which is what this episode is really about – establishes a spotlight on the young, mischievous Bart Simpson and the starry-eyed couple, Homer and Marge. It is a great occasion that allows a sense of child’s-eye perspective to immerse the viewer. Also, it’s an opportunity for the writers to portray a young family within a historical timeframe that has a contemporary significance – ie. Homer and Marge, a young married couple living in the Ronald Reagan era. So there are some cultural references from the 1980s which the show lampoons, such as the Olympics, fast food restaurants, and Homer’s novel version of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Personally, it lacks that classic episode quality but Lisa’s First Word still packs some funny jokes and very sweet moments. It contains one of the most quotable phrases for not getting any sleep when Homer decides to build a terrifying clown bed for Bart: “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.” Homer’s efforts are genuine (“Now you can laugh yourself to sleep!”) but the bed only succeeds in giving Bart fright-based insomnia. There seems to be a cynical attitude the show’s writers have towards clowns in The Simpsons, and their presence in all our nightmares. Another running gag since the start of the show has been Maggie’s unspoken disposition, with pacifier noises replacing dialogue. This episode finally makes this point, and in doing so, it is a plot device in bringing the family together. Lisa connects with her silence through an old proverb: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Homer then supports this statement with a quote from the Book of Homerisms: “Takes one to know one!”
The characterization of Toddler Bart is so perfect and his antics are fun to watch. He seems so confident even at the young age of two. I love his fantasy of what a new baby sister would be like and the montage of events that occur when Bart realizes he is no longer the centre of attention. I also enjoy Homer’s reaction to Bart’s love for Krusty the Clown: “Krusty funny!” And Homer retorts with a “Duh.” A lot of credit is due for the cycle of words going around Bart’s head, culminating with the impressionable line from Flanders’ senile mother: “Hello Joe!” These dramatic reveries frequently appear in later shows and they are always hilarious. The Flanders’ introduction is a cornerstone testament to their annoyingly over-friendly presence in the Simpsons world. I like how loose ends are tied up in the flashbacks, such as how the Simpson family found their current home in Evergreen Terrace. I love the realtor showing Homer and Marge around lots of unappealing properties: “Once you get used to the smell of melted hog fat, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” Then there is the sequence of events of how Grampa ended up in a retirement home. Grampa giving Homer the financial lift to buy the house is a poignant moment, and the outcome of Homer kicking him out after three weeks is a shamefully amusing deed. Poor Grampa.
The focus on Lisa makes Bart feel left out and this is captured so beautifully in the latter part of Lisa’s First Word. The heart-rendering conclusion that after Bart’s discontent with the new addition to the family, her first word turns out to be him, is a classy touch. The final scenes are pretty much flawless. As Matt Groening wanted from the beginning of the series to exhibit a sense of realism and an accurate representation of life, thus, Lisa’s First Word portrays very true elements of human behaviour, such as Bart and Lisa’s sibling rivalry or Homer’s television habits. In this normal behaviour and seriousness lurks the absurd, which activates our sense of proportion when we relate to these common events. Only in the subtle discrepancies we discern as a viewer does the comedy emerge, which makes the gravity of drama – all the pain and conflict – comparatively the same as humour.

One of the special parts of this show is when Bart shows his unconditional love for Lisa, despite all the bickering and fighting, you get the sense that deep down they care for each other. This is emphasized in the transition from the flashback of Bart and Lisa hugging to arguing in the present day, which leads us to the anticipated set-up of Homer taking Maggie to bed: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back. I hope you never say a word.” This lays the icing on the cake for the cherry on top: Maggie’s first word (“Daddy”). Depending if you’re inclined to let your heartstrings be twisted into the whirlwind of sentimental mush, this ending can often cause the floodgates to open.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #72

Lisa’s First Word

Season 4 – Episode 10 (Airdate: Dec 3, 1992)

Lisa’s First Word is firmly rooted in the comfort zone of The Simpsons watching parties. I guess this one came about in lieu of the success of flashback shows, naturally following in the footsteps of The Way We Was and I Married Marge. The inevitable story involving Lisa’s introduction and the significant cliffhanger of baby Maggie’s first word – which is what this episode is really about – establishes a spotlight on the young, mischievous Bart Simpson and the starry-eyed couple, Homer and Marge. It is a great occasion that allows a sense of child’s-eye perspective to immerse the viewer. Also, it’s an opportunity for the writers to portray a young family within a historical timeframe that has a contemporary significance – ie. Homer and Marge, a young married couple living in the Ronald Reagan era. So there are some cultural references from the 1980s which the show lampoons, such as the Olympics, fast food restaurants, and Homer’s novel version of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Personally, it lacks that classic episode quality but Lisa’s First Word still packs some funny jokes and very sweet moments. It contains one of the most quotable phrases for not getting any sleep when Homer decides to build a terrifying clown bed for Bart: “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.” Homer’s efforts are genuine (“Now you can laugh yourself to sleep!”) but the bed only succeeds in giving Bart fright-based insomnia. There seems to be a cynical attitude the show’s writers have towards clowns in The Simpsons, and their presence in all our nightmares. Another running gag since the start of the show has been Maggie’s unspoken disposition, with pacifier noises replacing dialogue. This episode finally makes this point, and in doing so, it is a plot device in bringing the family together. Lisa connects with her silence through an old proverb: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Homer then supports this statement with a quote from the Book of Homerisms: “Takes one to know one!”

The characterization of Toddler Bart is so perfect and his antics are fun to watch. He seems so confident even at the young age of two. I love his fantasy of what a new baby sister would be like and the montage of events that occur when Bart realizes he is no longer the centre of attention. I also enjoy Homer’s reaction to Bart’s love for Krusty the Clown: “Krusty funny!” And Homer retorts with a “Duh.” A lot of credit is due for the cycle of words going around Bart’s head, culminating with the impressionable line from Flanders’ senile mother: “Hello Joe!” These dramatic reveries frequently appear in later shows and they are always hilarious. The Flanders’ introduction is a cornerstone testament to their annoyingly over-friendly presence in the Simpsons world. I like how loose ends are tied up in the flashbacks, such as how the Simpson family found their current home in Evergreen Terrace. I love the realtor showing Homer and Marge around lots of unappealing properties: “Once you get used to the smell of melted hog fat, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” Then there is the sequence of events of how Grampa ended up in a retirement home. Grampa giving Homer the financial lift to buy the house is a poignant moment, and the outcome of Homer kicking him out after three weeks is a shamefully amusing deed. Poor Grampa.

The focus on Lisa makes Bart feel left out and this is captured so beautifully in the latter part of Lisa’s First Word. The heart-rendering conclusion that after Bart’s discontent with the new addition to the family, her first word turns out to be him, is a classy touch. The final scenes are pretty much flawless. As Matt Groening wanted from the beginning of the series to exhibit a sense of realism and an accurate representation of life, thus, Lisa’s First Word portrays very true elements of human behaviour, such as Bart and Lisa’s sibling rivalry or Homer’s television habits. In this normal behaviour and seriousness lurks the absurd, which activates our sense of proportion when we relate to these common events. Only in the subtle discrepancies we discern as a viewer does the comedy emerge, which makes the gravity of drama – all the pain and conflict – comparatively the same as humour.

One of the special parts of this show is when Bart shows his unconditional love for Lisa, despite all the bickering and fighting, you get the sense that deep down they care for each other. This is emphasized in the transition from the flashback of Bart and Lisa hugging to arguing in the present day, which leads us to the anticipated set-up of Homer taking Maggie to bed: “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back. I hope you never say a word.” This lays the icing on the cake for the cherry on top: Maggie’s first word (“Daddy”). Depending if you’re inclined to let your heartstrings be twisted into the whirlwind of sentimental mush, this ending can often cause the floodgates to open.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #73
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
Season 2 – Episode 15 (Airdate: Feb 21, 1991)
The Simpsons has skirted the surface on chance meetings between Homer and honest, hardworking people who deserve every penny they’ve earned. We will see in the standard Homer’s Enemy what it’s like for a normal person to cross paths with Homer Simpson. But in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Homer causes yet another downfall of an innocent everyman; this time it’s a family member, a long-lost half brother. For Herbert Powell; a successful owner of a car manufacturing company, wealthy and business-minded, a life without family is a lonely ride. He yearns for a sense of humanity and association. Underneath the power, conviction and boardroom-bullying, he still feels a connection with all the Homer Simpsons out there.
This episode is great for a number of reasons. We have the first appearance of Rainier Wolfcastle, flaunting a Schwarzenegger-esque action hero in the latest McBain film – a parody of the Die Hard series which comically delivers all the clichés of action films. It’s worth noting that if you play all the clips of the McBain movies drawn out in the Simpsons series, they actually form a mini-movie with a full storyline when played in order. They are a potent vehicle for Hollywood satire, and they always provide the foundations for great jokes or initiating plot-lines. Such is the case with Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, as Grampa suffers a mild heart attack in the cinema, and this close realisation of death prompts him to confess the dramatic family secret to Homer.
Herbert Powell was a man with all the money in the world, but what he didn’t have is a family: “Homer, you are the richest man I know.” Homer of course misses the point and his response sums up how unwitting he is, as he gazes upon Herb’s expensive manor: “I feel the same about you.” The closing moments of the show feature Herb leaving on a bus as he faces bankruptcy and he harshly remarks to Homer: “I have no Brother”. It’s a cruel story of the rise and fall of a man’s empire that is brilliantly portrayed through a satirical middle class American family situation. We feel bad for both Herb and Homer. But in the end, Homer Simpson remains the fortunate fool; the one that has a caring family to fall back on as Bart compliments his car, giving him a minor lift.
The joy of this episode is Danny DeVito’s performance as Herbert Powell who throws his body and soul into this character. The scene in the boardroom meeting where he imperially parades his sense of power, then reveals the vulnerability of a man with no roots. Herb later returns in Season 4 in a sequel of this episode: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?, which is too much dallying around but keeps in reserve some funny moments. It is a great pity that DeVito doesn’t return to reprise this role in the rest of the series. The other joy is witnessing his playful counteraction with Homer’s maniacal mood swings, and involuntarily fuelling the tumbling snowball of calamities. DeVito’s Herbert Powell is the perfect opposition to Dan Castellaneta’s Homer Simpson as both are alike in emotional reactivity and passion. But they differ in certain qualities, as Grampa Simpson grudgingly bemoans: “I kept the wrong one.” In any universe, you just would not want to meet Homer, for fear of luck suddenly turning bad. I love when Homer gets incredibly passionate about things, but you especially don’t want to give him free reign to design his own car - Homer’s blueprint of his car and the serious look on his face is a picture – these parts where Homer develops his car offers some of the episode’s best moments.
I love Bart and Lisa’s unspoken quarrel during dinner, with Bart signing: “I think you stink”, followed by Lisa’s response: “You drive me crazy”. I still use these signing gestures in real life situations. Bart and Lisa portray the archetype of young children in this episode, even upon meeting their “Unky Herb”, and their distance from adulthood is established as the adults (Homer, Marge, Herbert Powell and Grampa Simpson) come to face the real-life grown-up situations. This balance and portrayal is a key touchstone in the early Simpsons episodes. Bart and Lisa’s child-like naivety is amplified when Unky Herb puts an employee on speaker to impress them with falsified impressions of their father. My favourite moment is the slow, calculated read of the employee: “Homer Simpson is a… brilliant man with lots of… well thought-out, practical ideas. He is ensuring the financial security of this company for years to come. Oh yes, and his personal hygiene is above reproached.”
It is the classic method of tension and release that makes this episode work. The timing of the tension to the point of release is critical, and Herb’s trust in Homer to design a car for the common man is the tension that appropriately thrusts the final gag (the revealing of ‘The Homer’) to its climactic release. We, the audience, all know it will end badly, it’s just a case of anticipating what kind of disastrous conclusion will transpire. As we find out, Homer’s creation is an eyesore, causing unpopular gasps on the showroom floor. This inevitably drives Herb’s company out of business. As well as being a funny and fascinating look at the boorish nature of the common consumer, Homer’s car and the bulk of material in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is effectively a dig at car companies that roll out tacky car designs and accessories with an overpriced value. The all-encompassing irony is that The Homer was finally manufactured in 2013, pleasing several fanatics, myself included.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #73

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Season 2 – Episode 15 (Airdate: Feb 21, 1991)

The Simpsons has skirted the surface on chance meetings between Homer and honest, hardworking people who deserve every penny they’ve earned. We will see in the standard Homer’s Enemy what it’s like for a normal person to cross paths with Homer Simpson. But in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Homer causes yet another downfall of an innocent everyman; this time it’s a family member, a long-lost half brother. For Herbert Powell; a successful owner of a car manufacturing company, wealthy and business-minded, a life without family is a lonely ride. He yearns for a sense of humanity and association. Underneath the power, conviction and boardroom-bullying, he still feels a connection with all the Homer Simpsons out there.

This episode is great for a number of reasons. We have the first appearance of Rainier Wolfcastle, flaunting a Schwarzenegger-esque action hero in the latest McBain film – a parody of the Die Hard series which comically delivers all the clichés of action films. It’s worth noting that if you play all the clips of the McBain movies drawn out in the Simpsons series, they actually form a mini-movie with a full storyline when played in order. They are a potent vehicle for Hollywood satire, and they always provide the foundations for great jokes or initiating plot-lines. Such is the case with Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, as Grampa suffers a mild heart attack in the cinema, and this close realisation of death prompts him to confess the dramatic family secret to Homer.

Herbert Powell was a man with all the money in the world, but what he didn’t have is a family: “Homer, you are the richest man I know.” Homer of course misses the point and his response sums up how unwitting he is, as he gazes upon Herb’s expensive manor: “I feel the same about you.” The closing moments of the show feature Herb leaving on a bus as he faces bankruptcy and he harshly remarks to Homer: “I have no Brother”. It’s a cruel story of the rise and fall of a man’s empire that is brilliantly portrayed through a satirical middle class American family situation. We feel bad for both Herb and Homer. But in the end, Homer Simpson remains the fortunate fool; the one that has a caring family to fall back on as Bart compliments his car, giving him a minor lift.

The joy of this episode is Danny DeVito’s performance as Herbert Powell who throws his body and soul into this character. The scene in the boardroom meeting where he imperially parades his sense of power, then reveals the vulnerability of a man with no roots. Herb later returns in Season 4 in a sequel of this episode: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?, which is too much dallying around but keeps in reserve some funny moments. It is a great pity that DeVito doesn’t return to reprise this role in the rest of the series. The other joy is witnessing his playful counteraction with Homer’s maniacal mood swings, and involuntarily fuelling the tumbling snowball of calamities. DeVito’s Herbert Powell is the perfect opposition to Dan Castellaneta’s Homer Simpson as both are alike in emotional reactivity and passion. But they differ in certain qualities, as Grampa Simpson grudgingly bemoans: “I kept the wrong one.” In any universe, you just would not want to meet Homer, for fear of luck suddenly turning bad. I love when Homer gets incredibly passionate about things, but you especially don’t want to give him free reign to design his own car - Homer’s blueprint of his car and the serious look on his face is a picture – these parts where Homer develops his car offers some of the episode’s best moments.

I love Bart and Lisa’s unspoken quarrel during dinner, with Bart signing: “I think you stink”, followed by Lisa’s response: “You drive me crazy”. I still use these signing gestures in real life situations. Bart and Lisa portray the archetype of young children in this episode, even upon meeting their “Unky Herb”, and their distance from adulthood is established as the adults (Homer, Marge, Herbert Powell and Grampa Simpson) come to face the real-life grown-up situations. This balance and portrayal is a key touchstone in the early Simpsons episodes. Bart and Lisa’s child-like naivety is amplified when Unky Herb puts an employee on speaker to impress them with falsified impressions of their father. My favourite moment is the slow, calculated read of the employee: “Homer Simpson is a… brilliant man with lots of… well thought-out, practical ideas. He is ensuring the financial security of this company for years to come. Oh yes, and his personal hygiene is above reproached.”

It is the classic method of tension and release that makes this episode work. The timing of the tension to the point of release is critical, and Herb’s trust in Homer to design a car for the common man is the tension that appropriately thrusts the final gag (the revealing of ‘The Homer’) to its climactic release. We, the audience, all know it will end badly, it’s just a case of anticipating what kind of disastrous conclusion will transpire. As we find out, Homer’s creation is an eyesore, causing unpopular gasps on the showroom floor. This inevitably drives Herb’s company out of business. As well as being a funny and fascinating look at the boorish nature of the common consumer, Homer’s car and the bulk of material in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is effectively a dig at car companies that roll out tacky car designs and accessories with an overpriced value. The all-encompassing irony is that The Homer was finally manufactured in 2013, pleasing several fanatics, myself included.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #74
Blood Feud
Season 2 – Episode 22 (Airdate: July 11, 1991)
After a prolonged exposure to modern episodes, one begins to see the classics through rose-tinted glasses. Blood Feud is a standard model for characterisation, animation direction, jokes, dialogue, voice-acting performances, and everything beyond. It is one of Season Two’s finest episodes, and one of the defining moments of the story-centric episodes. It succeeds in underlining the value of the narrative and even generates some philosophical interest in the nature of applying moral reasoning to real-life situations and complex ethical dilemmas.
The story is quite a dramatic rendering of one of human nature’s dominant impressions; the act of goodwill. We begin with a poorly Mr. Burns needing a blood transfusion. Homer sympathises with his dire circumstances, but only because he recognises a profit-gaining opportunity in giving blood to this wealthy man: “There’s a human being out there with millions of dollars who needs our help!” Marge characteristically provides the stability in the midst of her family’s antics by telling Bart: “You have to help someone in need, it’s the only decent thing to do.” Marge embodies the voice of reason and common sense, and there is a sweet charm to her knowledge of every little bit of information about her family (blood types, shoe sizes, etc). On the contrary, Homer misses the point and overlooks all the ethical boundaries, as witnessed in his chat with Bart: “It’s not like you would be giving blood for free, that would be crazy!” Homer’s efforts to dispense this reasoning to him through a tale about Hercules, is absolutely brilliant. 
Dan Castellaneta is outstanding as the impassioned oaf, Homer, notably when he metes out his rage to the family after discovering there is no reward from Mr Burns, just a measly card. As Homer chews out his anger with a letter dictated to Bart, Marge attempts to douse the flames and emphasize the obvious: “You don’t do things like that to be rewarded, you do them because a fellow human being needs a helping hand”. Homer is essentially the rebel inside us, and we are completely rooting for him. The viewers want Homer to get his reward. They want him to write the angry letter. As a man of highly unstable emotions, Homer holds off the impulsion of sending the letter and decides to sleep on it. I love Nancy Cartwright’s delivery of Bart’s line, revealing fate of the letter: “The last time I saw it…was in my hand…as I was shoving it…into the mailbox.” The tension builds throughout this central part with some wonderful scenes, such as Homer’s dream, the written letter to Burns, the mail lady scene, the post office scene (unquestionably one of the classic moments in the history of the show), and the moment Burns reads the letter in front of Homer.
At this point of the show, it’s all about the consequences. Harry Shearer steals the show as the despicably evil Mr. Burns. The animation and scriptwriting, specifically in the scenes of Mr. Burns’ office, is perfect. Homer’s letter sounds even more dramatic when Burns angrily reads it out loud, and lines like: “I could crush him like an ant. But it would be too easy. No, revenge is a dish best served cold. I’ll bide my time until…Oh, what the hell. I’ll just crush him like an ant”, are captured in true raging form. This is classic Mr. Burns - a nefarious old man with a wealth of influential power. This episode plays an important part in defining the roles of each character. Smithers is Mr. Burns’ devoted dogsbody but in Blood Feud he comes into his own and we see him taking a stand against Mr. Burns’ tirade to have Homer beaten up by a hitman. his affectionate relationship with Burns in this episode is quite endearing at times. It’s interesting to see how he and Mr. Burns’ relationship parallels with Homer and Marge’s relationship. Mr. Burns utters: “As usual, you’ve been the sober ying to my raging yang.” Likewise, Marge’s willpower over Homer is well established in Blood Feud. Despite how irrational he can be, Marge is his centre of gravity and pulls him back down to ground when he is about to let loose: “You always do that hand thing. And it usually works.”
As with all great episodes, there are some minor elements that still stand out, such as the customary Moe’s Tavern prank call (“Mike Rotch”), the nuclear power plant sign skit (“Relax. Everything is fine,” “Minor leak. Roll up window,” “Meltdown. Flee city,” “Core explosion. Repent sins.”), the doctor at the hospital wasting time standing in the lift with the blood packet, forgetting to press the button, and finally, Moe and Barney’s insightful quote: “You should not drink to forget your problems…You should always drink to enhance your social skills”. Lisa teaching Maggie new words is also a cute side story that does no harm to the flow of the episode.

Regarding the final stages, we have Mr. Burns’ memoirs, “Will There Ever Be A Rainbow” (this would be a good read), the “big ugly head” gift, and the fun poke at programmes that always end with morals. This episode skirts around a few issues such as helping out a fellow human being, sticking by your partner, and acts of compensation for one’s actions. The stone head is a reward of sorts for the family (Homer is unimpressed), but the family debate the fact that they would have received nothing if Homer hadn’t written the angry letter. Marge attempts to provide a moral to the story, like “no good deed goes unrewarded”, but Homer marks out that maybe there are no morals; “it was just a bunch of stuff that happened”. What I like about Blood Feud is this fascinating anchorlessness that disconnects the characters in the show from the writers of the show. In the natural unraveling of events, while there is no underlying moral to this tale, all the focus is on the characters expectations and reactions. This is a key aspect of why this episode succeeds. The actions seem realistic and even the characters don’t know what to expect. All things considered, none of this chaos and disorder would have happened without the imbecilic, anarchic, and unpredictable nature of Homer Simpson.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #74

Blood Feud

Season 2 – Episode 22 (Airdate: July 11, 1991)

After a prolonged exposure to modern episodes, one begins to see the classics through rose-tinted glasses. Blood Feud is a standard model for characterisation, animation direction, jokes, dialogue, voice-acting performances, and everything beyond. It is one of Season Two’s finest episodes, and one of the defining moments of the story-centric episodes. It succeeds in underlining the value of the narrative and even generates some philosophical interest in the nature of applying moral reasoning to real-life situations and complex ethical dilemmas.

The story is quite a dramatic rendering of one of human nature’s dominant impressions; the act of goodwill. We begin with a poorly Mr. Burns needing a blood transfusion. Homer sympathises with his dire circumstances, but only because he recognises a profit-gaining opportunity in giving blood to this wealthy man: “There’s a human being out there with millions of dollars who needs our help!” Marge characteristically provides the stability in the midst of her family’s antics by telling Bart: “You have to help someone in need, it’s the only decent thing to do.” Marge embodies the voice of reason and common sense, and there is a sweet charm to her knowledge of every little bit of information about her family (blood types, shoe sizes, etc). On the contrary, Homer misses the point and overlooks all the ethical boundaries, as witnessed in his chat with Bart: “It’s not like you would be giving blood for free, that would be crazy!” Homer’s efforts to dispense this reasoning to him through a tale about Hercules, is absolutely brilliant. 

Dan Castellaneta is outstanding as the impassioned oaf, Homer, notably when he metes out his rage to the family after discovering there is no reward from Mr Burns, just a measly card. As Homer chews out his anger with a letter dictated to Bart, Marge attempts to douse the flames and emphasize the obvious: “You don’t do things like that to be rewarded, you do them because a fellow human being needs a helping hand”. Homer is essentially the rebel inside us, and we are completely rooting for him. The viewers want Homer to get his reward. They want him to write the angry letter. As a man of highly unstable emotions, Homer holds off the impulsion of sending the letter and decides to sleep on it. I love Nancy Cartwright’s delivery of Bart’s line, revealing fate of the letter: “The last time I saw it…was in my hand…as I was shoving it…into the mailbox.” The tension builds throughout this central part with some wonderful scenes, such as Homer’s dream, the written letter to Burns, the mail lady scene, the post office scene (unquestionably one of the classic moments in the history of the show), and the moment Burns reads the letter in front of Homer.

At this point of the show, it’s all about the consequences. Harry Shearer steals the show as the despicably evil Mr. Burns. The animation and scriptwriting, specifically in the scenes of Mr. Burns’ office, is perfect. Homer’s letter sounds even more dramatic when Burns angrily reads it out loud, and lines like: “I could crush him like an ant. But it would be too easy. No, revenge is a dish best served cold. I’ll bide my time until…Oh, what the hell. I’ll just crush him like an ant”, are captured in true raging form. This is classic Mr. Burns - a nefarious old man with a wealth of influential power. This episode plays an important part in defining the roles of each character. Smithers is Mr. Burns’ devoted dogsbody but in Blood Feud he comes into his own and we see him taking a stand against Mr. Burns’ tirade to have Homer beaten up by a hitman. his affectionate relationship with Burns in this episode is quite endearing at times. It’s interesting to see how he and Mr. Burns’ relationship parallels with Homer and Marge’s relationship. Mr. Burns utters: “As usual, you’ve been the sober ying to my raging yang.” Likewise, Marge’s willpower over Homer is well established in Blood Feud. Despite how irrational he can be, Marge is his centre of gravity and pulls him back down to ground when he is about to let loose: “You always do that hand thing. And it usually works.”

As with all great episodes, there are some minor elements that still stand out, such as the customary Moe’s Tavern prank call (“Mike Rotch”), the nuclear power plant sign skit (“Relax. Everything is fine,” “Minor leak. Roll up window,” “Meltdown. Flee city,” “Core explosion. Repent sins.”), the doctor at the hospital wasting time standing in the lift with the blood packet, forgetting to press the button, and finally, Moe and Barney’s insightful quote: “You should not drink to forget your problems…You should always drink to enhance your social skills”. Lisa teaching Maggie new words is also a cute side story that does no harm to the flow of the episode.

Regarding the final stages, we have Mr. Burns’ memoirs, “Will There Ever Be A Rainbow” (this would be a good read), the “big ugly head” gift, and the fun poke at programmes that always end with morals. This episode skirts around a few issues such as helping out a fellow human being, sticking by your partner, and acts of compensation for one’s actions. The stone head is a reward of sorts for the family (Homer is unimpressed), but the family debate the fact that they would have received nothing if Homer hadn’t written the angry letter. Marge attempts to provide a moral to the story, like “no good deed goes unrewarded”, but Homer marks out that maybe there are no morals; “it was just a bunch of stuff that happened”. What I like about Blood Feud is this fascinating anchorlessness that disconnects the characters in the show from the writers of the show. In the natural unraveling of events, while there is no underlying moral to this tale, all the focus is on the characters expectations and reactions. This is a key aspect of why this episode succeeds. The actions seem realistic and even the characters don’t know what to expect. All things considered, none of this chaos and disorder would have happened without the imbecilic, anarchic, and unpredictable nature of Homer Simpson.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #75
Homr
Season 12 – Episode 9 (Airdate: January 7, 2001)
An emmy-winning episode, I have a certain fondness for Homr. I approve of the character shift in Homer and what he attempted to achieve as a smart person. As his intelligence increased, he could relate to Lisa and her struggles with fitting in, and being happy. The first act is a bit run-of-the-mill involving a few overly dumb Homer moments. Homer volunteering for the motion-capture technology demonstration is funny. I particularly like the medical research skit. This lead-up satisfactorily lays the foundations for the better second half. After discovering he has a crayon lodged in his brain – which is the daft reason for his lack of intelligence – he volunteers to have it removed (to “increase his killing power”), his IQ suddenly increases and thus goes about the world with this newly-enlightened perspective. Far-fetched?
The writers are sensitive in their approach to the new smart Homer and the plot doesn’t get too caught up in implausible adventures. His theory against the existence of God, which he reveals to Ned Flanders of all people, is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religion. Making him smarter actually makes him sweeter, and more aware, but less funny and likeable. As Homer feels like more of an outcast, he finds a connection with Lisa. It’s a good Father-Daughter moment when she empathizes with him about the burdens of being a brainiac.

The plot twist predictably runs its course and Homer is unsurprisingly confused, unhappy, alienated, and wants to return to his normal state (smart move) – by asking Moe to perform crayon surgery on him. It’s a fantastical episode which probably would not have held up if it wasn’t for the poignant end to the episode. Before Homer has the procedure to turn him back to normal, he writes a sweet letter to Lisa: "I’m taking the coward’s way out. But before I do, I just wanted to say being smart made me appreciate just how amazing you really are.” So what’s established in Homr is that with intelligence comes less happiness. But no one would trade an ignorant Homer for a humourless one. Now, who wants lottery tickets?!

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #75

Homr

Season 12 – Episode 9 (Airdate: January 7, 2001)

An emmy-winning episode, I have a certain fondness for Homr. I approve of the character shift in Homer and what he attempted to achieve as a smart person. As his intelligence increased, he could relate to Lisa and her struggles with fitting in, and being happy. The first act is a bit run-of-the-mill involving a few overly dumb Homer moments. Homer volunteering for the motion-capture technology demonstration is funny. I particularly like the medical research skit. This lead-up satisfactorily lays the foundations for the better second half. After discovering he has a crayon lodged in his brain – which is the daft reason for his lack of intelligence – he volunteers to have it removed (to “increase his killing power”), his IQ suddenly increases and thus goes about the world with this newly-enlightened perspective. Far-fetched?

The writers are sensitive in their approach to the new smart Homer and the plot doesn’t get too caught up in implausible adventures. His theory against the existence of God, which he reveals to Ned Flanders of all people, is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religion. Making him smarter actually makes him sweeter, and more aware, but less funny and likeable. As Homer feels like more of an outcast, he finds a connection with Lisa. It’s a good Father-Daughter moment when she empathizes with him about the burdens of being a brainiac.

The plot twist predictably runs its course and Homer is unsurprisingly confused, unhappy, alienated, and wants to return to his normal state (smart move) – by asking Moe to perform crayon surgery on him. It’s a fantastical episode which probably would not have held up if it wasn’t for the poignant end to the episode. Before Homer has the procedure to turn him back to normal, he writes a sweet letter to Lisa: "I’m taking the coward’s way out. But before I do, I just wanted to say being smart made me appreciate just how amazing you really are.” So what’s established in Homr is that with intelligence comes less happiness. But no one would trade an ignorant Homer for a humourless one. Now, who wants lottery tickets?!

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #76
Mom and Pop Art
Season 10 – Episode 19 (Airdate: April 11, 1999)
Once again, everything is “coming up Milhouse” for Homer, despite his moronic tendencies. Of all the soul-searching that Homer does in The Simpsons, this could be the one that establishes the answer to his rage and ignorance. We look to The Blunder Years and the brilliant El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer for those deeply introspective studies on what goes in his brain, but Mom and Pop Art tackles this issue through one particular topic: Art. A few scenes in, we hear the line “Art is an expression of raw emotion”, and that is a telling statement given this, one of Homer’s first ventures into art, is the product of his recurrent anger problems. I believe this is a grander episode than it gets credit for, as there is a nice balance of highly sophisticated art satire and an insightful appreciation for modern art. Not to disregard the hilarious and incisive wit we encounter in Mom and Pop Art, which punctures our judgments about art and artists, such as the very concept of Outsider Art being more about the person or people promoting it than the art itself.
Despite its flaws and absurdities, this episode works on many levels. Beyond the memorable laughs and gags, and the nonsensical plot, we are once again witnessing The Simpsons as the masters of satire. The programme raises some deep discussions about culture and social class in many complex ways, but they never miss an opportunity to mock pretentious and snobby art types. The core idea, that a clown like Homer could be praised for his unintentional masterpiece, is the cream of the crop. It raises fundamental questions that artists face day to day, like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘Who is an Artist?’ These questions reverberate in many minds of artists; some are referenced in the show – Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Turner, Andy Warhol & Piet Mondrian. Homer provides some philosophical thought on the subject when he is thrashing at a lump of clay, yelling: “Why won’t you be art?!”. Homer’s art pieces are shrewd statements about our judgments of art and artists, thus liberating all the confusion and ‘otherness’ about contemporary art that we ought to embrace with discussion, pleasure and emotion.
Regarding the plot, Homer purchases a build-your-own barbeque set and gets to work on assembling it. Predictably, the task proves difficult for Homer, and in his rage, he creates a messy heap of brick and metal. Unable to return it to the store, he arbitrarily offloads the mangled barbeque grill into an art dealer’s car, which astonishingly launches his accidental career as an “outsider artist.” The art dealer confronts Homer about the barbeque grill, asking – to his surprise – if she could display it in her gallery. Despite his confusion, referring to the attempted barbeque set as “this hunk o’ junk”, Homer agrees to the arrangement. After exclaiming earlier, “why is life so hard”, whilst lashing at the barbeque, it is a paradoxical contrast that the object that was giving him grief is now placed in an art gallery, receiving attention for its artistic merit. Despite being completely devoid of artistic talent, Homer is now seen as an “Outsider Artist”. He is in awe of the love and acceptance when audiences see his work, and this turn of events hint at what great lengths he will go to – to maintain this sense of identification and approval that society lavishes on a successful artist.
Calling Homer Simpson an outsider artist would be to state the obvious. Outsider Art comprises all artworks made by people without formal artistic training. It is like jazz or blues compared to classical music, and Simpsons’ viewers will know too well that the only member of the family with any technical skill in art is his Marge. Homer conveys his thoughts on Marge’s art work: “Your paintings look like the things they look like”, which is basically every non-art person’s reaction to art. You have to wonder how well Marge copes with the torture of Homer’s accomplishment in the field that she herself has strived all her life to be successful in. Yet, she still remains supportive of him, despite the reality that he is once again stealing her dreams. “It’s like Marge’s dream come true…for me!”
When Homer’s new art pieces – lest to mention their fantastic names: (1) “Failed Shelving Unit With Stupid Stuck Chainsaw and Applesauce”, and (2) the “Thing De Resistance: Attempted Birdhouse 1” – are displayed in his new exhibition, they draw a less enthused response from the audience. Art dealer, Astrid Weller’s reasoning states that Homer’s pieces are just like his other work and that audiences only love what’s new and shocking. It is characteristic that outsider artists lose their freshness after their original work. His pretentious art friends all agree and lose interest. This sequence suggests that there is a vexed connection between social class and art. Beneath Homer’s art crisis, captured through a wonderfully perceptive dream sequence where he is attacked by various famous artworks – “Why does art hate me? I never did anything to art” [spoken with a fist through a Warhol painting] – we witness this fascinating subtext of ‘Mom and Pop Art’. Scanning the rejection he felt after the failure of his exhibition, we read into the elitists’ disdain for unrefined types such as Homer Simpson.
With the help of Marge and Lisa, who educate Homer about the art world with an insightful look into contemporary art (Marge: “Great artists are always trying new things”), his desire to regain the love and approval of his audience leads him to a revelation; a vision of Springfield, fused in the style of Turner’s Venetian Canals and Christo’s environmental projects. The final scenes entail the aftermath of this resoundingly absurd idea, and most farcical of all outcomes, it is met with the approval and delight from both the residents of Springfield and the art community. Homer is triumphant, and receives Marge’s approval, after she acknowledges the delight of the ‘real people’ of Springfield (I’m sure the people in the burn ward are happy). The episode ends with schmaltz, but the old classic kind, as Homer delivers the line to Marge: “You’ll always be the artist in the family”.
Mom and Pop Art questions the term “Outsider Art”, which is fundamentally a label, a creation of insiders for the purpose of commodity – like any term given to an art culture. So for Homer to become part of this culture, he needs to be invited, and the art dealer, Astrid Weller welcomes him to be part of the circle, with the line: “Congratulations, Homer. You’re now a professional artist.” The word professional, of course has no relevance to his “outsider artist” status, it just means he is just now an “insider”. This lets Homer into the elite circle, and he befriends some Eurotrash snobs. The appearance of outsider artist Jasper Johns implies similar comparisons to Homer in that petty theft is really just the same to Homer’s lazy, rage-fuelled art. When Bart is helping Homer steal doormats and open up fire hydrants to concoct his final work of art, Bart questions Homer: “Are you sure this is Art and not Vandalism?” There is a feeling that the writers are simply suggesting, immaturity, insolence and basically unlawful activity is the key and source to great creativity. After all, The Simpsons is a cartoon, a medium associated with a general perception of immaturity, which could be another subtle undertone of irony.
As Jean Dubuffet puts it, Outsider Art is “the unselfconscious imagery born of pure, uninhibited expression”. It was art that was not based on established traditions or techniques. It did not follow styles or trends, and it was not made primarily to be sold for monetary gain. But in The Simpsons, Homer realizes the success of his work as a commodity and is happy that people worship him for “screwing up” – also evident in Homer The Great. Over the history of the show, we have always been driven to acceptance by the writers of the show that cartoons aren’t important and don’t really have any deep meaning, they are just “stupid drawings that give you cheap laughs”. Homer is almost always the protagonist of this view. In parallel contrast to this criticism, the programme regularly praises the genre, often referencing various comic-strips and animations. It is presumed that in the director’s commentary, a one-third of the staff at The Simpsons went to art college. There are many references of the art world in ‘Mom and Pop Art’, from Warhol’s wrath to Dalí’s delights, and there is a lot of visual loyalty in context with their role. My favourite is the Simpsonized version of Turner’s Venetian Canals. In this scene in particular, the animation is beautiful. We also learn in the Simpsons animated universe that all artists wear berets, and lions are aquatic animals.
 As I have stated at the beginning, this is a funny episode. Without a doubt, Homer is at his most annoying, whiny self (“Why is life so hard?”), causing all the infuriating chaos with all the hilarious costs. Notable jokes include the advert for the barbeque set: “Snapping fingers may not make food appear”. I like when Homer sings the “Shaving My Shoulders” song, brings a shotgun to answer the front door and leaves it in the baby’s crib. And when Homer draws Lenny and Carl in the shower, which surely provokes more than a hint of homosexuality? I like Barney’s secret artistic talents (why has no one recognized his multi-gifted flair for the arts?). The most memorable part is Homer trying to build the barbeque set – this represents a very real situation in trying to put together anything from a hardware store. From this episode, you can roughly deduce a formula for a Simpsons episode centred around Homer: (1) Has an accident, (2) Fortune goes his way, (3) Profits from this accidental luck, (4) Everything comes crashing down, (5) Learns a lesson through some epiphanous feat which resolves all the issues. It is a very complex and astute episode, which has even appeared under analysis in an academic art journal. Anagrams for names appear (Isabella Rossellini’s character, Astrid Weller = “sell weird art”), among a barrel-full of pop culture references, current event bits, film allusions, and art history homages. It is basically a Simpson fan’s dream come true as there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover and an array of discussions to challenge and mull over.

In conclusion, Mom and Pop Art attempts to let our confusion roam freely concerning the implications of interpreting love and acceptance as criteria for defining art. As it provokes our ambivalence and awareness, it refrains from presenting any clear judgment or arguments, allowing the viewers to continue the debate. The whole essence of The Simpsons is about our identification with them. The family members rush home, sit on the sofa and watch TV, just like we sit on our sofas, and watch our TVs. The Simpsons are a reflection of us. They are like us, but different of course because they are cartoon characters, and we are not. When we see Homer frowning upon a contemporary art sculpture in an obnoxious and uncultured way, we view him this way, yet we identify with him. This identification mirrors the subconscious ambivalence about who we are by giving us the liberty to laugh at ourselves. Ironically, Homer parodies this correlation in a discussion with Marge about describing her artistic past, revealing the inability to properly make the distinction between her life and his own life – “I think I remember my own life, Marge!” This also highlights the versatile nature of the show to make fun not only of distinctions that may seem vague or arbitrary (like art and artists), but also the inability to tell the difference between people, as in this case.

Simpsons Top 100 Episodes ~ #76

Mom and Pop Art

Season 10 – Episode 19 (Airdate: April 11, 1999)

Once again, everything is “coming up Milhouse” for Homer, despite his moronic tendencies. Of all the soul-searching that Homer does in The Simpsons, this could be the one that establishes the answer to his rage and ignorance. We look to The Blunder Years and the brilliant El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer for those deeply introspective studies on what goes in his brain, but Mom and Pop Art tackles this issue through one particular topic: Art. A few scenes in, we hear the line “Art is an expression of raw emotion”, and that is a telling statement given this, one of Homer’s first ventures into art, is the product of his recurrent anger problems. I believe this is a grander episode than it gets credit for, as there is a nice balance of highly sophisticated art satire and an insightful appreciation for modern art. Not to disregard the hilarious and incisive wit we encounter in Mom and Pop Art, which punctures our judgments about art and artists, such as the very concept of Outsider Art being more about the person or people promoting it than the art itself.

Despite its flaws and absurdities, this episode works on many levels. Beyond the memorable laughs and gags, and the nonsensical plot, we are once again witnessing The Simpsons as the masters of satire. The programme raises some deep discussions about culture and social class in many complex ways, but they never miss an opportunity to mock pretentious and snobby art types. The core idea, that a clown like Homer could be praised for his unintentional masterpiece, is the cream of the crop. It raises fundamental questions that artists face day to day, like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘Who is an Artist?’ These questions reverberate in many minds of artists; some are referenced in the show – Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Turner, Andy Warhol & Piet Mondrian. Homer provides some philosophical thought on the subject when he is thrashing at a lump of clay, yelling: “Why won’t you be art?!”. Homer’s art pieces are shrewd statements about our judgments of art and artists, thus liberating all the confusion and ‘otherness’ about contemporary art that we ought to embrace with discussion, pleasure and emotion.

Regarding the plot, Homer purchases a build-your-own barbeque set and gets to work on assembling it. Predictably, the task proves difficult for Homer, and in his rage, he creates a messy heap of brick and metal. Unable to return it to the store, he arbitrarily offloads the mangled barbeque grill into an art dealer’s car, which astonishingly launches his accidental career as an “outsider artist.” The art dealer confronts Homer about the barbeque grill, asking – to his surprise – if she could display it in her gallery. Despite his confusion, referring to the attempted barbeque set as “this hunk o’ junk”, Homer agrees to the arrangement. After exclaiming earlier, “why is life so hard”, whilst lashing at the barbeque, it is a paradoxical contrast that the object that was giving him grief is now placed in an art gallery, receiving attention for its artistic merit. Despite being completely devoid of artistic talent, Homer is now seen as an “Outsider Artist”. He is in awe of the love and acceptance when audiences see his work, and this turn of events hint at what great lengths he will go to – to maintain this sense of identification and approval that society lavishes on a successful artist.

Calling Homer Simpson an outsider artist would be to state the obvious. Outsider Art comprises all artworks made by people without formal artistic training. It is like jazz or blues compared to classical music, and Simpsons’ viewers will know too well that the only member of the family with any technical skill in art is his Marge. Homer conveys his thoughts on Marge’s art work: “Your paintings look like the things they look like”, which is basically every non-art person’s reaction to art. You have to wonder how well Marge copes with the torture of Homer’s accomplishment in the field that she herself has strived all her life to be successful in. Yet, she still remains supportive of him, despite the reality that he is once again stealing her dreams. “It’s like Marge’s dream come true…for me!”

When Homer’s new art pieces – lest to mention their fantastic names: (1) “Failed Shelving Unit With Stupid Stuck Chainsaw and Applesauce”, and (2) the “Thing De Resistance: Attempted Birdhouse 1” – are displayed in his new exhibition, they draw a less enthused response from the audience. Art dealer, Astrid Weller’s reasoning states that Homer’s pieces are just like his other work and that audiences only love what’s new and shocking. It is characteristic that outsider artists lose their freshness after their original work. His pretentious art friends all agree and lose interest. This sequence suggests that there is a vexed connection between social class and art. Beneath Homer’s art crisis, captured through a wonderfully perceptive dream sequence where he is attacked by various famous artworks – “Why does art hate me? I never did anything to art” [spoken with a fist through a Warhol painting] – we witness this fascinating subtext of ‘Mom and Pop Art’. Scanning the rejection he felt after the failure of his exhibition, we read into the elitists’ disdain for unrefined types such as Homer Simpson.

With the help of Marge and Lisa, who educate Homer about the art world with an insightful look into contemporary art (Marge: “Great artists are always trying new things”), his desire to regain the love and approval of his audience leads him to a revelation; a vision of Springfield, fused in the style of Turner’s Venetian Canals and Christo’s environmental projects. The final scenes entail the aftermath of this resoundingly absurd idea, and most farcical of all outcomes, it is met with the approval and delight from both the residents of Springfield and the art community. Homer is triumphant, and receives Marge’s approval, after she acknowledges the delight of the ‘real people’ of Springfield (I’m sure the people in the burn ward are happy). The episode ends with schmaltz, but the old classic kind, as Homer delivers the line to Marge: “You’ll always be the artist in the family”.

Mom and Pop Art questions the term “Outsider Art”, which is fundamentally a label, a creation of insiders for the purpose of commodity – like any term given to an art culture. So for Homer to become part of this culture, he needs to be invited, and the art dealer, Astrid Weller welcomes him to be part of the circle, with the line: “Congratulations, Homer. You’re now a professional artist.” The word professional, of course has no relevance to his “outsider artist” status, it just means he is just now an “insider”. This lets Homer into the elite circle, and he befriends some Eurotrash snobs. The appearance of outsider artist Jasper Johns implies similar comparisons to Homer in that petty theft is really just the same to Homer’s lazy, rage-fuelled art. When Bart is helping Homer steal doormats and open up fire hydrants to concoct his final work of art, Bart questions Homer: “Are you sure this is Art and not Vandalism?” There is a feeling that the writers are simply suggesting, immaturity, insolence and basically unlawful activity is the key and source to great creativity. After all, The Simpsons is a cartoon, a medium associated with a general perception of immaturity, which could be another subtle undertone of irony.

As Jean Dubuffet puts it, Outsider Art is “the unselfconscious imagery born of pure, uninhibited expression”. It was art that was not based on established traditions or techniques. It did not follow styles or trends, and it was not made primarily to be sold for monetary gain. But in The Simpsons, Homer realizes the success of his work as a commodity and is happy that people worship him for “screwing up” – also evident in Homer The Great. Over the history of the show, we have always been driven to acceptance by the writers of the show that cartoons aren’t important and don’t really have any deep meaning, they are just “stupid drawings that give you cheap laughs”. Homer is almost always the protagonist of this view. In parallel contrast to this criticism, the programme regularly praises the genre, often referencing various comic-strips and animations. It is presumed that in the director’s commentary, a one-third of the staff at The Simpsons went to art college. There are many references of the art world in ‘Mom and Pop Art’, from Warhol’s wrath to Dalí’s delights, and there is a lot of visual loyalty in context with their role. My favourite is the Simpsonized version of Turner’s Venetian Canals. In this scene in particular, the animation is beautiful. We also learn in the Simpsons animated universe that all artists wear berets, and lions are aquatic animals.

As I have stated at the beginning, this is a funny episode. Without a doubt, Homer is at his most annoying, whiny self (“Why is life so hard?”), causing all the infuriating chaos with all the hilarious costs. Notable jokes include the advert for the barbeque set: “Snapping fingers may not make food appear”. I like when Homer sings the “Shaving My Shoulders” song, brings a shotgun to answer the front door and leaves it in the baby’s crib. And when Homer draws Lenny and Carl in the shower, which surely provokes more than a hint of homosexuality? I like Barney’s secret artistic talents (why has no one recognized his multi-gifted flair for the arts?). The most memorable part is Homer trying to build the barbeque set – this represents a very real situation in trying to put together anything from a hardware store. From this episode, you can roughly deduce a formula for a Simpsons episode centred around Homer: (1) Has an accident, (2) Fortune goes his way, (3) Profits from this accidental luck, (4) Everything comes crashing down, (5) Learns a lesson through some epiphanous feat which resolves all the issues. It is a very complex and astute episode, which has even appeared under analysis in an academic art journal. Anagrams for names appear (Isabella Rossellini’s character, Astrid Weller = “sell weird art”), among a barrel-full of pop culture references, current event bits, film allusions, and art history homages. It is basically a Simpson fan’s dream come true as there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover and an array of discussions to challenge and mull over.

In conclusion, Mom and Pop Art attempts to let our confusion roam freely concerning the implications of interpreting love and acceptance as criteria for defining art. As it provokes our ambivalence and awareness, it refrains from presenting any clear judgment or arguments, allowing the viewers to continue the debate. The whole essence of The Simpsons is about our identification with them. The family members rush home, sit on the sofa and watch TV, just like we sit on our sofas, and watch our TVs. The Simpsons are a reflection of us. They are like us, but different of course because they are cartoon characters, and we are not. When we see Homer frowning upon a contemporary art sculpture in an obnoxious and uncultured way, we view him this way, yet we identify with him. This identification mirrors the subconscious ambivalence about who we are by giving us the liberty to laugh at ourselves. Ironically, Homer parodies this correlation in a discussion with Marge about describing her artistic past, revealing the inability to properly make the distinction between her life and his own life – “I think I remember my own life, Marge!” This also highlights the versatile nature of the show to make fun not only of distinctions that may seem vague or arbitrary (like art and artists), but also the inability to tell the difference between people, as in this case.

About:

g l e n ~ m ~ south london

This is my thought blog... i read, write, take photos, and listen to Sufjan Stevens. i love The Simpsons, Space & Radiohead. i wanna take spontaneous road trips to places i’ve never been.

I'm into experimental, indie, electronic, psychedelic and lo-fi, including: Elliott Smith, The Beatles, Björk, Wilco, Ennio Morricone, Tom Waits, Sigur Rós, Animal Collective, Claude Debussy, Liars, The Shins, Grizzly Bear, Scott Walker, of Montreal, Boards of Canada, Beirut, The National, The Innocence Mission, David Bowie, Air, Neutral Milk Hotel, Deerhunter, Hot Chip, Joanna Newsom, Asobi Seksu, Bob Dylan, The Magnetic Fields, Brian Eno, Arcade Fire, The Knife, 近藤浩治, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Elbow, Why?, Okkervil River, The Twilight Sad, HEALTH, The Microphones, Shugo Tokumaru, !!!, Mogwai, Olivier Messiaen.

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