142. Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield

(originally aired February 4, 1996)
I feel a lot of regular fans of the show are not too thrilled about Marge episodes, but I think there’s great potential in delving into her character. I’ve addressed this many times, so pardon any redundancies; any hopes and dreams Marge had for herself were basically diminished upon getting knocked up, making her a doting housewife. She’s the kind of person who never wants to raise a fuss or do anything out of the ordinary, unless it’s a happenstance impulse, like when she became a cop. There have also been many times she’s dreamed of being more affluent; like many women she views the high life of the well off with an awe-filled attitude, thinking they are truly the better people, a life she cannot attain. But when presented that opportunity, she goes for it, ending up getting sucked into this other life that turns her into something she’s not. It’s not the jokiest of episodes, episodes focused on Marge and Lisa never are, but it certainly raises some interesting character stuff, and has a lot of classic moments.

On a trip to the outlet mall to get a new TV, Marge uncovers a ridiculously marked down Chanel suit; her overly modest personality is illustrated immediately in her hesitance to buy it (“It wouldn’t be right to buy something just for me. If it were a suit we all could wear, maybe…”) She eventually does, but is discouraged that she has no special place really to wear it but going to the Kwik-E-Mart to run errands. There she encounters a former classmate Evelyn, a high society girl who never really acknowledged Marge, but only does so now by her fancy, expensive suit. She invites her to the Springfield Country Club, her ticket to a seemingly better life. From the start we see how the rest of the family has no real place or interest in this strange plutocratic place; Lisa is vocal about the highfalutin nature of it all (until she spots some riding horses), and Bart and Homer are mainly bored or bewildered by it. Marge meanwhile runs with a new pack of women, incredibly pompous women with equally pompous names (all ridiculous alternate pronunciations of normal names, like Eliza-beth and Rau-berta), but despite their gilded, self-centered ways, Marge is enraptured, believing this is how the “good” people are.

There’s a small subplot later in the show where Burns challenges Homer to a game of golf, which gets some earned laughs, but is mainly there to pad out the story. Responding to snide commentary from Sue-sin, Marge manages to alter her dress a few times to make it appear different, but an incident with the sewing machine tarnishes it. At her highest desperation, she ends up going to Chanel and blowing through savings money on a brand new dress. At this point, she’s getting especially curt with the family, particularly Lisa. Her continued dwellings in the high class world has made her near antagonistic toward her seemingly imperfect family. This builds as she forbids Homer from driving their crappy car to the valet, and before entering, demands they all must behave (“No vulgarity, no mischief, no politics. Just be good!”) But she manages to see what she’s become and what she stands to lose, realizing how much she loves her family just the way they are. It’s a great show with a nice lesson, and we learned a bit about Marge, the series’ most underrated character.

Tidbits and Quotes
- Love Bart and Lisa’s suggestions where to get a new TV: the former at Sharper Image (“They’ve got a TV shaped like a ’50s diner!”) and the latter at the Nature Company (“They’ve got a TV assembled by Hopi Indians!”) Marge asserts that they can’t afford to go to a store with a philosophy.
Like the salesman’s pitch to Homer on the ‘Carnivale,’ a TV that looks exactly the same as their old one (“It features two-pronged wall plug, pre-molded hand grip well, durable outer casing to prevent fallapart…”) Homer is swayed immediately (“Sold. You wrap it up, I’ll start bringing in the pennies!”)
Cletus has a great one-two punch this episode: picking out the Classy Lassy short shirt for Brandine, then later popping in when he hears the outlet mall will be receiving slightly burned Sears activewear later in the day (“What time and how burnt?”)
– Marge’s debate on buying the suit is filled with small great moments, maintaining that she does treat herself (“I treated myself to a Sanka not three days ago.”) Lisa explains she doesn’t have to rationalize everything, and Marge ends up buying it… then rationalizing it’ll be good for the economy. And the design of the suit is real good too, Marge looks great in it. I also like how when Marge looks at the tag, and later drives to the actual store, the ‘Chanel’ name is always auspiciously blocked.
– We’ve got the gas station right in front of the Kwik-E-Mart, which we only see if the plot or a joke requires it. The only other time I can think of was “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadassss Song,” but I’m think there were others. My readers seem to be more knowledgeable than I, so maybe they’ll know.
– Lisa is displeased about the country club from the start (“Do I have to go? That country club is a hotbed of exclusionist snobs and status-seeking social climbers.”) Marge doesn’t approve of Lisa using the word “hotbed.”
– Great animation of Krusty flailing to get out of the way of Homer’s car. He appears throughout the show constantly getting hurt (great animation of him falling to the ground after getting hit by a golf club), then after a final injury, he bemoans, “I knew my kind wasn’t welcome here.” Whether he’s talking about clowns or Jews, I’m not sure. Perhaps both.
– Marge is really out of sorts with these high society women, talking about how all of their food is fancy and mail order. She attempts to jump in with her own related commentary (“I get food in the mail, but in a different way. Every month, Good Housekeeping arrives in my mailbox bursting with recipes. Sometimes the most satisfying meal is the one you cook yourself.”) One of the other women responds with a story of how rather than waking their maid, she and her husband dared to microwave their own soup. It was a spectacular mess, but they had the maid clean it up.
– I love how Kent Brockman’s daughter looks exactly like him, white hair and all, and her brattiness (“I didn’t ask for a bologna sandwich! I wanted an abalone sandwich!”)
– Guest star Tom Kite is slightly unnecessary, but he’s made worth it when he reveals that Homer stole his clubs (“Stay the hell out of my locker! You can keep the shoes!”) and then later coaching Krusty when he gets knocked unconscious by a lost club, darts his eyes and runs off.
– That Sue-sin’s a real bitch, with her snide commentary about Marge’s suit. Evelyn attempts to mollify Marge’s concerns (“Don’t worry, Marge. Susan’s idea of wit is nothing more than an incisive observation humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing.”) Later, showing the gala event welcoming the Simpson family, Susan explains, “I hope she didn’t take my attempt to destroy her too seriously.”
– The golf subplot has a lot of great bits: Homer teeing off in the men’s room, hitting one in the handicap stall as his finale, Burns’ imitation of Richard Nixon (“Oh, I can’t go to prison, Monty. They’ll eat me alive!”), the greatest use of Homer’s “Mmmm…” “open faced club sandwich,” and Burns’ slow realization that he actually isn’t a golf champ. The plot also even ties in with the main story, as Homer has to swallow his pride and keep Burns’ secret to assure Marge will get in the club.
– God, I love the second act break. After mangling the suit beyond repair, Marge laments, “At times like this, I guess all you can do is laugh.” Then five seconds of silence before the fade to black. Amazing.
– We get a horrid look at Patty and Selma’s closet; that harlotty purple number is much too tight on Marge, and I can’t even imagine (nor do I want to) what it looks like on Selma.
– I love each of the family’s mentionings of what they’re going to do at the club, each completely true to their character: Homer aims to amuse with the anecdote that got him bleeped on the radio, Bart looks to be up to some trickery posing as an Italian count, and Lisa plans to ask if people know their servants’ last names (or in the case of their butlers, their first.) Marge immediately reprimands all of them, even Maggie, and we get beautiful performances by the subdued family (Homer’s is particularly heartbreaking: “I just won’t say anything, okay, honey?”)
– Marge says she can return the dress, they’ll just have $3300 credit at Chanel. Homer asks, “They have beer and gum, right?”
– The very ending is sweet, with the family back where they belong and are most comfortable: the Krusty Burger. Pimply Faced Teen sees otherwise (“Man, you’re crazy. This place is a dump!”)

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4 responses to “142. Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield

  1. I like how, at the very end, Marge can’t think of anything SPECIFIC she likes about her own son. Just that she likes him.

  2. ‘I like Bart’s…I like BART!’

  3. “Magnetbox” and “Sorny” have entered my lexicon when describing something cheap or a knockoff –

    I think the part where Lisa is jumping up and down on the bed while reciting the 10 best things she likes about horses – all the while Marge is trying to alter the suit again – and then when Marge angrily turns on her, Lisa meekly says “Nothing”, and leaves is so spot-on perfect. Before I had kids, I found it annoying – now that I have some spawn of my own, it’s a perfect capture of how children just want to be acknowledge by their parents, and damn the torpedos on what we’re doing.

    Nice write up.

  4. There’s only so many ways that I can say I love this blog, so I’ll just call it high-quality panaphonics. That’s a blurb for ya to use.

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