65. Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie

(originally aired November 3, 1992)
Bart is a truly incorrigible hellion, seemingly from birth as we’ve seen in some flashbacks. The reasons for his behavior are occasionally toyed with, but ultimately he’s just an out-of-control kid, doing whatever his sick little mind desires. This episode shines a light on Homer and Marge’s parenting, on why exactly Bart manages to get away with so much shit. A warning flag is put up during parent teacher night over Bart’s shenanigans, on that he doesn’t get enough discipline for his actions. It’s here we see a different shade to Homer; one that seems to be overly forgiving to his son. Perhaps due to his laziness or ineptitude, but Homer seems to find it difficult to punish Bart, no matter what horrible thing he’s done. Following the reckless destruction of Grampa’s dentures, Bart is sent to bed without supper, with Bart calling the bluff. In a clinching scene, late that night, Bart realizes they aren’t budging, but just before he reconsiders his life of sin, Homer sneaks him some pizza, his over sympathy starting the chain of vagrancy all over again.

Alongside Bart’s ensuing antics is extensive coverage and promotion for the upcoming Itchy & Scratchy movie, which of course is slated to be the biggest motion picture event ever (though with only 53% new footage.) With this, we get a great bunch of animation parodies, starting with the somewhat offensive portrayal of Korean studios as brutal demoralizing workhouses. The earliest I & S cartoon “Steamboat Itchy,” obviously a “Steamboat Willie” parody, is amazing: it looks so much like the original cartoon, it’s astounding. Also the riff on wartime cartoons where the cat and mouse, modeled in a cutesier Warner Bros. style, brutally kill Adolf Hitler, and a strong-chinned, grinning, able-bodied FDR comes to kick his corpse in the ass. Not only is it great to see different styles and looks of animation in the show, but it’s amazing how good it all looks; it’s a real treat to watch.

These two stories intertwine in Homer finally getting the gumption to punish Bart: he is forbidden to ever see the Itchy & Scratchy movie ever, ever. This is another example of how Homer, when motivated, can get really firm and focused on something. He’s concerned for his son’s future, and believes that not budging from this punishment will be the first step. The movie is a monster hit, and the talk of the town, with Bart miserably sitting in the sidelines. Even Marge and Lisa think it’s gone too far, but Homer remains true to his guns, having faith it will be all worth it. And, in the end sequence, it is: future Bart is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I like to see this is an accurate future; I think that Bart is one of those kids who will grow out of his rambunctious youth to actually make something of himself, so I think the end, with him and elderly Homer finally watching the I & S movie (a double bill with “Beauty & the Beast”) is a really sweet and satisfying ending to a dynamite show.

Tidbits and Quotes
– “Star Trek XII: So Very Tired” is a great opening parody, with Hank Azaria doing an amazing Kirk and Sulu (“Again with the Klingons…”)
– Homer in Miss Hoover’s class is really great; for some reason being in an elementary school gives Homer free reign to behave like a kid and make armpit noises. The drawing of him, with a vacant stare and innocent smile, his gut bulging from the small desk chair, is absolutely hilarious.
– Where Homer receives all praise for Lisa, Marge is reamed over the coals about Bart. The progressive dark turns regarding his behavior get funnier as they get grimmer, from a hidden switchblade inside a Krusty doll, to a child witness pointing out where Bart stuck a firecracker in him on an anatomically correct doll.
– Homer exhibits an unusual knowledge of past Supreme Court Justices for some reason (“Mmmm… Warren Berger.”)
– The dream sequence of Bart as a disheveled pudgy male stripper may be one of my favorites of the whole show; it’s so disturbing, but in the best way possible.
– I love Homer’s thought process in punishing Bart: since he broke Grampa’s teeth, Grampa gets to break his. Abe’s eager willingness to do so is also wonderfully unsettling. As is later when Jasper holds a gun to Abe when he tries to swipe his dentures late at night.
– I think this is the first appearance of Bumblebee Man, star of Latino daytime TV. He’s proven to be one of the most bizarre secondary characters ever, with no real explanation for who this guy is, but that makes it all the funnier.
– Homer’s blind eye to Bart gets worse and worse, to when Marge comes home to find Bart tearing up the carpet as Homer vacantly stares at the TV (another hilarious drawing.) I like how cavalier both of them are about their roles: prompted to do something, Homer sends Bart to his room. Bart casually leaves (“See you in the funny pages!”)
– Desperate to get Homer to rescind his ban on the I & S movie, Bart pulls on his pants, preparing to be spanked. Homer shouts, “Don’t point that thing at me!”
– Absolutely perfect that during the moon landing, teen Homer is obliviously lounging in a bean bag chair listening to Ohio Express.
– Great heart-to-heart with Bart as Homer explains reasoning for the punishment: “You know, when I was a boy, I really wanted a catcher’s mitt, but my dad wouldn’t get it for me. So I held my breath until I passed out and banged my head on the coffee table. The doctor thought I might have brain damage.” When asked what the point of the story is, he answers, “I like stories.”
– Nice swipe from Lisa talking about how Michael Jackson and Dustin Hoffman did guest spots in the I & S movie (“They didn’t use their real names, but you could tell it was them.”)
– I love the humungous-sized I & S movie novelization; considering what the show is, what could be in there to make it that long?
– The billboard for the movie is amazing of course, as is the replacement following the end of its run for Springfield Barber College.
– Finally, I love that when we finally see the movie, one of universal acclaim and winner of nine Academy awards, it’s basically the same exact stuff we see in the regular cartoon. Still funny, but even funnier due to all the hoopla attached to this particular iteration.

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7 responses to “65. Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie

  1. You may mention this later, but Bumblebee Man is based on an actual person–El Chapulin, a comedian who the writers of The Simpsons often remember seeing on Spanish language TV.

  2. I think one of my favorite callouts ever is in Lisa’s Wedding, where Bart claimed he was ‘working off all my aggression until law school.’ It’s much more interesting for Bart to grow up than for him to stay the same and become a complete failure, as he did in the other future episodes.

  3. [QUOTE]The dream sequence of Bart as a disheveled pudgy male stripper may be one of my favorites of the whole show; it’s so disturbing, but in the best way possible.[/QUOTE]

    You have to listen to the audio commentary for this episode, because the writers (whom I refer to as “the nerds”) said that if they decide to end the show (Heaven forbid), then they should use the scene of male stripper Bart getting knocked out and booed by his female audience.

  4. The swipe at the Korean animation production facility is one of the Simpson’s many self-deprecating inside jokes – the Simpsons is actually drawn by such a company.

  5. Uh, this episode kind of rubs me the wrong way. I think they took Bart’s hellion-ness way over the top (switchblades? violating other kids with fireworks? trying to eat SLH?). And at 10 years old he’s way too young to have the same excuse as SLH did in “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds…”

    The Itchy and Scratchy stuff is great of course, and there are some good Homer lines “Oh… that guy.” “Don’t point that thing at me!” “I like stories.”

    To me, this is a lot like those later episodes Jean and Reiss wrote with The Critic staff… “Star Trek XII” and the suicidal hiccuping guy seem to be right out of a Critic/3G episode.

    • You may be right but since its the focus of the episode, its obvious you have to make things over the top to create the right situation, and even to make things funnier. In fact the problem would have been that, but they managed -as always did in golden era- to being over the top but still groundend, and without being dumb(which others shows always do). In this case Bart behaviour is exaggerated but never in a way that a 10yo kid like Bart wouldnt do. In next episodes this over the top exaggerations are not present though, and thats a great point in how to use character personality in the right situation in the right way.

  6. The billboard is such a hilarious scene. I’m not sure which I like more, the blood it pours out or the fact that the married couple were okay with getting splattered with it because it was Itchy & Scratch.

    I don’t agree with John V as there is nothing that rubs me the wrong way. The antics Bart performs had to set everything up for his punishment. It was meant to show that no matter what Bart did, he was always let go scott free. So building up to Homer’s punishment was justified. Not to mention we are talking about an episode where Maggie drives a car.

    The fact that the Itchy & Scratch movie was out in theaters for 8 months is hilarious, especially these days when movies are out on video within 3 months. I’m not sure as to the logic behind Bart missing out for 40 years though. Was it never released on VHS?

    Oh, Snake robbing a house and realizing the player he stole was a Beta was priceless.

    Lastly, the Star Trek XII joke is easily the best thing to happen to that franchise. 😀

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