(originally aired November 27, 1994)
Mob mentality is definitely a running theme of the show, as we’ve seen in many episodes in the past from “Bart’s Inner Child” to “Bart’s Girlfriend,” where one single minded emotion is spread across an entire populous, making the accused’s life a living hell. In this episode, we take a look at the media and how it can play exactly the same role, and because of its pervasiveness can be even more damaging and confusing. Homer’s supposed indiscretions from this episode are pushed and exaggerated to the ninths on television, which toward the end of the show starts to confuse and beat down even him. A man with a love affair with television now finds it to not be his enemy, but his undoing (“Maybe TV is right. TV’s always right.”) It’s an interesting portrait of how words can really destroy a man. It’s also funny as hell too. And on rather risque subject matter too, but counterbalanced by its goofiness.
We have our opening set piece of Homer going apeshit with excitement at a candy convention, using Marge as a drug mule to stow away as many goodies as he can in her custom made giant overcoat. During reconnaissance, he notices a glaring omission: the ultra rare gummi Venus di Milo. Dropping off the babysitter, a righteous college feminist, he notices that the candy was on the passenger seat and is now stuck to her pants. He reaches and grabs it off, which of course is mistaken by her to be a lust-filled grope. This leads to a group of young activists camping outside the Simpson house in protest of Homer’s actions, which later sparks an insane media circus. What works here is that Ashley Grant is a bit of a feminist caricature, but she is not vilified. From her perspective, we see a truly craven Homer reaching for her ass, so we see where she gets off, but it’s also hilarious to us that we know it’s over a candy. The rarest of all gummis, which he then eats in three seconds.
It’s not long before the entire television landscape is riddled with anti-Homer programming, from daytime talk shows, Letterman’s Top 10, Channel Ocho, and so on. It’s such an insane exaggeration of this situation: all Homer supposedly did was grab a girl’s ass, and Kent Brockman is doing 24-hour surveillance of his house. Such dramatic viewpoints from TV starts to create conflict in the Simpson house, as Lisa and Bart start to get mixed thoughts against their father (“It’s just hard not to listen to TV: it’s spent so much more time raising us than you have.”) In a last ditch effort to clear his name, Homer gives an innocence speech on public access, which nobody watches. But thankfully, we get a truly random conclusion of Willie coming to Homer’s aid, who videotapes couples in cars in his spare time, which is made great because it does feel like something Willie would do (“I dinna come forward because in this country, it makes you look like a pervert, but every single Scottish person does it!”) The end also features a great turn-around where the sleazy journalism show does a defamatory report on Willie, which Homer is immediately swayed by, despite him clearing his name. Homer is as quick to judge as everyone was to him, and fails to see the connection (“Marge, my friend, I haven’t learned a thing.”) He’s made up with the TV, and that’s as happy as an ending as we can get.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like Apu’s polite nature toward Homer, who has opened up hundreds of chocolate bars to find the candy convention tickets (“Hey! I have asked you nicely not to mangle my merchandise. You leave me no choice but to… ask you nicely again.”)
– There’s so many great bits at the Candy Convention, starting with Homer’s urging to get there quick so he can meet the two surviving Musketeers. Paging Mr. Goodbar, the barricades holding out all the fatties, Frink’s super sour lemon ball, taking on the frivolity of wax lips, and Marge’s thwarted attempt to eat healthy (“You’re going to have to put some sugar on that celery or get out, ma’am.”) I love Homer’s incredibly enthusiasm, it’s his absolute paradise (“I feel like a kid in some kind of a store!”) Also the outro is great, with Homer testing the urban legend of combining soda with pop rocks to make his escape (“See you in hell, candy boys!”) The result is an explosion that would fit in any action movie, complete with Homer attempting to outrun it.
– The bit with Bart and Lisa swimming around Marge’s engorged coat finding candy, with Marge giggling at being tickled by it, is a really sweet scene, ending with the coat giving way to an avalanche of candy spilling to the floor.
– I like how quick it takes for Ashley to be turned off by Homer (“Hey, could you take the wheel for a second? I have to scratch myself in two places at once.”) He speaks out of innocence, but it makes sense that she would extrapolate otherwise after the ensuing incident occurred.
– Amongst the protesters is one that looks suspiciously like Velma from Scooby-Doo. We also see Marge’s activist friend from “The Way We Was,” who seems to not have aged at all since the 70s.
– Homer defends himself to his wife (“Marge, I swear I didn’t touch her. You know how bashful I am; I can’t even say the word ‘titmouse’ without giggling like a schoolgirl!”) Marge believes her husband of course; a horrible sitcom would have the wife immediately be distrusting, but here Marge knows better that Homer would never do something like that.
– I like the scene where Bart and Lisa are understandably confused about the accusations about their father. Homer explains it the best he can, comparing it to a postcard Grampa sent of an alligator biting a woman’s bottom (“We all thought it was hilarious. But it turns out we were wrong: that alligator was sexually harassing that woman.”) When Bart asks about the dog in the Coppertone ad, Homer admits that’s a bit of a gray area.
– Great montage of the protestors harassing Homer in his driveway, then on the highway, then at his work console (one of them yells, “We ain’t crazy about nuclear power either!”)
– The Rock Bottom stuff is absolutely fantastic, a terrific parody of sensationalist tabloid news. It’s specifically a parody of Hard Copy, but it’s great that so many years later the reference to such programming still works completely. The Homer interview segment has got to be one of the funniest things in the entire series, with the clock in the background quickly changing with each cut, even though we saw Homer taping the footage in less than a minute. Then the clearly paused video frame of Homer zooming in, apparently attacking the host, followed by the quick disclaimer “Dramatization may not have happened.”
– Out of options, Homer proposes the family start a new life under the sea, which leads to a great quick musical number riffing on The Little Mermaid with Homer eating all the cute sea faring life. Marge assures Homer that it’s not going to happen, to which Homer retorts, “Not with that attitude.”
– Great bit with Homer spooked coming out of the shower by a news copter outside the window, slipping and falling, bringing the shower curtain with him (“Simpson scandal update: Homer sleeps nude in an oxygen tent which he believes gives him sexual powers.”) Homer is annoyed by the report (“Hey! That’s a half-truth!”)
– The various TV bits blasting Homer are all hilarious, from “Gentle Ben,” hosted by the bear of the same name, and the FOX made-for-TV movie “Portrait of an Ass-Grabber” starring Dennis Franz as Homer Simpson.
– Seemingly at the end of the line, Homer muses about his station in life (“This is so depressing, my only hope is this homemade Prozac.” He taste tests it. “Needs more ice cream.”)
– The scrolling Rock Bottom confessions is some great freeze frame fodder, but I’ve neither the time nor the energy to look through them. Luckily, more obsessive nerds online have done it for me, and the writers surely thank them for it (one reads, “The people who are writing this have no life.”) I particularly like “Licking an electrical outlet will not turn you into a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger” and “Quayle is familiar with common bathroom procedures.”