252. Lisa the Tree Hugger

(originally aired November 19, 2000)
As character degradation would continue throughout the years, Lisa will eventually find herself a rabble-rousing liberal mouth piece, voicing her various opinions like a mindless talking head. Being morally indigent became one of her new character traits. But Lisa was always socially conscious and took up moralistic causes for specific reasons, some even slightly naive or misguided. This episode certainly showcases her passionate activism but always within the realm of her being child. The show also takes a deft aim at youth environmentalism, part out of actual concern, but mostly in attempts to seem hip and ahead of the curve. There’s a lot of sharp things in this episode, but it mostly suffers from not having many laughs, and of course, lots of dumb Homer shit going on in the background.

Lisa finds herself crushing over teen activist Jesse Grass after a radical protest at Krusty Burger with his organization Dirt First. The scene of her visiting him in jail is pretty great, where she tries desperately to prove how eco-friendly she is (“I started an organic compost pile at home.” “Only at home? You mean you don’t pocket-mulch?”) Jesse talks about how he was into yoga before it was cool and how Lisa can enter their group under the “poser” level, it all just shows how superficial it all is under the surface. I also like that Jesse doesn’t even acknowledge who Lisa is that much, forgetting her name but then making how he knew her dearly upon her supposed death, complete with an amazing backhanded comment (“But, in death, she will do more for our cause than sheevercould have done in life.”) In fact, now that I think about it, Jesse is kind of a mirror of what Lisa would turn in to, in a way. Overly self-righteous, looking to cause a scene over his beliefs, it sort of makes sense.

The largest redwood in Springfield is set to be chopped down, and Lisa volunteers to camp out in the tree to prevent it from happening. But when she becomes homesick and climbs down for the night, lightning strikes it down, leaving the town to believe she had gone down with it. Now Lisa must choose between lying low and letting her memorial nature preserve be built and to come clean. It’s an interesting twist, and I do like how Lisa’s metal bucket was to blame for the tree coming down. Premise-wise, this episode is pretty solid, but it’s nothing too spectacular. The opening with Bart delivering menus is pretty superfluous, but it’s an adequate lead-in to our main story. Homer, meanwhile, is still deplorable; Bart’s casual and callous attitude toward Lisa’s “death” works, but Homer forcing her daughter to record a post-mortum message and wearing a shirt with her face with a halo on it to garner sympathy is pretty despicable. So, not a spectacular episode, but nothing too major to bitch about. S’alright.

Tidbits and Quotes
– For some reason I’m kind of bothered they made the barber into a maniac. He’s been around since the Tracey Ullman shorts, he deserves a little respect.
– I found the name of the “You Thai Now” restaurant more amusing than all of the schtick from the owner. Also Bart ends up at the Watergate Hotel delivering menus somehow.
– Great bit of the police shooting the protesters down with beanbags, with mission accomplished thanks to some heavy artillery (“That’s nice work with the bag-zooka.” “Gotta love what you do, Chief.”)
– Kent Brockman reports on the protest (“The eco-radical group, Dirt First, staged a daring protest today at Krusty Burger. Krusty the Klown has issued the following statement: ‘This I don’t need.’ The group is led by teenage activist, Jesse Grass, a dreadlocked dreamboat whose Birken-stock is on the rise.”)
– I don’t… entirely understand the joke with Homer talking about saving the planet his own way, then proceeds to make donuts in the street. Is it just that he’s wasting so much gas?
– Hilarious joke implicating Homer has drugs hidden in the house. Haven’t they done this joke before? And wasn’t it not funny then? The answer is yes. If you can remember the episode, no need to comment, because I don’t particularly care. But do it if you’d like.
– Kent Brockman again with another great report (“It’s day four for Springfield’s li’lest tree hugger. …excuse me, that’s littlest tree hugger. And whether you love or hate her politics, you’ve got to go gawk at this crazy idiot.”)
– And again, reporting that Springfield’s oldest resident has died. He chuckles and assures it’s not Mr. Burns. Cue a superimposed picture of Burns with the title “NOT DEAD.”
– Marge is not on board with Lisa’s charade (“You are not pretending to be dead, young lady! This family has had nothing but bad luck when it comes to farce.”)
– I hate Homer going to the bar, but I do like Moe’s attempt to be tactful in expressing condolences for Lisa’s death, or how he puts it, “riding the midnight train to Slab City.”
– Great bit with a crestfallen Milhouse grabbing Lisa’s sax, insisting they can clone her from the spit. He runs off, with Quimby shouting, “Good luck, Milhouse!”
– The Rich Texan dates all the way back to season 5 but somehow he’s been brought back in this later seasons quite a lot. He’s a veritable cartoon character, which is fine for one-off appearances, but I feel like he appears so many times from this point on and it’s the same joke every time.
– A bit of a cheat that the people in the woods can see what the Lisa Log is crashing into miles away, but hey, whatever. I like Rich Texan taking pleasure in Hemp City being destroyed (“Yee-haw! Score one for the bad guys!”)

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12 responses to “252. Lisa the Tree Hugger

  1. Aren’t Homer’s wheelies a recyclying symbol of something?

  2. A strangely watchable episode. Almost… charming? You’re right, it doesn’t have a lot of actual laughs but it’s not terrible enough to write off completely, imo…

    • “- I don’t… entirely understand the joke with Homer talking about saving the planet his own way, then proceeds to make donuts in the street. Is it just that he’s wasting so much gas?”

      I think the joke is that he’s wasting gas/polluting the air for no reason other than to go in circles, not to mention he’s tearing up the land he’s on by doing donuts.

      “Hilarious joke implicating Homer has drugs hidden in the house”

      They would go on to further joke more and more about Homer’s drug use, like the Hibbert “Always with the morphine!” line in that episode where he babysits everyone. Then obviously the pot smoking episode in season 13 (which has some good jokes but I’d trade it all for “I haven’t seen a bong in years” from the Barbershop Quartet episode).

  3. We’re 4 episodes into Season 12, and no truly bad ones yet. Unfortunately, Homer Vs. Dignity is next.

  4. This is a decent post classic. Homer’s “unlesss…….” always make me laugh for some reason.

  5. Apart from the fact that it’s clearly inferior to Lisa the Vegetarian, I never minded this one. It seemed like it was trying to go for heart over cheap gags, and while it didn’t always succeed, it’s a fairly decent half hour. Kent Brockman’s reports are indeed probably the highlights.

    There’s also the ending where the tree smashes through a Kentucky Fried Panda (“No! It was finger Ling-Ling good!”), which I can’t help but feel is an unfortunate foreshadowing for the next episode (which truly is the death of fun.)

  6. SleekVigilantPuma

    Meh. Weak. At least it doesn’t rate an ugh.

    It has got that sodding texan in it though, which is what passes for characterization these days. Yee hah. Pow pow. Jump around a bit.

    These reviews are getting harder and harder to read, as the quality of the subject matter nosedives. At least I’m not having to watch the episodes again, so I salute your commitment.

    In the interests of trying to post something positive this blog has inspired me to start watching the classic seasons again, which has made me realise just how wonderful they are. I’m also looking forward to watching them with my daughter when she’s old enough, so thank you for that.

  7. this episode is wierd. its got a solid premise, good characterization(well, not homer, as always), and its watchable; but it feels so, so empty on the whole. i think Mike is right: there are no great laughs and no highlights through the whole story. it’s just.. ok.

  8. I actually rather like several bits in this one, particularly Bart getting ninja training ala karate kid:
    “Menu boy must not be coward like shrimp, menu boy be brave like Prawn!”

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