(originally aired February 2, 2003)
I started out dreading this one immediately, because all I could remember is it involved roided-up muscular Marge pumping with insane rage. But shockingly, contained within the first two acts of this episode is an actually serviceable and satisfying story about Marge overcoming her anxieties. Then they had nowhere to go and slapped on one of the most ridiculous and uncomfortable plot turns ever. We start at a yard sale spurred by Rainier Wolfcastle filing for bankruptcy, where Homer picks up his original weight set, thinking it may go up in value. On their way home, Marge stops at the Kwik-E-Mart to change Maggie, but is accosted by a mugger in the alleyway, who grabs the pearls off her neck and flees. Marge is understandably shocked and devastated, and soon after develops a severe case of agoraphobia. There’s a nicely animated sequence of Marge unable to leave the front stoop into the whirling, dangerous vortex that is the outside world.
What works here is that for the large part Marge’s condition is treated seriously; Homer and the kids are genuinely worried about her and try to help her get back into the world. Eventually Marge becomes so far gone she takes up living in the basement. The scene of Homer finding his wife nervously hunched in a corner down the stairs is pretty disconcerting; I was surprised how on-the-level they kept this story, but then I guess it’s hard to crack as many jokes when it’s at Marge’s expense. With nothing else to do, Marge ends up weightlifting, and in a few weeks is getting pretty bulked up, and is filled with energy, so much so they she runs outside to get a lemon without a second thought. I really like the shot where she’s standing outside frozen, finally processing what she just did, overcoming her fears without even realizing it. Her triumphant run through Springfield is cut short when she encounters the mugger, who she then proceeds to beat the shit out of, Godfather style. So there you go, the main catalyst of the episode has been dealt with, Marge is cured and the story is basically over, let’s go home, everybody. …wait, we have seven minutes left?
All the good will earned by the first two acts is dragged down an awful lot by the third. Marge encounters her old neighbor Ruth Powers on the beach, who encourages her to enter a bodybuilding competition, with some performance enhancing “assistance.” Now, it doesn’t make sense for her to want to compete in anything, and as a PTA mother, she would never, ever take drugs, ever. Her walk on the wild side with Ruth in “Marge on the Lam” actually made sense given the backstory, and that she was mostly dragged along for it, but this is like apples and oranges. Plus Ruth is barely in this episode, and she basically doesn’t matter here. So Marge roids it up and becomes a hulking, scary mass of a woman, who ends up destroying everything and everyone in Moe’s after winning second place. A genuinely fear-struck Homer tells her how much she wants her sweet, caring Marge back, which permeates her drug-addled brain, leading her to dispose of her barbells. Except they were never the problem, it was the steroids. There’s actually a really solid story here in the first two acts, nothing amazing, or laugh-out-loud funny, but watchable and sensible, but then everything goes to shit in the end when they have nowhere to go. A promising, ultimately sloppy episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The Eye on Springfield opening is kind of depressing. It’s recycled from an older episode (season 3, I think?), and it’s been used a few times, but here it starkly contrasts with the newer animation, and the new bits they added aren’t even jokes. Kent washes his car. Kent bites into a sandwich and the contents fall out. Okay?
– I kind of like Homer filling up his car Tetris-style, but that’s basically it for the whole beginning. Besides that we have him eating a sword and Rainier’s past in gay porn. I’m guessing that’s a Schwarzenegger reference, did he act in gay porn? I dunno.
– The little Kwik-E-Mart play they set up is pretty cute. And I liked how Milhouse acted as the robber, but seemingly of his own volition. Bart probably told him about it and decided it would be a funny prank, not realizing how devastating the situation actually is.
– The show plays Marge’s condition fairly straight, save Hibbert’s slightly antagonistic speech to her, and this rough line she gives (“What to do now… too crazy to go outside, not crazy enough to have imaginary friends.”)
– I really don’t have anything to say about Ruth’s reappearance. She just kind of shows up, barely a mention of where she’s been, where’s her daughter, she’s basically the episode’s excuse to put a friendly face in to convince Marge to do the steroids. And since Marge really has no friends, they had to drag Ruth back out again.
– “Man, what am I smoking? …oh right, pot.” And with that, any semblance of subtlety in Otto’s character is lost forever. From this point on, he’s just a guy who takes drugs. Lots of drugs. Let’s do a bunch of drug jokes, we can get away with them now! Yeah!
– By the time we get to the bodybuilding competition, I have no idea what I’m watching. It all feels so completely alien to me; I get that Marge has completely roided out, but I still don’t buy she would do this at all in the first place. Then she brutally beats up everyone in the bar, in a manner that many of them must be seriously injured, or possibly even killed. She smashes the record player over Disco Stu’s head, he must have some sort of brain damage now (“Disco Stu should have Disco Ducked!”) Then the ending is so fucking serious, with Marge still in a rage and Homer nervously trying to calm his wife down with maudlin music in the background… Jesus Christ, a few scenes earlier we were making jokes about buffed up women, now it’s a drama all of a sudden. I really hate this third act, it’s awful all around.
– I think I’ve covered just about everything. Yep, no stone left unturned. Mmhmm. …oh wait, one more thing, in this episode, Marge rapes Homer. Yep. She rapes him. And of course it’s played off as comedy, because as we all know, rape is okay if it’s female-on-male. A buffed-up Marge accosts Homer in bed (“Let’s do it!” “Listen, my bulky flower, I have an early day tomorrow…” “I wasn’t asking.”) Next scene Homer sits at the kitchen table, clearly sore and out of sorts with a glazed look in his eyes. Just terrible. I can’t believe they did this. Now, let’s get this straight, anything can be made funny. Anything. It’s all about context. We recently had that Daniel Tosh controversy where he rambled on about a heckler in the crowd and how funny it would be if she got raped. It wasn’t awful that he made a cavalier joke about rape, it was awful because it wasn’t funny. I believe pretty much any topic can be spun into comedy, but with delicate subjects such as these, it really depends on context and delivery. So what’s happening in the scene? Homer is nervous and whimpering, being pinned down by his muscular wife, then we cut to the next day of him barely being able to walk. So yeah, the joke is that Marge had rough, raw sex with him against his will, so much so that he’s having trouble moving. That’s fucking terrible. Hands down, the most terrible, tasteless joke the show has ever, ever done. If anyone has the DVD and could tell me what the crew says about this part on the commentary, if anything, I’d be interested how they could possibly defend this deplorable “joke.” I’m sure it’ll go something like this: someone will off-hand say that possibly it was in poor taste, then they’ll all laugh about it.