(originally aired April 13, 2003)
This is an astounding episode, in that it got the closest to physically injuring me, as my brain was violently throbbing trying to process what was going on and what the intention of the show was. My best guess is this was just their gimmick episode, where they’ll have openly gay characters and have an animated gay kiss so they can appear progressive, but meanwhile rely on stereotypes and gay jokes that have been told a thousand times over. But the fumbling of the controversial content isn’t even the worst part of this episode; here we apparently see the worst falling out Homer and Marge have ever had, to the point where it seems they’ll never get back together. Except it’s over the most asinine reason: Homer discovers a note Marge wrote way back in their younger days of how she didn’t think the two could stay together. Why is this? Well she wrote it after a romantic date wherein Homer got blasted and played Asteroids all night, forced Marge to force-feed him nachos, and end up getting carted to the hospital. Then a few days later she found out she was pregnant with Bart, leaving Homer to believe that that’s the only reason she stayed with him.
Throughout the episode, Homer acts like an incredibly thick-headed irrational maniac. Some of the interplay between him and Marge is so bizarre I can’t even make sense of it (“It’s not always going to be perfect, we’ve been married for ten years!” “Oh, I didn’t realize you’ve been counting down the years! Is it that horrible living with me?” “Well, this morning isn’t a barrel of laughs!” “It is to me!”) The problem here is that Homer couldn’t be more in the wrong: Marge’s note came about from his rampant and dangerous alcoholism, which he still exhibits. Hell the episode begins referencing her attempt at an intervention, followed by him chuckling about it while swigging down a cold one. It’s all based on Homer’s narrow-minded childish perception of Marge’s note that he thinks that she never loved him, and that’s what makes him pack his bags and leave. After we milk some easy jokes about sad single men from Kirk Van Houten, Homer ends up moving in with two gay men, Grady and Julio, the former voiced by gay comic Scott Thompson, the latter by Hank Azaria, with the most stereotypical accent imaginable.
So Grady and Julio are gay. Gay gay gay gay gay. The village they live in is gay, and Homer begins to adapt the gay, by getting manicures, a Lhasa Apso dog, and dancing shirtless like a wild man at a gay dance club, despite the fact that he’s a fat lazy slob. Any semblance of his subdued homophobia from “Homer’s Phobia” is dismissed immediately so we can move the plot forward; now Homer is one hundred percent accepting of gays everywhere! This episode could care less about actually writing material about homosexuals though; its main focus is recycling the same old jokes (people in theater are gay!) and making up gag names for storefronts (Armistead Mopeds, Victor/Victoria’s). Then we have our finale where Grady kisses Homer on the lips, despite the fact that there’s been little to no build-up of him finding Homer attractive, or even why he would. Also it just feels so offensive, like Homer’s straight, but Grady can make him gay, because gay men want to fuck all men, regardless of sexual preference. Post-kiss, Homer jumps ship and we never see these two characters again.
Even though Homer is completely in the wrong, Marge is forced to do all the heavy lifting in repairing their relationship, so with the help of Weird Al Yankovic, gets Homer to agree to go on a date with her. So what does Homer do before the big night? Get wasted. Yep. And Grady and Julio give him the drinks, then later remind him that he’s already late for the date. So did Grady sabotage the date so he could get Homer for himself? Maybe I’m thinking too much into this but it just feels so wrong. So Homer shows up to dinner drunk and Marge leaves understandably upset. In this entire show, I don’t feel one ounce of sympathy for Homer; the same shit he pulled on Marge in the past, he’s pulling on her now, with no regard or remorse until it’s way too fucking late. But Hibbert pulls a video tape out of fucking nowhere of young Marge tending to young Homer’s bedside that fateful night, and the two have a heartfelt reconciliation, even though Homer has been a childish dick to her the entire episode. This show is staggeringly wrong on so many levels; it might be one of the series’ worst. And it won the Emmy. Against Futurama‘s “Jurassic Bark.” Let that sink in.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The puzzle piece opening is pretty vacuous. I kind of like sleep-deprived Homer mashing Lenny’s face into the puzzle though. Upon completion, Flanders looks over and says, “It looks like you’re missing a piece.” Homer retorts, “Looks like you’re missing a wife!” The most tasteless line ever used in the series ever. So I’m basically disgusted by Homer right from the very start.
– The flashbacks with young Homer and Marge really feel so sour. I imagine there were rough times, but seeing Homer be so insensitive to this girl he was head-over-heels for in “The Way We Was” just feels so not right. Plus this really doesn’t help us feel any sympathy for Homer whatsoever; Marge had every right to write that letter.
– I ran long with the main review, but there’s so much wrong in this episode. All of Homer and Marge’s arguments consist of Homer being an irrational asshole, and Marge proceeding to bizarrely fan the flames (“So you mean our whole marriage you’ve just been resenting me behind my back!” “A little bit, yeah.”) But as negative as Marge gets, it’s mostly in response towards Homer’s accusations, who cuts even deeper than her, combined with the fact that he has no leg to stand on with his arguments. But in the end, it’s Marge who has to make things right, as encouraged by her own children. There’s an unbelievable exchange between Lisa and Marge that feels so, so, so wrong (“Mom, I know Dad cares about you, but his feelings are really hurt. Why don’t you just say you’re sorry?” “Lisa, marriage is a beautiful thing, but it’s also a constant battle for moral superiority, so I can’t apologize.”) If there’s a piece of dialogue that is more anti-Marge than that, then I’d like to hear it. Lisa talks to her mother like her father is a child, which he basically is. Also all of this family strife with the kids wanting their dad back and trying to mend fences, this serious storyline completely clashes with the episode’s tidal wave of terrible gay jokes. It’s like a tsunami of bullshit.
– Subtly is long gone from the series at our new look at Bachelor Arms, the pathetic apartment complex Kirk Van Houten lives at. Instead of using a light touch, instead we get an “X Days Without a Suicide” sign, then a gunshot, then the counter resets to zero. All in good taste.
– Homer arrives to the gay side of town, and who should he run into but… Smithers! Of course! I really think that sometimes the current-day writers really don’t understand some of these characters, and Smithers is definitely one of them. Smithers is not gay, he loves Mr. Burns. He’s an office sycophant, dedicated to his job and his boss, but to the utmost degree, that he is devoted to Burns and would do absolutely anything and everything for him. That’s the joke. Burns could be a woman and the joke would be the same. But now, the only joke is that Smithers is gay. Super gay. He likes men, not women. He wants to fuck men. Do you get it yet? Should we milk it further?
– Speaking of which, they originally wanted Harvey Fierstein to return as Karl in this show, which he turned down upon reading the script. You can read the whole quote here, but it basically boils down to he felt that it was just a bunch of easy gay jokes we’ve heard a million times without that clever spin or twist that made it truly Simpsony. And you know what, he’s right on the fucking money.
– I love Weird Al a lot, and I’m really bummed he’s stuck in this shit episode. He works a lot better in his second appearance in the equally controversial “That 90’s Show,” in a flashback where he still sports his glasses and mustache look. Plus it also gave us the great line, “He who is tired of Weird Al is tired with life.” But he’s the only thing in the entire episode I like, he does a great performance with both his songs (“Weird Al had fun on this show/even if it was just a brief cameo!”)