323. Diatribe of a Mad Housewife

(originally aired January 25, 2004)
It seems I’ve been doing a lot of comparisons to classic episodes this season, due to Al Jean’s attempts to either drag back old one-off guest stars or tread through familiar emotional ground, except in a haphazard way. Here we have Marge channeling her dissatisfaction of her husband through a creative outlet, a la “A Streetcar Named Marge,” but rather than star in a play, she writes a trashy romance novel, the kinds housewives read that typically have Fabio on the cover. Her characters are thinly veiled, the long-suffering wife to a lecherous brutish seaman falls for the kindly, rugged gentleman next door, inspired by the always helpful Flanders. Before that, we have a profoundly stupid opening where Homer mows down a nuclear inspector in Burns’ office with his car, seemingly killing him, an action which is impossible since it’s several floors up. Terminated, he falls into a job as a car salesman, which lasts all of two minutes before he gets another job driving an ambulance. Or rather, he just buys the ambulance and automatically becomes an ambulance driver. It’s almost like a parody of Homer-gets-a-job at this point, like… I don’t know. I just don’t know what to make of it.

I feel some people could point at an episode like “Streetcar” and cry, “See? See?! Jerkass Homer existed before the Scully years!” But, as it always is, it’s all about context. “Streetcar” is one of my favorite episodes, and the handling of Homer’s character to keep him likeable despite his oafish behavior is stellar. He remains distant and oblivious to all of Marge’s plights, but never in a way that seems mean. In bed, he admits to her that he has absolutely no interest in any of her outside interests, and when Marge asks him why he never told her this, he responds as earnestly as possible, “You know I’d never do anything to hurt your feelings.” And you believe it. Homer’s a believably dense and dim man whose bubble of ignorance can only be popped after actually seeing the play. In this episode, Homer isn’t exactly antagonistic, but when he lumbers home demanding Marge cook him dinner and chastising his kids who he forced to work for him, it pretty much seems like it. And when Marge writes about potentially finding happiness with another man, it feels so saddening to me, as well as disturbing that it’s about Flanders. Thank God I jumped ship on the show before they did that episode where she considered actually having an affair with him. Man oh man, how fucked up is that?

Homer-Marge relationship episodes were dodgy in the past since it was always a bit of a leap of faith that Marge would ever take back Homer, but nowadays, they’re really complete fantasy. Homer’s such an out-of-control maniac, as we’ve seen, but this episode strikes an even more sour tone since we see Marge’s point-of-view on the subject. Her book is really the subject of her inner feelings, and as we see it play out that Homer is this complete sloven degenerate (“I’m free to be selfish, drunk, emotionally distant, sexually ungenerous…”), it becomes depressing that this is how Marge sees her husband. For all their scrapes and scuffles, what always felt so comforting about this show is that the family truly cares about each other, particularly Homer and Marge, who felt like two believable people who were very much still in love. Nowadays Homer is a complete cartoon character, and Marge is either a complete doormat, or reveals her true devastating feelings like in this show, or “Brake My Wife, Please.” It’s just kind of depressing.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Marge attends a book signing of a romance novelist, and then all of a sudden decides she wants to be a writer. Just like that. Here’s what sells her on it (“If I write a book, will they tell me when it comes out?” “Well, they should, yes.” “Then I’ll do it!”) I’m very confused…
– Marge has got to be really hard to write for, especially when she’s all by herself. Her dialogue is pretty… shit (“This story is as dark as those new Milky Way bars!”) She attempts to find inspiration for her book, so she looks at the sailboat painting over the couch, envisioning a glorious, whale-ridden seascape (“A novel about whaling! That’s something you haven’t seen before!”) Not a bad joke. But wait, let’s explain it in case some people didn’t get it (“Thank you, ‘Scene from Moby Dick’!”) Sigh. Plus this betrays a past bit where Marge reveals that she painted that for Homer; not to be a stickler for continuity, but I always thought that was very sweet.
– The in-novel scene between Marge and Flanders is quite unsettling, considering this is all in Marge’s mind.
– Another episode, some more throwaway guest voices, from Thomas Pynchon to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. I did like Tom Clancy’s bit though (“Would I say, ‘If you’re hunting for a great read this October, Marge Simpson’s book is a clear and present danger to your free time’? Hell no, I wouldn’t. …what do you mean I just said it? That doesn’t count!”)
– Ah, the reappearance of Dr. Marvin Monroe. So completely unnecessary. Why would they name the fucking hospital after him if he wasn’t dead? Whatever.
– Homer furiously chasing Flanders across town, cornering him at the top of a steep cliff… then getting down on his knees to beg him for help his marriage. What a humungous fucking cop-out.


20 responses to “323. Diatribe of a Mad Housewife

  1. I thought this episode was much better done than “Brake My Wife, Please”. Marge unleashing her inner frustrations in her book is a much more interesting idea than the banal “Homer slowly drives Marge insane”. The final act also is neat how it mirrors what happened in the book, save for Homer begging Ned for marital advice (seriously, Mike, you expected Homer to actually kill Ned??).

    And I never saw anything strange about Marge choosing Ned as the lover in the book. I didn’t see it as wanting Ned, but instead wishing that Homer was more like Ned: She wishes he was nicer, less of an insensitive jerk, was in shape, and wasn’t so impulsive. Let’s remember, she initially had Homer in Ned’s role, but changed it when Homer came home acting like a jerkass.

    But I do agree that some of the “Marge talks to herself” moments were pretty cringe-worthy, as was the Dr. Monroe cameo. Really. What was the point of bringing him back other than to annoy long-time viewers? It wasn’t even a very funny gag anyway.

    • They set up the bait and switch of Homer being incensed with rage and looking like he’s out for Ned’s blood, then on a dime he beckons him for help like a whimpering child. Of course I didn’t expect him to kill him, but it appears that Homer has some kind of bipolar disorder.

  2. I love the Dr. Marvin Monroe gag, it’s one of those things I don’t think another show could pull off

  3. I did like Homer singing to the tune of Gary Numan’s “Cars”: “Here in my car/I’m washing off blood/some of it’s mine/but some of it’s not/here’s Marge.”

  4. And yet another Al Jean episode I can’t be bothered to care about. There’s literally nothing funny about this premise – like you said, it’s more sad and disturbing than anything. There’s this really dark air about the show in its recent years, where it feels like none of the characters actually like each other, and it’s all very unsettling. (Again, I blame Family Guy for this.)



  6. “Thank God I jumped ship on the show before they did that episode where she considered actually having an affair with him. Man oh man, how fucked up is that?”

    Wait, what? I’ve seen every episode and this is not ringing a bell. Maybe it was a forgettable throwaway joke at some point but I don’t think it was an actual plot.

  7. I just want to say that I read your blog everyday, i just dont always comment. Some entertainment on my work lunch breaks. I don’t know what I’m going to do once you get to #444!..something productive, I guess.

    Yeah, there were some good ideas in this script, but as usual in the later years, it fell short. I can’t believe “The Simpsons” (…zombie-style) is still on the air. Let it die, Fox. I have this theory that they will end it after 25 seasons, what do you think?

    • The Troy McClure joke has truly come true (“Who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?”) The show isn’t doing so hot ratings-wise, but FOX rakes in huge bank from merchandising, so it’s worth keeping the series alive. I have no clue when it will end; the contract now goes to either 25 or 26, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it goes longer than that.

      • It bugs me seeing young kids say “the Simpsons suck”. By keeping it on the air this long, they’ve ruined the legacy of one of the best tv shows in history.
        (..Yeah, I’ve been reading that Zombie Simpsons e-book, lol.)
        Oh well, whaddaya gonna do. Petition on change.org, anyone?

    • I love this site, I read it everyday as well, one of like 4 blogs I regularly check. I think we all secretly hope Mike will go against his original intention, and review episodes after 444 🙂

      Just kidding, Mike, I wouldn’t wish that torture upon anybody!

      Anywho… I’m really looking forward to reviews of the Simpsons Movie, the Simpsons Ride (!), and “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind”, which I actually really like as an episode, though the very end sucks. It has a startling sequence where Homer “takes a picture of himself every day for 10 years”, which is probably the most impressive thing they’ve done on the show since being zombified.

  8. I doubt it will end at Seaosn 25. It makes them too much money and if they get rid of Simpsons, their Sunday night block is done. They might as well cancel Family Guy, American Dad, and Clevland Show as well.

    • Actually, I read Bob’s Burgers was renewed for a 4th season… er.. I guess that’s right… they’ll be airing the rest of season 2 soon, which some people consider ‘season 3’, and they already ordered a whole other season. That show is great.

      …anyway, the same article said the Cleveland Show hasn’t been renewed yet. I mean, I’m sure it will be, but eh.

      Simpsons ending at 25 sounds right. It should’ve ended way before that obviously, but the 500th episode AND the lady gaga appearance didn’t really make any difference whatsoever, so the only card they have up their sleeves IS a silver anniversary. Which is impressive, though the bad episodes outweighing the good episodes is about as sad as it gets…kill this fucking show, fox. Please!

  9. Actually, they’re reaching a point where it would be more profitable to cancel the series. Fox is stuck in the same syndication deal it made ages ago until the series ends. Once it’s done they can resell it and get it on some cable channels.

    • I would love for it to end up on cable. Before I moved, the problem was that they never showed episodes that were more than a few seasons old. Now the problem is that none of my local channels show The Simpsons at all. If only I had money to buy the DVDs.

  10. I really hated this episode.

    Homer telling Marge, “I’ll make sure you never imagine anything again!” actually gave me a visible cringe.

    Just the absolute worst of Jerkass Homer.

  11. Watched this when it first came out 14 years ago, then watched it again today. The fart joke in the car dealership was the only thing I still remembered. But to be fair, it was a pretty good fart joke. And a pretty shitty episode.

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