(originally aired April 30, 2006)
Ho-hum, another boring episode. It’s sad the series has gotten to this level of unremarkable where entire episodes (and possible seasons) can be completely written off. The Simpsons see the Itchy & Scratchy musical, which is a big Lion King rip-off, and though a bit too on-the-nose, is probably the only interesting bit in the whole show. After the show, Skinner has a bizarre conversation on stage with the director Juliane Krellner (or Julie Taymor, continuing the show’s tradition of taking a name, tweak it slightly, and there! Instant joke!) Here’s what’s said (“It’s no surprise you became such a success. You always got straight A’s in school!” “Well, I remember getting a B or two in math.” “Well, of course you did. You are a girl!”) I honestly can’t figure out why he would say that. The road to our main plot hinges on this, and it feels so flimsy, and eventually becomes nonsensical, in multiple ways. People are outraged by Skinner’s incidental sexism and he’s replaced by a new principal (Frances MacDormand, another fine talent wasted), who jumps to the conclusion gender integration is to blame for the grading disparities between the sexes, and demands the school be split in two: a boy’s school and a girl’s school.
Lisa is excited for a challenge in girl’s math, but is shocked to find the class is focused on getting in touch with feelings and instilling confidence boosting (“What does a plus sign smell like? Is the number seven odd, or just different?”) On the surface, this is mildly clever, but I don’t get how we got to this point. If the offense was taken by statements that girls weren’t as smart as boys, what’s the deal with this class? I guess the response to the criticism was that women need to be split from the aggressive, rowdy men, except that doesn’t tie into wishy washy Skinner. Anyway, in order to get intellectual stimulation, Lisa masquerades as a boy, where the show reaches She’s the Man levels of comedy. By the end, Lisa receives an award for her outstanding mathematics, and reveals her true identity. Bart stands up and declares he deserves the credit for teaching his sister to act like a boy, to which Lisa throws the award at him, then quickly realizes what she’s done and what she’s become. Except we never see any of that. Her truly blending in with the boys is told over a montage toward the end; maybe if more time had been spent on that, showing her going native and being terrified of it, could have been interesting. Instead it’s just a dry, dull affair.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The musical at the beginning has some good stuff in it, like the giant puppet knives and the guys in organ suits doing curtain calls at the end. I also like them alternating between using Itchy & Scratchy’s real voices, and their actually musically inclined equivalents.
– Why he so uniquely shot himself in the foot is strange to me, but I like Skinner’s fumbling to cover up his missteps to a bunch of angry feminists (“It’s the difference, of which there are none, that make the sameness exceptional! Just tell me what to say!!”)
– I guess the school had the money to reconstruct the building, creating two separate entrances, two separate cafeterias, amongst other things.
– There’s a small runner of Marge’s strife toward Homer, thinking he believes women are mentally inferior. It’s silly and goes nowhere. We also get a flashback lifted from “Mr. Plow,” where we see young Marge studying for calculus before she’s whisked away by Homer, leaving her ignorant forever. It feels a bit more devastating than funny here, but the line following it is pretty good (“Since then, I haven’t been able to do any of the calculus I’ve encountered in my daily life!”)
– The boy’s school is just a feral, violent, animalistic society, which I guess is the gag, but it wears thin pretty quickly. I like Nelson’s obsessive gun drawings, but that’s about it.
– Bart instructs Lisa how to be a boy in the third act. First he teaches her about eating dirty disgusting food off the floor. Then we get a Homer-Marge scene. Then we get her final test: pick a fight with a boy. We hear Lisa’s thoughts (“A fight! That would mean rejecting the last part of me that’s still a girl!”) That’s for explaining that. Also, what? We’ve seen none of that whatsoever in this episode. Maybe if we had, it would have been interesting seeing her transformation, but like modern Simpsons always says: tell, don’t show. Lisa gives a big speech at the end that’s supposed to be our message, about how she compromised everything she believed in, even though we didn’t see any of it, then they cut her off anyway, so if the show could care less, than I care even less than that. Whatever.