584. The Girl Code

Original airdate: January 3, 2016

The premise:
Lisa and her new radical coding teacher team up to create an app that will predict to the real-world repercussions of impulsive social media posts. Case in point, a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post from Marge at the power plant gets Homer fired, and he ends up a dishwasher at a Greek diner.

The reaction: There’s certainly been an abundance of Lisa episodes lately, what fun. And this one kicks off like “Paths of Glory,” with Martin, Database and the other nerds scoffing at the idea of girls doing STEM stuff, which makes no sense for them to do. They’re taking a coding class (why the fuck a regressive dump like Springfield Elementary would be teaching this is beyond me), taught by a punk, no-nonsense instructor voiced by Kaitlin Olsen (a great talent wasted), who immediately takes to Lisa, and they end up working together to develop a new app with a team of female coders. With the instructor’s dismissal of “trouser browsers” and “dongle donkeys,” the episode is trying to be pro-feminist, but really has nothing to say other than “women can do this too.” Midway through the show, they recreate the Silicon Valley opening titles as tribute to another show the writers love (once again, this is a reference, not a parody), but it only served to remind me how that show directly dealt with the issue of women in tech and actually said more than one thing about it. All we get here is that feminist coders dress punk, have piercings, and perpetuate the stupid “offended by everything” stereotype. The app they create has a non-threatening British face to it, voiced by Stephen Merchant (another great talent wasted), but Lisa is shocked to find “Conrad” is actually sentient, and doesn’t want to live a life of servitude fixing stupid people’s mistakes before they make them. At first it’s unclear whether this is just a hallucination of Lisa’s sleep deprived brain, but turns out, it’s actually real. Now Lisa must decide whether or not to set Conrad free. So now we’ve piled on the topic of artificial intelligence rights on top of our women in STEM episode? What is this? In the end, Lisa abides Conrad’s wish and faces her fellow coders (“We have a chance to show all the dongle donkeys that women coders can do something extraordinary! But you have to be tough!” “I am a strong female. But deep down, I’m more like Conrad: a fragile soul.”) I have no idea what I’m supposed to take away from this ending. I can’t even hazard a guess, if anyone wants to pull meaning from this, be my fucking guest. Lisa has become a retroactively hated character because of episodes like this, her acting as a smug and hollow liberal/feminist stereotype. The thing is, even though I agree with a lot of Lisa’s causes, these episodes are flaming hot garbage because they ultimately are saying nothing, and in shows like this, actually end up sort of undermining what they’re claiming to glorify.

Three items of note:
– This has been a slow process over the years, but near the beginning when Marge and Smithers have a conversation, you can really tell how off their voices are. Our actors are getting older, of course, but it seems Julie Kavner and Harry Shearer’s characters specifically seem to be getting hit the hardest. Kavner’s Marge just sounds weaker in general, while a lot of Shearer’s voices have gotten more low register.
– Homer is fired after Marge posts a picture of him holding a dripping ice cream cone in front of the cooling towers with the captain ‘Meltdown at the Nuclear Plant!’ which raises Burns’ ire. Turned off by all the tech nonsense going on under his roof, Homer vows to return to the most low-tech job he ever had: dishwasher at a Greek diner. He gets buddy-buddy with the owner, and then embraces the Greek lifestyle or something. It’s basically multiple scenes polluted with Greek stereotypes. I guess he’s no less of a one-dimensional stereotypical restaurant owner than Luigi, but notice that Luigi hasn’t been given his own plot (at least not yet. Stay tuned for season 30, folks!)
– Displaying the various social media photos and their predicted consequences, Lisa displays a photo of Bob Belcher behind the counter, with the displayed consequence “Restaurant Boycotted by Short People.” I couldn’t understand what the gag was at first, then noticed the Burger of the Day chalkboard reading, “Short People Got No Braisin’ To Rib Burger.” I didn’t even think to read it; on the show, the chalkboard is just a one-off gag that changes every week as a background joke. It’s not really a visual focal point; if Bob were gleefully holding up his burger in front of the sign center-frame, I could actually figure out what’s going on. And what’s the pun there? “Short People Got No Reason To Live”? I just looked it up and saw that it’s an old Randy Newman song, so alright, fair enough. This cameo just seems so random and pointless. Shots fired?

One good line/moment: I like how confused and incensed Burns gets when Smithers feebly attempts to explain Marge’s play on words in using the word ‘meltdown’ (“Wordplay is for crosswords and Kazurinskys! We produce atomic energy! We can’t joke about the m-word! How many people have seen this hate speech?”)


9 responses to “584. The Girl Code

  1. “Midway through the show, they recreate the Silicon Valley opening titles as tribute to another show the writers love (once again, this is a reference, not a parody)”

    I didn’t know that part was meant to be a ‘parody’ and honestly had no idea what it was about (I’ve never watched Silicon Valley). Parodies should still be entertaining even if people don’t get what it’s referencing. Great job writers.

  2. Just watched this. Thought it was fucking terrible. Here’s my notes:

    – Elizabeth Warren poster joke is fucking weird. I don’t think real-life photos and The Simpsons work
    – Weird to see Smithers as antagonist to Homer again
    – Springfield Elementary, broke, yet can afford laptops, etc.
    – Why are the kids, especially Martin, sexist?
    – Aw damn this Is a totally tough teacher, what with her short hair and black jacket
    – Totally cutting commentary on how people use social media to enhance their self-image
    – LOL Smithers is on Grindr cuz he’s gaaayyyyyyy
    – Why are elementary schoolers learning coding?
    – Facebook! Crossfit! Look guys, we’re hip!
    – Why are they all stationed in the Simpsons’ living room?
    – Sick burn(s) on SJWS!
    – Diner dance sequence is fucking stupid and nonsensical
    – “This is the world’s biggest fail” – Jesus Christ I don’t think dialogue can get worse than that
    – Does the coding teacher not have her own home or something/
    – So this goes from Homer having a technology-related crisis to a bunch of stale Greek jokes?
    – What kind of dumb fucking chase ending is this?

    • My best guess about Martin, Database, etc. sudden sexism is it’s the show’s commentary on the increasing number of women entering science fields and the groups of men who are reluctant to accept them. Given how the writers’ only life view is Southern California, I’d imagine their inspiration comes from women trying to get into Silicon Valley.

    • It especially makes no sense that Martin would be sexist about women in STEM, seeing as how just two seasons ago he gave a speech on why Marie Curie was his hero.

  3. This must be the only technology episode I like.
    And the B-plot is “so stupid, it’s funny”.

  4. God this episode was terrible. I remember them making a huge deal out of it because Stephen Merchant was going to be in it and when he appeared, I facepalmed. I wish Glados had shown up to kill everyone.

  5. Episodes like this actually convey the opposite message they wanted to. For fuck sake, it’s one of the first rules of writing: if you want people to feel your message don’t rube it in their faces or you will make it annoying. Here, and every other modern moral episodes, it’s so phony who the writers want to you to side with that I’d actually loved to see Lisa silenced and destroyed.

    Compare it to “Lisa vs Malibu Stacy”, how they make you feel Lisa’s reasons, cause’s she’s right, but even making fun of her own battle,and her exaggerated integrity.

    But nowadays these “moral” episodes are clearly written by a bunch of retards who live on social medias(and probably don’t even understand them)and think the real world and real people are like they are on internet.

    • 100% agree. There’s no subtlety or self-awareness, and it sounds like the writers have never met real human beings who hold such views so they write them completely flat. No one I know, not even actual sexists, talks like these characters.

  6. Regarding Kavner and Shearer, it’s not much of a surprise since they’re to two oldest of the core cast members at 67 and 74(!), respectively. (For those wondering, Cartwright and Castellaneta are both 60 while Smith and Azaria are both 54.)

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