646. Werking Mom

Original airdate: November 18, 2018

The premise:
An extreme makeover by Julio gets Marge mistaken for a drag queen, and while she initially is horrified, she ends up embracing the drag scene, seeing it as a confidence booster. Meanwhile, Lisa is inspired by French cinema to make the world a better place, one good deed at a time.

The reaction: Right off the bat, I gotta be honest, the conceit of husky-voiced Marge being mistaken for a drag queen is one of the most humorous ideas this show’s had in a good long while. A story about Marge finding acceptance in drag culture while having to hide who she is could have been interesting, but that damn pesky poor writing just can’t support it. With Lisa’s B-plot eating up time, we only get one quick scene of Marge getting introduced to a bunch of drag queens, then a musical number, and that’s basically it in terms of developing her relationship with these people and subculture. As usual, any further scenes would require them having to make Shantae (voiced by RuPaul) or the others actual characters who can hold a conversation, and that’s just too hard, man. Remember how well developed John from “Homer’s Phobia” was? Even as a caricatured gay man (and John Waters surrogate), he still felt like a real person who was actually emotionally affected by Homer’s ignorant homophobia. Here, none of these drag queens feel like they’ve gone through a story, they’re just there to say their joke lines and react to things on cue. The climax involves Homer’s discovery of Marge’s new identity, ruining her good time with a terrible self-aware line (“You didn’t tell me you were tricking all these people into thinking you’re a drag queen when you’re really a regular housewife in need of empowerment… and now that I say it out loud, it doesn’t seem so bad.”) I feel like they should have stuck with either extreme: have Homer wildly ignorant and belligerent and not understand why Marge is doing this, or have him be totally supportive and make the story about Marge worrying her friends will find out she’s really a woman. Instead, Homer’s emotional outburst was an impromptu mistake, one he’s genuinely sorry for and immediately tries to make up for. But this is apparently the last straw for Marge, who by the ending seems one sentence shy of wanting a divorce (“What hurts the most is I can’t imagine there’s anything he could say or do to make me come back.”) There was a long period of seasons, 13-20 or so, which featured Homer being such a flaming, selfish asshole that it teetered on Stockholm syndrome as to why Marge would allow this awful, awful man back into her life. But in the last few years, Homer hasn’t been so bad, but we’ve seen a lot of shows where Marge seems very quick to up and almost end the marriage. In addition, Marge claims Homer’s “selfishness” stands in direct contrast to the love and support the drag queens have given her, so this moment would have actually held some emotional weight if, again, we knew anything about these people or why we should care. When Marge tells them that she’s not a man, they all admit that they already knew, and that’s all. No one’s upset that a straight woman tried to co-opt their culture? Or, conversely, no heartfelt line about them being fine with helping a poor soul in need increase her self-worth? Again, if these were actual characters, we could have moments like those. After Marge says the above line, Homer appears on stage in drag himself, and that’s enough to win Marge back because we have less than one minute of show left before the worthless tag. Despite the potential of the story line, and for actually having some genuinely humorous moments throughout, the show is still missing that emotional core that keeps me at arm’s length from actually giving a shit about what’s happening.

The reaction:
– I don’t have much to comment on Lisa’s story. I think it’s supposed to be a parody of Amelie, but I’ve never seen it. Complete with a French narrator, she performs small kindnesses for the likes of Jasper, the Van Houtens, and Principal Skinner, but becomes discouraged when the happiness she’s bestowed on Skinner and his mother doesn’t last. The ending features all the people she’s helped showing up on the school roof to have lunch with her, so she’s finally have someone to eat lunch with. This feels like a conclusion the show in its prime would have viciously made fun of. The entire B-story is so lame and ham fisted, and time I wish was spent better developing the Marge plot. Also the green tint over all the scenes in the story made everything look ugly and washed out.
– Among the group of drag queens is “the mysterious Waylon,” pictured on the far left. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they threw Smithers in there. Sure, I suppose someone formal and straight-laced like him could be into drag, an extravagant outlet for his repressed every day life, but he’s just part of the set dressing here. Instead, it feels a lot like what the show has done in the past with him, where he acts as catch-alls for all non-straight jokes. Past bits involved him taking estrogen, or hinting that he wants a sex change operations (just last season we saw a “joke” about Smithers planning on becoming a woman. Do the writers know that being gay and being transgender are two different things?) Smithers being into drag isn’t necessarily offensive, but given their history of just ascribing him all these different contradictory identities because he’s the gay of the series, it just felt incredibly eye-rolling to me. Hell, I’d watch a whole episode about Smithers getting into drag, why not? It’d be more daring than this crap.
– The tag features disheveled drag Homer at Moe’s fielding questions from Moe (“So, you’re a drag queen now?” “I dunno. I guess these days it’s okay for everyone to be everything.”) I guess you could read this as a tired, forty-year-old man trying to make sense out of a new social culture he doesn’t understand, but it reads more like the fifty-plus writing staff grappling with all this gender expression/identity nonsense the youths are up to. For an episode trying so hard to be open and accepting (as seen with Homer’s almost immediate acceptance of Marge’s drag life), this felt like a weird, snidey note to end on. There are ways to make jokes and construct humorous scenarios out of topics like this that don’t come off as mean or back-handed (i.e.: the ridiculous comedy of errors involving the asexual Todd meeting his girlfriend’s hyper-sexualized family from the recent season of BoJack Horseman)

One good line/moment: Like last week, surprisingly a handful of smirk-worthy moments: Old Jewish Man’s banter, Marge imagining the Tupperware speaking (“Did you just high-five that bowl?”), Dewey Largo and his boyfriend (“I’m not leaving until I find my butter tub!” “Look in the mirror,”) but the best moment was a rarity for the show nowadays: a successful set-up and pay-off. Earlier, Homer is befuddled at the idea of using Tupperware to store leftover lasagna (“Whoever heard of leftover lasagna?!”) Later, Marge is raking in so much money doing drag she takes Homer out to a lavish meal at Luigi’s, leaving him so stuffed that he actually gets to take lasagna home with him! Then later that night when he takes it out of the fridge to eat, all he finds in the box is a note telling himself he already ate it at the restaurant. Hey, some writing with some thought behind it!

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20 responses to “646. Werking Mom

  1. Woof, the framegrab you picked for this episode kinda startled me. Is that Sideshow Mel in the bottom right? Half of me wants to say “Why would he be doing this” but the other half says “Mel in drag sounds intriguing”

    Even so, glad there was stuff you genuinely enjoyed. Does that make this the best episode of the season so far, at least in your opinion?

    • For some reason, the writers in the last few years REALLY love Sideshow Mel. Like, REALLY. They place him in almost every group, regardless of whether it makes any sense at all. I’m not sure where this came from…Sideshow Mel was never plot-important in any episode except for Who Shot Mr. Burns.

      Maybe they just live Dan Castelleneta’s Shakespearean actor voice.

  2. This was definitely the episode most fun to watch so far to watch. I was actually going to say this episode is an indictment of how dated the show is, because I had no idea Tupperware parties were still a thing. But when they did that website thing (which reminded me more of a Family Guy joke, BTW) with drag queens hosting them, I realized they are still a thing.

    Although, the Simpsons already made fun of Tupperware parties back in Duffless…and this is going to be VERY weird to say…but this episode actually did it better. Granted, this episode had 22 minutes while Duffless only had it for about 15 seconds…but often a 15-second scene in Classic Simpsons outshines by a mile a Zombie Simpsons episode-long rehash.

    • That’s probably because back in “Duffless” the “Supperware” party was nothing more than a set piece. There wasn’t any focus on it other than it was something Patty and Selma apparently do. Here it’s focused on and kicks off Marge’s plot.

  3. Do the writers know that being gay and being transgender are two different things?

    All evidence suggests no. No, they don’t.

    • Big John's Breakfast Log

      I won’t be surprised if they do a joke in the future where Smithers is bisexual to complete the LGBT set, even though jokes from the Classic Era (such as how disappointed he was leaving Maison Derriere in “Bart After Dark” and even in the early decay like “A Hunka Hunka, Burns in Love” when he’s horrified by female strippers) established that Smithers isn’t comfortable around women in a sexual nature because he’s been firmly established as the “Gay, Gay, Gay!” character. Jezum, they must assume all gay people like drag culture.

    • The show is completely stuck in the 1990s. Back in the 80s and 90s, transgender people were just thought to be because of hypercharged homosexuality (“I’m attracted to men, so logically I must be a woman!”), severe mental illness (like in Dressed to Kill), or because they wanted to trick people (like in Ace Ventura and the Crying Game).

      Homer basically confirmed the writers are stodgy old men because of his complaints of “I dunno. I guess these days it’s okay for everyone to be everything.” Usually a sitcom is not trapped in time like this because no sitcom in history has to account to this much change while still forcing the status quo. The show usually ends LONG before that. Keep in mind…the Simpsons came out closer to the Eisenhower administration than today.

  4. King of the hill actually did a better episode about this, in which Peggy befriends a Drag Queen named Carolyn who thought Peggy was also a female impersonator. Like most good King of The Hill shows, the humor was character based, and Carolyn was more than a walking plot device for Peggy to talk to.

  5. “I dunno. I guess these days it’s okay for everyone to be everything.”) I guess you could read this as a tired, forty-year-old man trying to make sense out of a new social culture he doesn’t understand.

    I agree with the writers, and I’m not a forty-year-old man trying to make sense out of a new social culture I don’t understand. So I’m offended because you and people like you are stereotyping me and don’t understand my culture!

    Anyway, that line was really out of place in an episode like this. It basically underlines the fact that the writers don’t give a damn and understand nothing about the culture this episode is\should be about. Why doing it, then? Yeah, yeah, because The Simpsons are hip!

    • Big John's Breakfast Log

      Honestly, this is one of the things in which the show needs to be taken out back behind the barn and plugged between the eyes. They can’t do topical episodes because it takes eight to ten months for them just to make an episode, and contrary to how they try to defend it as “bringing the topic back to mainstream”, the show lacks the mainstream push because decades of bad writing have made the show a shambling corpse, and any discussions about the show often ignore the two decades of Zombie Simpsons. When you think about it, the majority of people pissing and moaning about the possibility of removing Apu from the series likely haven’t watched an episode from, what, Season 14 at the latest?

      And, they can’t do wacky, off the wall episodes either because the writers have shown they are incapable of maintaining a decent storyline with enough beats to maintain momentum for three acts. They have enough juice, maybe, to do the disjointed introduction piece, but by the time they get to the main story, they are all “Oh, crap! We gotta finish this!” and piece together what abandoned ideas were laying around and slap them together. Family Guy has practically fallen off a cliff the past 4-5 seasons doing nothing but wacky episodes, with their attempts at Rick and Morty plots (or even American Dad! plots) barely doing much of anything besides season openers.

      To be perfectly honest, and this is likely to go unnoticed, but I feel like The Simpsons’ approach to LGBT tolerance is much closer to Steven Universe than say, the new She-Ra cartoon. Yes, I said that. People loved to talk about how Steven Universe set the gold standard for LGBT acceptance in kid’s programming, but honestly, that gold started looking like iron pyrite before it was revealed to be yellow foil covering up doggy turds. Rebecca Sugar is surprisingly ignorant of gay culture and promotes unhealthy relationships or extremely flawed perspectives of the world, and she’s supposed to be a bisexual woman who was Jewish. Compare this to a bunch of middle-aged and elderly male writers who simply want to moan about how the world has changed where we can’t spend 20 minutes making fun of bad Chinese food anymore because they’re too lazy to write jokes about self-service checkout stations or adapt that legendary phone sex joke from “Like Father, Like Clown” but for mobile phones, and it’s not enjoyable.

      I can’t wait for our blogger to rip the next episode a new corn chute.

      • Pretty harsh words against SU. I’m sure there’s valid criticisms to be had, but I think the message of love and acceptance has been pretty unwavering since the beginning. Any unhealthy relationships were expressly highlighted as such, and as for flawed world perspectives… I guess the naivety of the belief that anyone can be redeemed, even the most heinous monster?

  6. Big John's Breakfast Log

    SPOILER WARNINGS ABOUT STEVEN UNIVERSE

    Harsh, yes? But absolutely warranted. I know people out there like to defend it against the likes of Teen Titans Go! (aka Braindead TV), but at the end of the day, it’s just a show that fails to live up to its hype and actually has gotten worse as time went on by making badly written situations even more unbearable, such as how the relationship between Rose Quartz and Pearl was revealed to be a Master/Slave dynamic.

    Here’s the problem about the flawed world views, which became an actual plot device, and it’s becoming a more prevalent issue in shows that have gravitated away from having campy rogue’s galleries where the antagonists were exaggerated role fillers and more towards angsty villains where the goal is to give them their redemption; where do you draw the line between who gets redemption and who doesn’t? Shows like Steven Universe and MLP: Friendship is Magic began setting up a rather distorted set or guidelines with character redemption angles in which the major villains would be redeemed and the minor mooks would get all of the punishments and then some because they’re expendable.

    A character like Jasper was, in the end, decided that she could NOT be redeemed because Steven thought she was a meanie. But, why? For being a soldier trying to defend the honor of her leader when it was revealed later on said leader was actually too lazy to do basic orders and staged a whole coup d’etat that saw her own “death”. But the Diamonds? Oh, they’re perfectly okay to redeem because they were just following Mommy Dearest’s orders!

    If anything, it’s the mooks who would be redeemable considering they aren’t the ones doing the most destruction in their worlds, but because the writers and the creators don’t have the most emotional investment in them, it doesn’t matter, so that redemption save is not for them.

    • But a big part of the show early on is Steven realizing that the corrupted gems, the monstrous foot soldiers, still have good in them, as he bubbles them as a temporary means before they can figure out how to cure them. And he attempted to reach out to Jasper up until the very end before she became fully corrupted. She got bubbled too; I’m sure they’ll eventually bring her back and she’ll get her own redemptive arc. I don’t see where you’re getting that she was labeled irredeemable.

      The Rose/Pearl relationship is a bit thorny (ha ha ha); the Pearls are set up as put-upon servants, but Rose was set apart in her treating Pearl more or less as an equal. Her motives and method for going rogue are more complicated, but I kind of like that they put her in a moral gray area, rather than just continue to deify her. Steven spends the series trying to live up to his mother’s image, but recent discoveries make him question her judgement, and ultimately have to decide what kind of person he wants to be.

  7. Big John's Breakfast Log

    The reason I labeled Jasper as “irredeemable” was not because of her character but because Rebecca Sugar decided that she was expendable. That Jasper redemption story you suggested isn’t happening, since Rebecca is the only writer and storyboarder for the majority of the series, what she does goes, because Jasper only was made to serve as a “boss” character to pad out the story. The reason I say this is that because Sugar laid out her master vision of the show a long time ago and had issues whenever other people made adjustments to said vision; in two episodes, Yellow Diamond is depicted as a stern, threatening authoritative figure as opposed to… whatever she had in mind. Neither episode had Sugar’s involvement, so the next appearance of said character saw her go back to Sugar’s vision as a melancholy character pining over Pink Diamond. As a result, nothing is likely going to happen with her because Sugar’s main goal is to redeem the Diamonds, not that mini-boss. This frustrates me immensely because I thought Jasper was a very fascinating character and to see such an ignominious end was a waste.

    Going back to the LGBT comments at the beginning, compare this to the aforementioned She-Ra show, which depict what it’s like to get out of dicey relationships, to feel confused about your life, to finally get that confidence in yourself when you reached a milestone, and also presents a more realistic “bad mother” dynamic between Catra and Shadow Weaver.compared to White Diamond and the subordinate Diamonds, I honestly believe that we’re now seeing shows that saw what Steven Universe was trying and decided to top that. It’ll be remembered as doing it first, but other shows will likely be remembered as doing it right.

    • I think you’re laying on too many assumptions before the whole story has even unfolded. We don’t know the full White Diamond story, nor whether Jasper will come back (she was such a major character, I’d be shocked if they didn’t give her at least one notable moment before the end). I have not seen the new She-Ra, but I’ve heard good things. It’s great other shows are picking up these kind of topics SU brought to the forefront of children’s media and running with them, but I think the major relationships within the show have been handled extremely well (Steven and the Gems, Steven and Greg, Steven and Connie, Ruby and Sapphire, etc).

  8. Big John's Breakfast Log

    Fans of the series were quick to figure out the “Rose Quartz IS Pink Diamond” plot twist, so it’s not as if Sugar’s storytelling is going to be full of impressive change-ups, so I’m in the camp saying to just forget about Jasper since Sugar has decided to.

    I’m glad you see that, but I feel the exact opposite about Steven Universe, but I do have to say it is good that other shows saw what SU did and decided to take that and do better things with it.

    • I guess it doesn’t help that thanks to CN’s schedule, fans have months and months to endlessly ruminate about this shit. But whatever, I’m good agreeing to disagree. I personally prefer the “filler” episodes to the bigger plot stuff; Steven affecting everyone else’s lives with his unwavering optimism is what makes the show what it is to me, though it’s definitely interesting seeing his positivity shaken as more and more shit hits the fan (“What’s Your Problem?” being one of the better recent episodes, where Amethyst forces Steven to unbottle his emotions).

  9. I finally watched the episode. It actually wasn’t bad at all. I laughed quite a bit at the jokes, though there were some jokes that I just didn’t get since I don’t know drag queen lingo.

    The Lisa story was kind of interesting due to the way they told it, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut they once again forgot their own continuity with Skinner.

    Some of my favorite moments included when Marge told Helen off, especially the “All aboard except Helen,” comment, the one where Bart gave Lisa Skinner’s house key and the blueprints to the house, and when Hulio lost his accent to tell Marge the truth.

    There were a couple of other things I laughed at, but I don’t remember them now, I just know they were funny. Nevertheless, this season is shaping up to be the best one since 23 (not that season was great by any means, but no where near as bad as 24-29).

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