Original airdate: March 24, 2019
The premise: Itchy & Scratchy is getting an all-female reboot, causing Bart and the other boys to swear off watching the show. But when he gets exposed for actually enjoying the new series, Bart is ostracized, but then ends up joining a gang of sixth grade rebel girls.
The reaction: Well here’s a rarity: a topical episode that didn’t feel disingenuous, with good characterization and pretty good jokes… I’m pretty flippin’ surprised. From the moment Krusty announces the gender swapped reboot, we immediately get a shot at the showbiz community embracing diversity, just as long as it pays well (“See? Girls like my pandering! Remember this if there’s ever a gender war!”) Bart arranges the boys for to “hate-not-watch” the new series, while Lisa is excited for this new great step in women’s cartoon history. When she catches Bart actually laughing at the cartoon, she exposes his hypocrisy, making him a outcast. Milhouse of all people takes up the mantle of leader, which in terms of mirroring the impotent whining of misogynistic Internet dwellers, is pretty perfect: a socially awkward and meek boy with deep-seeded identity issues himself lashing out at those he believes are undermining him and his kind (“Girls get everything: bigger, softer baseballs, chick flicks, two piece bathing suits!”) He starts a new radical organization, the Boys Rights Association (“Right now, we’re just training BRAs, but soon, we’ll be the strongest, most supportive BRAs anyone has ever seen!”) Pretty clever, especially since it almost sounds like “bra,” like “surfer bra,” so it’s not awkward dialogue. Meanwhile, Bart’s only escape from ridicule is the girl’s bathroom, where he encounters three rebellious girls looking to tear down the patriarchy. But rather than being hollow feminist stereotypes written by fifty-year-old men, they’re actually more like prankster artists, vandalizing the Lard Lad statue with a dress (Lard Lady No-Nuts) and wrapping the boys’ urinals in saran wrap, all of whom ashamedly leave the bathroom with soiled pants (except for Milhouse, proudly stating, “This is why I sit!”)
When Lisa finally discovers Bart is part of the “Bossy Riot” gang, she is livid, angered that Bart is part of such a radical feminist movement knowing nothing about the cause (“Chicks get a raw deal! Little fuzzy on the deets, but take my word for it.”) Lisa, for once, is not really an eye-rolling rabble-rouser; she balks at Bart’s infamy, but then must nut up or shut up when he invites her along to their next big stunt. She’s apprehensive, but eventually decides to go, just in time to save a tied-up Bart at the school. Bossy Riot has gone too far, it seems; following news Krusty is caving to the BRA demands to cancel the Itchy & Scratchy reboot, they’re going to destroy the negatives to all the original episodes on live TV. I was worried the episode would do some both-sides bullshit in showing extreme feminism and equating it to MRA nonsense, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The girls’ actions are overboard, but also reactionary and nonviolent. In the end, Lisa thwarts the girls’ plans, but in the process, makes all the boys in the audience cry, impressing the Bossy Riot girls, who invite her to join the gang. In a sweet moment, after some thought, Lisa accepts, Bart gives her his colorful hooded mask, and she bikes off with the girls into the night. Of course we’ll never see the girls again, but letting this ending just play out with Lisa overcoming her fears and putting her beliefs into action was pretty satisfying, rather than having some contrived reason why she wouldn’t be allowed in just to preserve status quo, like the countless number of new, celebrity guest star-voiced friends Bart and Lisa have made who conveniently vanish by episode’s end. So… I… liked this? I genuinely like this episode, first since season 27’s “Friend With Benefit.” So what the hell happened? Well, this is the first episode credited to Megan Amram, who has written for the likes of Silicon Valley, Children’s Hospital and The Good Place. She’s also rather young compared to the other writers, a 31-year-old who grew up watching and revering this show in its heyday. This show has seen a lot of the same guys pumping out scripts for the last five years or so, with only brief flashes of new blood (Ryan Koh is the only newish name I remember, who is in his forties, and wrote the absolutely awful “Team Homer” “sequel” last season.) Is this the solution to the ever-important question of what the fuck could possibly fix this series? A newer, younger, hipper writing staff? Who the hell knows. But I’ll say this, I’m actually interested in seeing Amram’s next show, and that’s a hell of a statement.
Three items of note:
– The very first female Itchy & Scratchy is a “parody” of Pitch Perfect, where Anna Kendrick’s character sing while making melodic noise with Solo cups, except here, FemItchy uses cat heads, of course. My wife loves those movies so I’m very familiar with them by proxy, but it took a moment to get what they were going for, even with Tress MacNeille warbling “When I’m Gone.” I mean, I guess that’s a franchise seemingly all women love, right? Though those movies are very popular, part of me feels like the reference is a tad obscure with no context… although the music video for “When I’m Gone” has over 450 million views, so I could just be talking out my ass. Plus those Pitch Perfect movies are just terrible comedies, which I can say because my wife doesn’t read this blog.
– The girl gang are all voiced by female comedians; I give props to Chelsea Peretti specifically for actually doing a voice, almost like a parody of a disaffected punk girl. Awkwafina and Nicole Byer pretty much use their speaking voices, but they were good in their roles too.
– Normally this section is reserved for me bitching about specific moments or scenes and how awful they were, but since I liked this episode… it’s a little more difficult here. The only crazy moment of ire I had was Lisa pronouncing “gif” with a j-sound, like Jif peanut butter. I hate this “debate.” It’s “gif” with a hard g-sound. It just is. I don’t care what anyone says. I think even the creator of the first gif or whatever said it’s “jif.” I don’t care. “Jif” is fucking stupid. It’s “gif.”
One good line/moment: Honestly, for once, the episode is kind of full of these, which if you’ve been paying attention, doesn’t happen a whole lot. My favorite two moments were probably the aforementioned urinal backfiring incident, and the exchange when Bossy Riot turns on Bart (“Don’t have a lady cow!” “All. Cows. Are. Ladies!”)
Suffice to say, I’m very much looking forward to the comments section here, which I’m sure will involve conversation of Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Captain Marvel and other extremely related topics.