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. Such a glib 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) 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 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 they 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, he 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?”)