Monday, October 17, 2011

Quick Analysis: The Simpsons and Skills

I've beaten this topic into the ground so many times. Whether it's the occasional comment within a review, or a response to a comment in my blog, the writers have become extremely lazy when it comes to a family member getting a new skill. Really, I'm somewhat surprised that The Simpsons doesn't have an entire page dedicated to "Instant Expert" on TV Tropes, but seeing as the people who update those pages doesn't care about this show anymore, it's understandable. I could go through the past 5 years alone and describe just how lazy the writers are when it comes to this, but instead I just want to do a simple compare and contrast of how the show did special skills correctly and how they do it today.


Example 1: Deep Space Homer
  • This is the one I always refer to when making this argument, and for good reason, it's near perfection in terms of how to give a main character a new skill. So Homer has absolutely NO training as an astronaut whatsoever, so of course when he's recruited as an 'Average Joe Astronaut' he struggles with the training. He basically fails at every test imaginable and is about to be sent back home until Barney screws it all up by getting mentally drunk. And even when Homer's about to board the shuttle, he gets cold feet and runs off. The point I'm trying to make is that Homer is human here, he is flawed, he is not perfect, in fact he's far from perfect. He's the last guy who should ever go into space and through a cheap publicity stunt, he ends up going into space. And because of all this, we can laugh at Homer's antics and root for Homer to succeed.
Example 2: Bart gets an F
  • Nothing really special to list here. Basically, Bart, in his underachieving ways does his hardest to avoid getting held back, even going as far as to study all day while it's a snow day to avoid failing. It's almost all for naught as he fails the test he was studying for and only through extra knowledge does he barely pass. Bart is human, he tries his very hardest and can only muster a D-, granted that's comically absurd, but it's better than the idea of this long time underachiever getting a 100% after studying for one day.
Example 3: Homer the Smithers
  • Homer gets absolutely nothing right about being Mr. Burns'assistant and it's only after he fails again at his job that he actually does something right for Smithers. Homer's rather incompetent and this episode knows that. It knows Homer wouldn't get how to be Mr. Burns' assistant and it never deviates from that idea. In short, the episode knows what it is and what it's supposed to do.


Example 1: Homer Scissorhands
  • I think I've explained this one to death, but let me do it one last time. So Homer, who has been bald for a while can not only cut hair with hedge trimmers on his first try, but can cut hair perfectly with said trimmers. He can then style a random woman's hair without knowing how she wants it whenever he wants to and when he tries to screw up, he just cannot. Homer's not human, Homer's a bad fanfiction character, who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and cannot fail. He fails to be relatable and thus all humor from his antics are drained instantly.
Example 2: Boy Meets Curl
  • Okay, pushing objects + good at sweeping with a broom does not mean you will be a good curling team. Anyone who has actually tried this can tell you it's much harder than it actually looks, but loe and behold, Homer and Marge just see it being done, and faster than the writers can say "Ka-ching" they're in the Olympics and win a Gold medal for the US. Remember when they actually had to TRY to be good at something new?
Example 3: Homer of Seville
  • So Homer, with absolutely no history of singing opera (I said opera, not barbershop) is not only good at singing on his back, but gets some of the best opera singers coming to him for advice. And to top it all off, his fat ass gets a huge fan following, including an obsessed fan who wants his love child. Anyone else get the feeling that this was just some self-insertion fanfiction meant for but Al Jean just ended up saying "Fuck it, we'll take that. We've got nothing else."? But that's just speculation, not fact (Provable fact).

One more set as an actual compare and contrast: Homerpalooza vs A Midsummer's Nice Dream
  • These are rather similar in concept, but are vastly different in execution. In Homerpalooza, Homer realizes that he's not cool anymore and when he tries to be cool, he fails and just alienates himself before accidentally ruining an ending which results in him discovering a talent the show can use. Nothing special here, Homer's not popular, he's in fact hated by the audience at the show and only through an accident does he get his chance to do something, something that only requires him to stand still, nothing else. In A Midsummer's Nice Dream just the opposite occurs, Homer decides to be a pompus jackass when hearing his favorite comedy duo do their best bit. Instead of being chewed out by the audience, they embrace his ruining of the bit. And after he's the cause of the duo breaking up, the audience then cheers for him when he goes onstage to finish the act himself. There are at least two things wrong with this; 1) The writers are delusional idiots that believe Homer is liked no matter what he does. In reality, Homer would be either escorted out by security or attacked by the audience for being the cause of breaking them up. 2) With absolutely NO stand-up experience whatsoever, Homer masters the bit on his first try. I don't care how well one knows a bit, or a scene, knowing it and actually performing it in front of hundreds are two totally separate things.
There are MANY more examples I could do, but I think I've made my point clear here; The classic episodes would actually develop skills or make the character struggle at something unfamiliar to them. Nowadays, development takes too much effort and all the time that could have gone to development is instead devoted to padding.

So there's not going to be a new episode next week either, not to worry, I'll have something up anyways.


  1. The main difference between the episodes you used as an example is that quite a few of them are referenced or at least what occurred isn't a self contained plot device. Homer took immeasurable amounts of damage to his body before and after the events of "Homerpalooza" but this is the probably the first he's done stand up in "A Midsummer's Nice Dream". Like the title it better off a dream.

  2. Yeah that was a main theme when the show was good, it was able to use past occurances as references for current plots.

    I thought about comparing "The Homer the Fall" to "Boy Meets Curl" because despite them not having any previous knowledge of the sport they're partaking in, they are vastly different. Homer almost dies in the ring when faced with real competition while Team Springfield never faces a real challenge and when they almost lose, the writers just pull a victory out of their ass.