15
Mar
11

Compare & Contrast: Homer on Tour

“Has anyone mentioned that Homer doesn’t know anything about mountain climbing, and that this is all crazy?” – Marge Simpson
“Well yes, a number of people.” – Neil

Just a few minutes into “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”, more than a decade of accumulated bad habits catastrophically cratered the episode:

Zombie Marge: Homie, you know all the bits, maybe you could help him.
Zombie Homer: I can’t do reefer comedy, I’m drunk, two different animals.
Zombie Marge: Homer Simpson, that man’s albums have given you decades of entertainment, and seen you through some very square times.  Help him!
Zombie Crowd: [Cheers wildly]

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Mobsters, teachers, Smithers, Mrs. Glick, it’s almost like they have no personality of their own.

You know where it goes from there.  Homer walks on stage and everyone loves him.  The man who is ostensibly an ordinary guy from an ordinary town once again becomes an overnight celebrity.  Afterwards, the episode staggers around for another fifteen minutes, bumbling from one topic to the next as it tries to tell a story it’s told a hundred times before.

Homer has had plenty of wild adventures going all the way back to the beginning of the show.  But prior to about Season 9 or so, whenever Homer went out and did something really far fetched he was usually more along for the ride than in the driver’s seat.  He certainly didn’t become an accomplished professional in the span of a few seconds.  When he headed out with Hullabalooza, he wasn’t backing up Peter Frampton on guitar or freestyling with Cypress Hill.  When he went into space, the NASA guys were planning on sedating him almost immediately, he wasn’t scheduled to land the shuttle.  When he played softball with all those ringers, he couldn’t get a hit off Roger Clemens, nor could he field as well as Daryl Strawberry.  He was always an amateur, even if he often found himself in places amateurs rarely tread. 

Compare that with the way Marge and the crowd shove him onstage during “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”.  He becomes the main act instantly, acquiring the timing and poise of an accomplished stage performer, something that requires years of training and practice, in less than a minute.  The crowd knows it too, and they’re a-okay with Homer replacing one of the men they paid to see.  He’s no longer a lucky amateur, he’s now the same mega-popular super character within the world of the show that he’s long been outside of it, and everyone, from his family to the crowd to the guest stars, understands that intuitively.

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I bet he’s glad his face is on a bunch of crappy merchandise though.

This is far from the first time Zombie Simpsons has done something like this.  The degradation of Homer from a recognizable everyman into an unrepentant, unfeeling, unrestrained id of middle age wish fulfillment is one of the true hallmarks of Zombie Simpsons.  It started way back when the show began its implosion around Season 9 as Homer embarked on an ever increasing series of jobs for which he was wildly unsuited: submarine captain, mayoral bodyguard, movie producer, etcetera.  It’s been going on ever since; in just the last two seasons Homer has become a movie star, an Olympic athlete, an undercover cop, and now a professional comedian.

The reduction of Homer into a cheap, one dimensional gag machine has also damaged the other characters around him, especially Marge.  When Homer goes on tour with his humble barbershop quartet, Marge is devastated and tries to compensate.  When Homer wants to go on tour with the pageant of the transmundane, Marge is skeptical and afraid for him.  These are the kinds of reactions you might expect from an actual woman upon hearing that her husband is planning on skipping town for a little while.  In “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”, Marge just pats him on the head and tells him not to have too much fun, like she’s sending one of her children out to play.

Two Marges and a Fembot

We’ve secretly replaced the real Marge Simpson in one of these images.  Try to guess which!

Once he’s actually out on tour the difference becomes even starker as Homer immediately becomes completely untethered from his life in a way that’d be unthinkable for the man in “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” or “Homerpalooza”.  In the former, even winning a Grammy can’t distract him from his homesick loneliness, and he goes so far as to record a taped message for his kids.  In the latter, his exploits with Smashing Pumpkins and company pass very quickly, and most of those are told in a letter he writes to Bart and Lisa.  Yet for the entire middle of “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”, Homer is completely cut off from his family or anything else that’s going on in the episode.  He’s just out pestering Cheech Marin and doesn’t spend a single frame thinking about or missing the family he left behind.

The contrast with Hullabalooza and The Be Sharps couldn’t be clearer.  In those episodes Homer is a real character whose actions and reactions reflect that, so even if he frequently finds himself in “wacky adventures” (as Lisa put it in Season 5), he’s still recognizable as the same guy.  In Zombie Simpsons, Homer knows that he’s not a regular guy, he knows that his wife will happily tell him to board that tour bus, and once he’s aboard he never needs to give the rest of his life a second thought.  Hacktacular crap like this went a long way towards degrading the show in the first place lo those ten or twelve years ago, and it hasn’t changed much.


15 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Homer on Tour”


  1. 1 Mike Russo
    15 March 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Fuck this show.

  2. 2 Derp
    15 March 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for this article as it captures one of my main complaints regarding this episode. It felt so false when Marge pushed him to doing it and he just dropped his current life like that.
    The nuclear plant’s just used now when we need a joke about Mr. Burns being feeble, so it doesn’t matter that he drops his job and family now, I guess.

  3. 3 Jason
    16 March 2011 at 9:37 am

    “The degradation of Homer from a recognizable everyman into an unrepentant, unfeeling, unrestrained id of middle age wish fulfillment is one of the true hallmarks of Zombie Simpsons.”

    This.

  4. 16 March 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Homer has become a movie star, an Olympic athlete, an undercover cop, and now a professional comedian.

    Why do you let your brain remember these things?

  5. 5 Stan
    16 March 2011 at 7:04 pm

    From your point of view, which I agree with, it seems like they try to remove any trace left of family relationships. The Simpsons are not a family anymore, they’re a bunch of TV characters that happen to live together their “wacky adventures”. And stone me to death, but I know this is once again because of Family Guy.

    FG, on the other hand, never claimed to have family relationships from the start. An anthropomorphic dog, a baby mastermind, etc etc. There are things that show grew up with. They have the right to do it, well, every show does, but theirs is understandable. ZS try to implement that into the Simpson family. They only succeed by leaving nothing of the original Simpsons. And god, it’s as painful a loss as amputating your whole arm because of a single finger infection.

  6. 6 Charlie Sweatpants
    17 March 2011 at 12:01 am

    @Jason: Thanks.

    @J.R. Herbaugh: It’s not usually a question of “let”. That said, I only vaguely remembered those and I had to check them against Wikipedia. Zombie Simpsons is very forgettable in general.

    @Stan: “The Simpsons are not a family anymore, they’re a bunch of TV characters that happen to live together their “wacky adventures”.”

    That’s a good way to describe it, and it goes beyond just the family. For Zombie Simpsons, none of the characters are themselves any longer. They have no relationship to each other or to their respective roles within the town. That opening concert scene where Homer goes on stage is a perfect example. Practically every secondary character they still use was at a Cheech & Chong show, regardless of whether or not their actual character would go to that kind of thing.

    Akira was sitting next to Cletus, Bumblebee Man was sitting next to Hans Moleman, Frink was sitting next to Disco Stu, Smithers was sitting between two of Fat Tony’s guys. Reverend Lovejoy and Captain McAllister were there for fuck’s sake. As originally conceived those characters wouldn’t be caught dead at that show. But all of them are basically generic nobodies now, so they just don’t care. The little touches that once made Springfield so relatable and realistic, even when crazy stuff was happening, just aren’t on their radar any more.

    • 7 Patrick
      17 March 2011 at 12:31 pm

      You should make a ‘Compare and Contrast’ ‘Background characters in audiences edition’ and use this episode of The Sucksons, The Pinata play in American Dad’s ‘A Pinata Named Desire’ and the church scenes from Family Guy’s ‘And I’m Joyce Kinney’.

  7. 8 El Stevo
    17 March 2011 at 5:52 am

    Since when does Lisa no longer play the saxophone?

    The into has her playing a trumpet but it doesn’t sound like one of course.

  8. 9 D.N.
    17 March 2011 at 6:39 pm

    “Compare and Contrast” has become my favourite feature of Dead Homer. Kudos, and keep ’em coming.

  9. 10 sVybDy
    21 March 2011 at 1:09 am

    Just wanted to point out that much of this episode really seemed like a shameless rip-off of The Critic S02E02, “Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice.”

    Famous celebrity team breaking up? Check.
    Significant other of main character pushes him into team-up with one of them? Check.
    Main character feels like an inadequate replacement? Check.
    Main character and significant other work behind-the-scenes to reunite celebrity team? Check.

    Only difference is, that was sixteen years ago and more competently written.

  10. 11 Sio
    2 November 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Just wanted to chime in and say that Marge’s hysterical crying in the B-Sharps episode had more to do with Homer telling her (at the behest of their manager) that he wouldn’t be telling his fans that he was married so that the women would believe that they could have sex with him…but only until after their tour of Sweden! Otherwise she was more concerned with the effect his absence would have on the children.

    Still, though, you are absolutely right. I’ve only just now found this blog and it’s definitely an entertaining read, even if it is horribly depressing having my long-held beliefs regarding The Simpsons’ collapse laid out in blog form.


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