Compare & Contrast: Defeating the Bad Guy

Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish6

“Wait, come back!  You can’t do this to me!  I’m Charles Montgomery Burns!” – C.M. Burns

As an audience member, there are few things more satisfying that a good defeat of a wretched villain.  Unfortunately, that also means when things go wrong, when the villain is bland or the ending is weak, it is correspondingly unsatisfying.  At the end of the “The Book Job”, Homer and his improbable posse use what Lisa describes as an idea from “every movie ever” to stymie a book publisher who, despite what the music would have you believe, isn’t all that evil.  I say “stymie” instead of “defeat” because it isn’t at all clear that what he’s doing is evil or that he’d be in any way displeased with the results; and I say “book publisher” instead of his name because he’s so bland he didn’t get a name.  By contrast, at the end of “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”, Marge permanently defeats Mr. Burns’ run for governor with nothing more than her wits and the three eyed fish that was in the first scene.

For a really enjoyable villain defeat, you need to have a proper villain do terrible things so that people really want to see him lose, which Zombie Simpsons naturally doesn’t.  The nameless book publisher doesn’t commit any crimes, hurts no one, and hardly seems all that evil.  What is his offense, exactly?  Editing a book that was deliberately made to be crappy and formulaic?  Only on Zombie Simpsons could rewriting mass produced schlock be considered a sin.

Evil Glasses, Eviler Cravat

The only evil thing about this guy are his fashion accessories. 

Mr. Burns, one of television’s great villains, hardly needs describing, so let’s just concentrate on what he’s trying to do in “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”.  After his plant miserably fails an inspection, he’s faced with a hefty but by no means ruinous repair bill.  Instead of spending money on fixing the plant, his response is to purchase the governor’s office so he can continue running his business in a manner that will one day render the planet uninhabitable.  The Simpsons being The Simpsons, it’s played for laughs, but when you think about what he’s trying to do it’s truly despicable.  The other guy just wants to sell a few books that, while low brow, don’t harm anyone and actually seem to make quite a few people happy.

Beyond his lack of evil though, the bad guy in “The Book Job” doesn’t actually get defeated.  At the end we see that the book, trolls and all, is quite popular.  The bookstore has given it lots of shelf space, and kids and geeks are reading it avidly.  Since all he wants to do is make money selling books, and he doesn’t care at all whether the book is about trolls or vampires, he’s actually won.  The million dollars he paid to Homer’s goofy gang of the suddenly hyper-competent is a small price to pay for the runaway bestseller and budding franchise he appears to have on his hands.

The opposite happens to Mr. Burns, who sees himself humiliated on television and his campaign for governor thwarted on the eve of success.  Best of all, Burns is defeated by his own villainy.  His disregard for polluting the water is what allows Marge to defeat him. 

In short, the nameless book guy isn’t evil and doesn’t lose.  Mr. Burns is unlimitedly evil and is utterly beaten.  One of those is a great ending, the other is Zombie Simpsons. 

22 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Defeating the Bad Guy”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    23 November 2011 at 5:36 pm

    The Compare and Contrasts are probably my favourite thing on the blog. They expose the hollow shell of the Zombies Simpsons and also highlights the success of living incarnation.

    Look at the screencaptures as well. Burns is furious and his face is contorted into such raw emotion that you never see any more due to their weird on-model policies. On the other hand, the book guy is just smug looking and that’s about it; he is essentially devoid in character throughout the episode.

  2. 2 Chrissy
    23 November 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Why is Mr. Burns so gigantic in that screenshot? I don’t remember that scene in the Two Cars episode.

    • 3 Stan
      23 November 2011 at 6:56 pm

      Watch it again. BTW – another original animation marvel right there.

    • 4 Charlie Sweatpants
      23 November 2011 at 6:58 pm

      He’s yelling and walking towards the camera as his campaign people are walking out the door. It’s yet another example of the great direction and animation of “The Simpsons”.

      • 23 November 2011 at 7:43 pm

        Thank you for always posting classic Simpson screens that feature the awesome animation they used back in the day. I find myself often slowing down/watching frame-by-frame parts of some of my favorite animation bits, like Homer’s head exploding in “And Maggie Makes Three”, Homer’s DON’T MIND IF I DO freakout in “The Shinning”, all the crazy bits in “The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer”, and so on and so forth, forever.

        It’s funny, people knock the “crappy” animation of season 1/2, but the show looked way more interesting than it does now. At least it had style and LIFE to it, it’s so cold now that it’s almost sickening to watch, so clean it feels like being inside of a hospital or something.

  3. 7 Stan
    23 November 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Thing is it’s hard to tell who’s even the villain in The Book Job: they go from that nameless guy to Lisa to Neil Gaiman at the end for some reason. Ok, so we get that it’s a backstabbing business. But you don’t usually take 8 to 10 minutes to explain that, and you don’t usually fail as much by doing so.

    The shoddy storytelling of the Unsimpsons most likely comes from the level of don’t-give-a-fuck towards the show, mixed together with making it seem like they actually give a fuck. Well known scheme: they choose a theme, cover it up with one-sided gags (I can’t even call those real jokes), and then compose a continuity of filler by making it seem they’re going somewhere with it all while beating some things to the ground. I don’t even think it’s comparable anymore, and even if that would be, the original Simpsons still win because they wrap up with what they started in the first place.

  4. 23 November 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Interestingly, I wouldn’t even qualify the book publisher as defeated in this. Bart ripped up the cheque. The publisher basically got the book for free, and get all the profit, while the heroes have the satisfaction of knowing their written work was published in its original form. Of course, they have no means at all to prove they wrote it, including a financial paper trail linking them to the publisher…

    • 23 November 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Good points. The ending actually is interesting when you consider the villian kinda won, but as usual with Zombie Simpsons, I’m sure that point was entirely unintended by the creators, who don’t seem to put much thought into anything they do.

  5. 10 Chrissy
    23 November 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Burns is walking toward the camera…OK, thanks for clearing that up. In the picture it looks like a giant Burns is yelling at the Simpsons family.

  6. 23 November 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Episodes such as Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on every Fish paint a far more sinister and complex portrait of an evil villian involving subject matter that Zombie Simpsons rarely attempts to tackle.

    “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” condemns the manipulation of political and economic power to disguise ecological accountability, and shift blame for environmental problems. The show comments on the lack of adherence to safety standards for the plant, and criticizes the apathetic acceptance of unforced environmental inspections. Finally, this episode explicitly criticizes media spin-doctors who distort the impacts of ecological degredation caused by wealthy corporations like the nuclear power plant.

    Burns, like any crooked political candidate, finds a way of addressing his weakness by framing it in the best possible light. He scoops the three eyed fish from the garbage bin of tabloids and hangs it like a trophy on his mantle. Much like the modern day Republicans, he proudly doubles down on his failures and promotes them as some sort of an accomplishment. His sleazy dishonest ad campaign in which he asks an actor playing Charles Darwin to explain his theory of natural seclection is classic media manipulation that you can see regularly on Fox News. Burns asserts that Blinky is in fact a kind of superfish. His campaign effectively combats the fish story and places Burns in the lead. What Burns doesnt point out to his gullible audience is that natural selection requires that succesful varieties maintain an advantage over others in survival and reproduction which takes many generations to establish. This is how to depict a real villian. Not with some bland nameless book publisher.

    “Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” is such a timeless episode. Although, when considering the issues the episode tackles, I wish that weren’t the case. This is one episode I would love to look back on and think “my how things have changed” but that’s not the case. All of the subjects the episode tackles are still are still as relevant today as ever, and in fact only getting worse. That being said, “Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” depicted Mr.Burns at his most evil, and The Simpsons at it’s best.

    • 12 Richie
      24 November 2011 at 1:06 am

      Can you imagine a Zombie Simpsons’ episode inspiring an analysis like the one Matthew Mackinnon just wrote? Am I proud we got to experience the real Simpsons while they lasted.

    • 13 The Glory of Being a Clown
      24 November 2011 at 8:03 am

      Well obsoived.

    • 14 monoceros4
      24 November 2011 at 1:01 pm

      Well, let’s be _slightly_ fair…invocation of Charles Darwin isn’t anything that you’re likely to see on Fox any time soon. Also Burns doesn’t outright say that the three-eyed fish _is_ a superfish, only that it _could_ be. Ridiculous as it seems, Burns’s advertisement actually does get across a better notion of Darwinian evolution than most people get these days. Still, the general point is taken.

      I do happen to think that “The Simpsons” rather peaked in the second and third seasons. That perhaps isn’t a popular belief and maybe it isn’t even a supportable one, but when I think of episodes that defined the characters the most, I think of episodes from those early seasons. I’m reminded of what Roger Ebert had to say about the Beatles in his review of _A Hard Day’s Night_, that they experienced “a long summer, a disillusioned fall, a tragic winter. But oh, what a lovely springtime.” Those early seasons were the lovely springtime, when everything that made “The Simpsons” was defined.

  7. 15 Mr. Snrub
    24 November 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Whilst I agree the villain was somewhat lifeless, the context is different. Two Cars etc is an episode ABOUT Burns. The episode therefore naturally revolved around him and thus he gets more screen time as his emotions/actions are more important, and therefore emphasised.

    However in The Book Job, the plot is about the group of 7 people trying to get their book back. Of course, the villain plays a rather large part. And of course he could have been done better, because everything in modern Simpsons could have been done better. That’s just how it is. Anyway, the point is, with the villain in TBJ getting less screen time and having less importance to the plot, it’s only natural that he will come off as not really very evil. And in fact, I don’t think this matters. Two Cars was biting political satire – this was just a ‘fun’ episode. Whilst of course, genuinely evil characters are not exempt from ‘fun’ episodes (look at Blood Feud), they are hardly vital to the plot’s success. Of course perhaps a more unique, memorable villain in TBJ would have been an improvement – I’m not doubting that – I just don’t think it matters as much as you make out.

    This is the problem with compare & contrasts because although they highlight good points they are sometimes blown out of proportion and shown in a very black and white manner, which of course is not the case.

  8. 16 Adam
    25 November 2011 at 7:54 am

    Why has Al Jean been the showrunner for so long? Anybody know the answer to this?

    • 17 D.N.
      25 November 2011 at 11:23 pm

      Given the pervading sense of laziness about Zombie Simpsons, I’d say Al Jean has been the showrunner for so long because no one else can be bothered doing it.

      • 18 Patrick
        26 November 2011 at 6:42 pm

        epic comment there XD

        • 19 Adam
          27 November 2011 at 1:04 pm

          But after Scully, Al Jean was the main guy who turned the Simpsons into crap, why didnt they change him after a few years?.They used to change the showrunner every few years, he’s been a showrunner forever.

          • 20 D.N.
            27 November 2011 at 5:47 pm

            Did the showrunners change every two seasons because that was the policy, or because of burn-out? I too am curious as to why the routine changed (although it didn’t change with Al Jean – Mike Scully was showrunner for an unprecedented 4 years. Of course, Jean has since far exceeded that…)

            • 21 Adam
              30 November 2011 at 3:07 am

              Yeah this is what I want to know, I read the John Ortved Simpsons book and it didnt explain why Jean has been on for so long,especially when he has overseen what are the worst ever episodes by a long shot.

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