Compare & Contrast: Maggie’s Silence

Lisa's Wedding9

“Will that girl ever shut up?” – Homer Simpson

The more I think about it, the more “Holidays of Future Passed” feels like a flashy, stripped down remake of a classic movie.  The effects are splashier, the budget higher, and the cast larger, but despite the occasionally entertaining scene or idea, the whole thing is a jumble.  Too often you’re just marking time until the next segment begins, hoping it’s better than what you’re currently seeing.  To illustrate that, I’d like to take a look at a running joke “Holidays of Future Passed” slavishly copied from “Lisa’s Wedding”: Maggie’s silence as an adult.

Like the enduring mysteries of which state contains Springfield and why Mr. Burns can never remember Homer, Maggie’s silence is one of the show’s longstanding quirks.  They did an entire episode around the idea with “Lisa’s First Word”.  They also liked to occasionally drop it in as a little gag, like when Bart faked her voice in “Radio Bart” or Maggie babbled like Flanders in “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily”.  But even in “Lisa’s First Word” it was never a big joke.  Instead it cropped up from time to time in quick and unobtrusive ways, a playful wink from the show to the audience.

It was fleeting and flirtatious, and that very scarcity was its charm.  “Lisa’s Wedding” demonstrates an inherent understanding of the that fragility.  They knew “Maggie talks” wasn’t important or deep enough to support whole chunks of the episode, so they slipped it into parts of the story where it could work without wilting under the spotlight.  There are just three times Maggie almost talks in “Lisa’s Wedding”:

  • 1) When Homer goes to use the phone, she’s already on the line, talking in her room.
  • 2) At the dinner table, Lisa asks if she wants to go dress shopping but Marge yells at her to not talk with her mouth full.
  • 3) As the ceremony is about to start, she’s interrupted just before singing “Amazing Grace” by Hugh announcing that the wedding is off.

Compare that to a whopping eight in “Holidays of Future Passed”:

  • 1) When getting an ultrasound (with her band just hanging out for no reason), the robot tells her that she can’t talk because baby.
  • 2) As she goes to board the teleporter, she’s silently directed to the airplane instead.
  • 3) Inside airplane, she sits impatiently.
  • 4) Going into labor in a taxi cab, she doesn’t say a word.
  • 5) In the hospital entrance, Kearney the cabbie somehow gets her checked in while she doesn’t do anything.
  • 6) In the hospital delivery room, they actually give her a pacifier (see below).
  • 7) Still in the delivery room, Marge walks in to her daughter about to give birth, no words are exchanged between the two of them. 
  • 8) Finally, back at home, Maggie presents the baby to her family but still doesn’t say a word.  Marge declares it a girl and, since this is Zombie Simpsons, no one even asks what her name is. 

Seen and Not Heard1

I always communicate my immediate medical needs non-verbally.

Not only are there a lot more of these, they’re uniformly dumber than the mere three in “Lisa’s Wedding”.  You’re not going to say something to the cab driver or the hospital staff while you’re in labor with no friends or family around?  You’re not going to tell people the name of your new kid?  In “Holidays of Future Passed”, Maggie-doesn’t-talk isn’t a clever conceit, it’s an obtuse and stubborn silence, one that was made up and forced on her in a piece of exposition that itself made no sense.  Are all pregnant women forbidden from talking in the future?  That’d be a much more interesting idea, so naturally Zombie Simpsons completely ignored it. 

Even more telling, if I asked you what Future Maggie is in this episode, would you be able to say anything beyond “rock star”?  That’s all we know about her, that she’s a musician.  It’s the absolute bare minimum of backstory and isn’t explored in any way.

Contrast that with all the things we learn about Maggie in those three (much shorter) scenes in “Lisa’s Wedding”.  Right from the first view we get of her (the image at the top of this post), we can tell a bunch of things about her.  She’s dressed in a very “tough girl” sort of way with a work shirt, pants and heavy looking boots.  She’s at least kinda bad assed because there’s a dirt biking trophy in the background, but we can tell she’s also smart because her room is littered with books.  Plus she’s got to be pretty sociable if she’s on the phone all the time.

In just this brief glimpse of her we can see that she’s got Bart’s attitude and Lisa’s brains.  So when we see her glower at her mother for telling her not to talk with her mouth full, or hear Dr. Hibbert tell us that she’s quite the hellion but also has a beautiful voice, it fits in with what we already know.  It’s only a few seconds, but you get a decent idea of what kind of teenager Maggie is, of a character that befits the baby girl who can catch beer bottles before they hit her father in the head, pull the trigger on Mr. Burns, and have a bitter rivalry with the baby with one eyebrow.

What is “rock star” compared to that?  And what kind of “rock star” remains silent through airport check in, a wild taxi ride, hospitalization, and fucking labor because a robot told her to?  The Maggie in “Holidays of Future Passed” is a grown up baby and has just as little personality.  The Maggie in “Lisa’s Wedding”, though on screen for hardly any time at all, has a thought out persona that fits in with what we already knew about her.

Which brings us back to her remaining silent.  Zombie Simpsons takes having her not say anything as a kind of burden, just another established piece of beloved fan lore that they have to dutifully write their way around.  But they can’t be bothered to come up with reasons or interruptions that are the least bit plausible even initially, much less when used over and over again.  The Simpsons didn’t do any of that.  Instead, they saw keeping Maggie silent as a comedy opportunity and took advantage of it accordingly.  That’s why Homer complaining that she talks too much and Hibbert complimenting her pipes feels like the writers are having fun and playing around while expository robots and silent labor feel like they’re clumsily routing themselves around an impediment. 

Seen and Not Heard2

We know this is what you want to see, you mangy fanboy dogs.

31 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Maggie’s Silence”

  1. 1 Stan
    13 December 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Not to mention in “Lisa’s Wedding” Maggie is only 16, while in “Future Passed” she’s 31.

    But I think that conceptually the idea was good, the problem there is that, like always, the writers didn’t think it through. Feels like they have two departments there: the one that invents things, and the one that develops them. And one of them is obviously a slacker.

  2. 13 December 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Even the atrocious “Bart to the Future” handled future Maggie better than this one, when Marge plops a baby Maggie on the table, then reveals it’s Maggie’s daughter. I was as puzzled as you watching this at how contrived Maggie never talking got. It made no sense.

    • 3 Joel B.
      13 December 2011 at 9:11 pm

      The “Bart to the Future” thing with Maggie felt so contrived and terrible, in that the writers said “Oh noes! We’ve got to get Maggie in somehow!” So, they plopped a baby in there, then Marge makes the expository remark that she’s “just like her mommy, Maggie Sr.”


      Girls never get “Sr.” or “Jr.” attached to their name that I’m aware of, so this felt super-cheap and it’s just another reason to wish that episode would die in a trash fire.

      • 13 December 2011 at 9:33 pm

        C’mon, don’t make me defend “Bart to the Future”… I thought it was a kinda cute moment amidst a train wreck of an episode. They had a family dinner, so with the four Simpsons there, we wonder where Maggie is, so they address it with a joke. It’s at least better than this new one that just repeats the “Lisa’s Wedding” bit, except much more awkwardly.

        • 5 Joel B.
          14 December 2011 at 12:04 am

          It is certainly better than what we got here, but it’s really insulting to the audience in “Bart to the Future” to just plop the baby on the table and have us assume (even for a second) that Maggie somehow didn’t age. I mean, that’s why the whole “Maggie Sr.” line is there.

          The point is, really, that “Lisa’s Wedding” was the best future episode they ever did. And they should’ve quit while they were ahead.

        • 14 December 2011 at 5:40 am

          Agreed. It was a good joke amongst a HORRIBLE episode. Homer living under the sea?!

      • 14 December 2011 at 1:03 pm

        “Girls never get “Sr.” or “Jr.” attached to their name that I’m aware of, so this felt super-cheap and it’s just another reason to wish that episode would die in a trash fire.”

        Twenty or thirty years ago you’d never, ever see a married man taking his wife’s name as a double-barrelled surname, but now, while far, far from common, I can think of two or three examples where this has happened.

        I have no problem believing that, a few decades in the future, more girls get their mother’s name – especially if the mother in question is a bit of a rock chick, with some of her older sister’s feminist politics.

        • 11 Joel B.
          14 December 2011 at 2:33 pm

          Quite possibly, but at the time of the episode, I doubt the writers were considering that angle.

          • 14 December 2011 at 5:01 pm

            I think it’s a bit unfair to heap on the writers for something like this though.

            I remember having a ‘double take’ kind of moment when I first saw that episode, then the explanation brought me back round – the joke worked in the way it was intended for me.

            Personally, when there’s so many sticks to beat modern Simpsons with – really with most episodes you can take out a random five second segment and find something incompetent in it – it seems a bit unfair to make the worst assumption about something where the quality is ambigious at worst.

  3. 14 Anonymous
    13 December 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Looks like at least one of the No Homers mods doesn’t quite care for this site! (Check the response to the quote).

    • 14 December 2011 at 5:43 am

      Hahaha. And meanwhile he gives this episode a FOUR OUT OF FIVE. I mean, jesus… people like what they like, but he has to be about the only person in the world to think this episode deserves a rating that high.

      • 14 December 2011 at 5:47 am

        Also, in his assessment of this blog, he seems to think Dead Homers has “preconceived notions”. I might be wrong in this — maybe the manifesto has been re-written or something — but the only preconceived notion that the blog writers seem to have is that the episodes should TRY to be, you know, good and all. No? I am pretty sure most people have a “preconceived notion” when they turn on ANY tv show they like that they’re going to watch 30 minutes (or whatever) of something that entertains them/makes them think/somehow makes their time not feel wasted. I’m not really sure how that’s a fault.

        This blog WORSHIPS the Simpsons, it correctly points out the Zombie flaws, and it creates a great place for fans of the old series/haters of the new series to come together and share viewpoints. What’s wrong with that, again?

      • 17 HonestObserver
        26 December 2011 at 12:15 am

        The A.V. Club gave this episode an A.

    • 14 December 2011 at 10:12 am

      Never heard of that site before. Seems like they actually think zombie Simpsons is good. As Adam West’s Batman would say, “Poor, deluded child.”

    • 14 December 2011 at 3:28 pm

      The thing that sticks in my craw about this guy is him saying this site is “poorly written”. By general internet standards, this is an academic journal of a niche blog.

      • 20 Anonymous
        14 December 2011 at 5:37 pm

        There’s no way he even read the post to which he was linked. The writing on this blog is of a high standard but I guess it just doesn’t mesh with his viewpoints.

      • 21 Little Thin Man Accused in Robbery
        15 December 2011 at 4:17 am

        I thought the exact same. It’s nice to see an objection that goes beyond ‘u guys r sad n bitter, u mussed b reel messed up 2 not lyk da simpsuns’, but it really doesn’t hold water at all. It’s a very well-written blog.

    • 14 December 2011 at 8:48 pm

      The AV Club gave this ep an “A.” I was quite shocked at this, they’re usually just as tough on these eps. Then again, I’d give this one a B+ at best if I ever decided to use an arbitrary letter grading system. http://www.avclub.com/articles/holidays-of-future-passed,66387/

  4. 23 lennyburnham
    14 December 2011 at 12:55 am

    Another comparison that I can’t stop thinking about is the relationship between Lisa and her daughter compared to the amazing Marge/Lisa relationship throughout The Simpsons. In “Holidays of Future Passed” it goes from Lisa’s daughter wanting nothing to do with her to her abruptly finding out that her daughter really admires her and is exactly like her deep down. It’s like the show is terrified to admit that family relationships aren’t always great. Whereas with Marge and Lisa the show made it very clear that Marge and Lisa would never actually understand each other, which actually made their relationship more beautiful because when they had a moment together it was because one or both of them actually compromised out of love DESPITE SOME REAL DIFFERENCES, not because the writers decided that no one wants to see a mother/daughter relationship that’s complicated beyond a very shallow level.

  5. 14 December 2011 at 6:17 am

    you are bitter poeple !!!

  6. 14 December 2011 at 10:31 am

    You guys were way too kind in your initial review of Sundays travesty of a choke of an episode. Although I suppose by Zombie Simpsons standards, it wasn’t nearly as dreadful as that Krusty debacle the week before.

    I love that still shot of Maggie from “Lisa’s Wedding”. From the books scattered around the room to the dirt bike trophy on her nightstand, it’s clear her siblings have had a huge influence on her. She hasLisa’s booksmarts as well as Bart’s inner daredevil mentality. In other words, we learn more about Maggies future self from a quick glimpse into her room in Lisa’s Wedding than we did in Sunday’s entire episode.

    • 28 Stan
      14 December 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Waht I find great in that pic is how little was wireless communication developed back in 1995, that they had to draw a wired weird-looking phone as a future device. By today’s standards, she could’ve just had a receiver in one hand and press a button on her flattop with the other. Of course, the joke would’nt have worked either at this point because with so much wireless tech, Homer could’ve just used a cellphone instead.

      Also, look at how Maggie’s dressed. Back in 1995 they thought that future youth will be wearing cowboy boots and long short-sleeved shirts. Needless to say that we’d have much more tendency picturing her in slim jeans, with Gaga make-up or something, and not in a shirt that makes her look 40-years-old.

      But this is how they memorized it back in 1995 and we can but laugh at this in 2011,same thing will happen in 2020 with “Bart to the Future”, in 2025 with that 15th Season ep I don’t remember the name of in which they also do 20 years later, and of course, “Holidays of Future Passed” by 2041.

      Oh boy hope I’ll live that long =)

  7. 29 Mr. Snrub
    14 December 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I agree but it’s still a slightly unfair comparison. Maggie was a more major character in last week’s episode so there’s naturally going to be more moments with her, and therefore more with her not speaking. That aside though, for once I think you made some good points. Not to mention that the jokes themselves were executed far better in Lisa’s Wedding. In last week’s episodes Maggie’s mouth literally hangs open for almost a second at one point before being interrupted. So very, very awkward and unfunny.

    That said I still thought the episode was decent. Could have been better but I still enjoyed it. like, 3.5/5 worthy.

    Also you guys (commenters) should stop badmouthing NoHomers. Look at most other rate and review threads for other recent episodes and you’ll see how they share the distaste for new episodes this blog has. Naturally there are some members who seem mindlessly love new episodes but that’s up to them. It’s a forum, not a blog with a niche. Therefore you’re gunna get varied opinions. And I prefer that to the often nit-picky attitude of this site, even if it does make some good points now and then.

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