Internet History

“But the following year Scratchy was teamed up with a psychotic young mouse named Itchy, and cartoon history was made.” – Kent Brockman

A few weeks ago, David Silverman tweeted the following:

Silverman Worst Episode Ever Tweet

In case you can’t see the image, it says “Came across first known sighting of "worst episode ever" 11/3/92. This guy HATES ep 9F03 – just hilarious.”  Indeed it is.  Here’s the wonderfully archaic alt.tv.simpsons post from 4 November 1992 (the “>” on the top two lines are where he’s quoting a previous post):

>Wow, what an intense episode.  … I didn’t know it was
>going to be so cool so I didn’t take notes.  Anyway……

Intense?  I thought this was easily the worst episode ever.  Simply not
funny.   "Where did he put the firecracker?"  I can’t imagine child abuse
being funny.  Now, somebody being eaten by a gorilla, somebody being hit
by lightning, that’s funny.  Child abuse is not.  The way I interpreted it,
this was a reference to a standard technique of using dolls to get physically/
sexually abused children to talk about the abuse incidents.

Bart dropping his pants.  How many times is this funny?  Well, it was
funny when we saw it in a previous episode.  But I don’t think that
Bart’s butt is inherintly funny.  Also, we have never actually seen
Homer spank Bart, have we?  So why does Bart expect it so readily?

Bart as a stripper.  Really more repulsive than funny.  The bad thing about
things like this is that I used to disagree with parents who didn’t let
their children watch the Simpsons – I no longer disagre with them.  I
would not have wanted my children (if I had any) to watch that scene.

Star Trek.  In Living Color has done it.  Saturday Night Live has done it.
Mad magazine has done it.  Local high school talent shows have done it.
Now, the Simpsons have done it, and they didn’t do it any better than anyone
else.  Should have left it alone, and come up with something original.

Homer being very familiar with Chief Justices.  (BTW, the title is ‘Chief
Justice of the United States’, not ‘Chief Justice of the Supreme Court’ –
don’t know if this error was intentional or not, it’s not really important.)
Once in a while, when Homer throws out something like that, it is funny.
Yes, it is out of character for Homer to say anything too intellectual, but
I admit one of my favorite Simpson’s moment is when Homer is intervening
in an argument between Lisa and the Albanian kid (Adil?) and he says
something about ‘the blood of the workers oiling the machinery of
capitalism’.  But that was just a one time thing.  maybe it was something
that Homer heard once, and it got stuck somewhere in his brain.  But
we know that this is an aberration, Homer is simply not a bright guy.
I can’t believe he is that familiar with the names of the Supreme
court justices.  (However, I did laugh at ‘Warren Burger…Mmmmm….Burger…’)
It would have been more in character if Lisa had recited the names…

And I didn’t like the bit about 40 years from now, although I don’t really
have an argument against it.  I just didn’t like it.

This episode was an appeal to the lowest common denominator.  It exploited
cliches instead of exposing them.  It twisted character traits in order to
go after laughs.  It relied on gimmicks that got a laugh in the past.  It
became a parody of itself.  I repeat, this was by far the worst episode ever.
I hope it was an aberration – I don’t think I have seen these trends in
other recent episodes, so I am hopeful.


"Good Idea, Boss."    – Homer Simpson

That’s right, he drops “worst episode ever” twice!  Upon first reading this I thought I’d fisk it, and point out how the kind of counterexample rich criticism we do here is much different than “I don’t really have an argument against it.  I just didn’t like it.”  But then it occurred to me that, despite the vast technical changes in the interceding twenty years (the first web browser didn’t even exist then), internet arguments really aren’t all that different in 2012 than they were in 1992.  So I read the rest of the thread and the overwhelming majority of the comments on “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” from 1992 are so positive as to border on glowing (deservedly so).

The first post in the thread is from a guy who liked the episode but “couldn’t find a suitable tape to record it on in time” so he couldn’t offer a very detailed analysis.  Here’s the second post:

God, I can’t say how much I loved Steamboat Itchy.  It moved me.

And the third post:

BTW, I loved `Steamboat Itchy’ too…  Every one of the early I&S
shorts were great!

And the fourth:

It certainly was a thing of beauty.

And the sixth:

I think Kent Brock man said it was 1928, the year you could see Al
Capone (is that who it was?) doin the Charleston (is that what it was)
on a flagpole (I KNOW it was a flagpole ;-).  I thought ti was great
that they took 3 unrelated things from the 20’s and said you could see
them together!  :-)

The post Silverman linked was the fifth in the thread; and just two posts later someone did a detailed, point by point rebuttal of the “worst episode ever” guy.  The thread goes on from there with the kind of internet back-and-forth that will be familiar to anyone reading this site.  Things got to the point that the “worst episode ever” guy actually had to defend his sense of humor.  After that there was some discussion about whether or not Disney could or would sue over “Steamboat Itchy”, and whether or not the original “Steamboat Willie” was still under copyright (an actual lawyer eventually weighed in to explain how copyright law worked). 

There’s no point digging into a nearly twenty year old flame war, but the thread is more than a time capsule.  It’s also a great piece of evidence against the contention, which I still see from time to time, that the internet has always been filled with mindless, vitriolic hatred of the show.  That just isn’t the case.  There have always been dumb things on the internet, but, at least as represented in this thread (which is not on SNPP), the on-line opinion of Season 4 at the time of broadcast was overwhelmingly supportive. 

When the real grumbling about the show started, it wasn’t because disliking the show was cool, or because the most involved fans all have mean streaks.  It was because the show got worse, a gradual process that had precisely nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with the show itself. 

7 Responses to “Internet History”

  1. 1 Doctor Colossus
    1 March 2012 at 6:34 pm

    nope, not buying it. I refuse to believe anyone other than trolls doesn’t like Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie

  2. 2 Eh Gaoh
    2 March 2012 at 12:00 am

    Somebody could argue that the “Eternal September” hadn’t happened yet, so there weren’t quite as many inexperienced users online

  3. 3 Chris
    2 March 2012 at 12:30 am

    “Bart as a stripper. Really more repulsive than funny. The bad thing about
    things like this is that I used to disagree with parents who didn’t let
    their children watch the Simpsons – I no longer disagre with them. I
    would not have wanted my children (if I had any) to watch that scene.”

    I just wanted to point this out, because people like him don’t seem to understand that the POINT of that fantasy is to be repulsive, and thus act as a deterrent for kids to behave badly in school (and for parents to allow their kids to reach that point). The message, if numbskulls like this would ever open their minds, is that behaving badly in school could lead to a repulsive lifestyle like becoming a male stripper. THIS IS A GOOD LESSON. Numbskulls like him think that because there’s imagery of Bart in a g-string that kids just shouldn’t see it. But, of course, they should see it, so as to know what to avoid.

    Anytime I see someone say, well I just won’t let my kids watch such-and-such, it just boils my blood. It reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 everytime, in that we just won’t let our kids know that such things exist. Sex is out there, nudity is out there, fucking deal with it. Note to all numbskull parents out there, it’s better for YOU to explain this stuff to your kids than it is for some stranger to do it. Knowledge is power, you fucking idiots.

  4. 5 Cobalt
    2 March 2012 at 1:44 am

    Just wanted to agree with your thoughts; the show really has gone astray from its humorous roots. Before finding this site, I’ve often wondered whether it was a sign of my age that has pushed me away from the newer simpsons episodes, but it seems many others share my sentiments: what once was is no more.

    Then again, I suppose I don’t have much authority on the matter since I gave up watching 2 seasons ago… but, stumbling recently onto this gem of a blog from searching the web for nuggets of simpson nostalgia, I couldn’t help posting some words of support. Hopefully I’m not being too dramatic here.

    Continue sharing your thoughts on the new episodes! I’ll be reading.

  5. 6 Thrillho
    12 August 2012 at 10:57 am

    Wow, if this guy thought Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie wasn’t up to The Simpsons’ usual standards, he would have a heart attack if he saw the show now.

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