12
Feb
15

Compare & Contrast: Proudly Fat Homer

King Size Homer20

“I’m sick of all your stereotypes and cheap jokes!  The overweight individuals in this country are just as smart and talented and hard working as everybody else!  And they’re gonna make their voices heard!  All they need is a leader!” – Homer Simpson

Conventional wisdom has it that everyone is getting fatter these days and that’s a bad thing.  Reality, as usual, is considerably more complicated.  Moral panics over fat have been a recurring feature of American culture for over a century; the actual effects of obesity are deeply misunderstood at best; and the amount of societal and cultural abuse heaped on fat people is cruel, idiotic, and generally harmful.  In short, a “fat acceptance” support group (like the one Homer joined in “Walking Big & Tall”) is a thoroughly modern byproduct of something about which America is both obsessed and deeply conflicted.  In the right hands, it’s a target rich environment for comedy.  In Zombie Simpsons, it’s shambolic background for a whole lot of nothing.

Let’s start with what is easily this episode’s go to joke: a rubbery sound effect.  They use it when Homer crams himself into the seats at the theater.  They use it when he finally gets out of his theater seat (and then immediately again when he gets stuck in the door).  They use it over and over again when Homer gets locked up with the other fat people.  They even use it when Albert the fat guy puts a straw in a cup.  It’s in so much of the episode that they may have simply done that last one out of habit.

In addition to being a pretty weak joke (Once? Sure. Twice? Maybe. Three and more? Uh, no.), it neatly summarizes just how vapid the whole episode is.  Their most used gag is that fat people don’t fit into the same spaces as skinny people.  That’s it.

You can see that shallowness all over the place: the only other fat person who gets any lines is Comic Book Guy, and most of what he does is list foods, Homer himself doesn’t actually do anything in the episode besides stand around, and roughly half the dialogue is people recapping things we’ve already seen.  Even the gag at the end about Albert’s ashes needing a lot of urns goes on way too long, and that’s before they literally spelled it out for us.  You really have to wonder at the mentality and incuriosity in the writers room when they do an entire episode on fat acceptance and most of what they come up with is “fat people are big”.

AlbertsAshes

Get it?  GET IT?

By contrast, “King-Size Homer” also sees Homer become proud of being a fat guy.  But instead of him joining a support group then not doing anything but talk about joining a support group, we actually get to see him be a proud fat guy.  He’s ecstatic about getting out of work.  When Marge calls him on it, he redoubles his efforts to be a “big fat dynamo!”.  At the end, he stands up to the crowd at the theater that laughs at him.  He’s even proud of his “fat guy hat”.  “Walking Big & Tall” tells us (ad nausem) that Homer is proud of his fat self.  “King-Size” Homer actually shows him doing it.

Case in point: fat guy insults.  At the theater, right before the manager attempts to buy him off with “a garbage bag full of popcorn”, the sarcastic guy shouts at him, “Hey, fatty, I got a movie for ya: A Fridge Too Far!”.  That’s a great Simpsons joke: it’s a cultural reference, it’s innovative and mean, it fits the story, and it’s done by one of their best non-named utility characters.  And, of course, there’s little stuff to notice, like how the Squeaky Voiced Teen (who’s taking tickets) and the manager both laugh at first before quickly stopping themselves while everyone else keeps going.

King Size Homer19

On The Simpsons, there is *always* a reason to pay attention.

Compare that to this unedited brainstorm pad:

 Chubby, Chunky, Blob-O, Slob-O, Fat Bastard, Michelen Man, Stay Puft, Chumbawumba, “It is balloon!”, Papa Grande, Augustus Gloop, Beached Whale, Big Boned, Wisconsin Skinny, Butterball, Dump Truck, Jelly Belly, Pudgy Wudgy, Lard Ass, Bloberino, Buddah Belly, Hurry E. Tubman, One Ton Soup, Blob Sagat, Chub Hub, Calvin Coolwhip, Manfred Manboobs, 21-Lump Street, Walking Before Picture, Fatso, Harvey Milk Chocolate, Obese Wan-Canoli, Mahatma Gumbo, Salvadore Deli, Elmer Pantry, KFC & the Spongecake Band, Snacky Onassis, The Foodie Blues, Hoagie Carmichal, and Wide Load

As I said on Monday, there are a couple of decent ones in that mess.  But there is also a ton of filler.  For every creative one like “Obese Wan-Canoli” there are three or four regular old insults (Fatso, Wide Load, Fat Bastard, Chubby, etc.) or unmodified cultural references (Augustus Gloop, Stay Puft, Butterball, etc.).  What’s more, it’s just a list.  This is a Buzzfeed headline in Zombie Simpsons form: 40 Great Fat Insults.  And, like Buzzfeed, you knew a bunch already, and most of them aren’t great.

The Simpsons picked one (1) good one and slipped it into a scene that’s integral to the plot.  If Homer doesn’t want to see “Honk If You’re Horny”, he doesn’t leave the drinking bird in charge, in which case he doesn’t resolve to mend his ways after getting insulted, and, oh yeah, the gas gets vented, preventing explosion.  The entire episode doesn’t work without this scene.

In Zombie Simpsons, the list is the only scene at Moe’s and the only time we see any of those characters.  It’s a one off tangent that has nothing to do with anything, they just had a list and time to fill.

Finally, there’s Homer himself.  It’s not just that we get to see him being a proud fat guy in Season 7, there’s a reason for him to be a proud fat guy.  Homer, being Homer, hates exercise and tries, in Lisa’s words, “abusing a program intended to help the unfortunate”.  He loves not having to go to work so much (“gas, break, honk”), that he overlooks everything else.  In “Walking Big & Tall”, Homer hurls people across entire theaters before happening to walk past the wrong support group.  One of these involves the character being himself and matters to the rest of the episode; the other does not.  Homer, let me introduce Jerkass Homer; Jerkass Homer, please meet Homer.


11 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Proudly Fat Homer”


  1. 1 Stan
    12 February 2015 at 6:08 pm

    – Hey, let’s mock some fat people! You there! You’re fat!
    – I am! I totally am! Ahahahaha
    – You’re fat!
    – heheheh
    – You’re fat!
    – …
    – You’re fat!
    – Shut up.

  2. 2 Victor Dang
    12 February 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Unrelated to the main post, but speaking of “paying attention”…

    In the same episode, in the scene where Burns comes to Homer’s house, if you notice real quickly before the newspaper shot, you can spot Smithers quickly putting a tissue on Homer’s shoulder before Burns puts his hand there. Great frame gag AND in character as well.

  3. 8 torbiecat
    12 February 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Something else that “King-Size Homer” sounded as if it did a better job of doing than that other episode did was referencing past episodes. That is, the drinking bird was originally seen in “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” but was seamlessly worked into the plot of KSH and writers didn’t feel the need to remind the viewers that this was a nod to a previous episode.

  4. 9 ecco6t9
    13 February 2015 at 1:47 am

    It fits “Homer is lazy” to the T that even pushing the “Y” key on a computer is too much work for him.

    The other joke that is clever and funny is “I heard that guy’s ass has it’s own congressman.”

  5. 10 Joey
    17 February 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Thank you for this analysis! ‘Big & Tall’ was incredibly disappointing to me. I thought we would get something to the effect of a re-vamped King Size Homer, but as you pointed out, the only joke they could seem to make is that fat people are big. And that’s not so much of a joke as an observation.

    The episode didn’t fit with the spirit of the rest of the series, even in HD-era. Thank you for explaining why so eloquently.

    Also, didn’t you notice how terribly bitchy Marge was about it, this time? Their marriage is based on her acceptance, kindness, and regard for his feelings. That wasn’t in ‘Big & Tall’, but King Size Homer had it in spades.

    Thanks again for a great piece on this.


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