Posts Tagged ‘Last Exit to Springfield



08
Sep
15

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield16

“Maggie’s teeth are coming in crooked.  Has she been sucking on a pacifier?” – Dr. Wolf
“Uh, not to my knowledge.” – Marge Simpson
“Liar!” – Dr. Wolf

11
Mar
15

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield15

“How often do you brush, Ralph?” – Dr. Wolf
“Three times a day, sir.” – Ralph Wiggum
“Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?” – Dr. Wolf

29
May
14

Quote of the Day

Mirror

“The mirror . . . the mirror!” – Lisa Simpson

Happy birthday Danny Elfman!

03
Apr
14

Compare & Contrast: Homer the Incorruptible

Last Exit to Springfield14

"We don’t have to be adversaries, Homer.  We both want a fair union contract." – C.M. Burns
"Why is Mr. Burns being so nice to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"And if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." – C.M. Burns
"Wait a minute, is he coming on to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"I mean, if I should slip something into your pocket, what’s the harm?" – C.M. Burns
"My God, he is coming on to me." – Homer’s Brain
"After all, negotiations make  strange bedfellows." – C.M. Burns

For a simple and common act, bribery requires a surprising amount of finesse.  Whether the initiating party is asking for the bribe or offering it, when it comes to the exchange of money for dishonesty the presentation is always the tricky part.  You have to let the other person know that you’re willing to break the rules, but only in a way that both of you can later deny if necessary.  It’s a delicate thing, and the last person you’d ever want to see on the other side of it is Homer Simpson.

That frustrating situation confronts nuclear plant owner Monty Burns in Season 4’s "Last Exit to Springfield" as well as the nameless, central casting gangster in "You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee".  Both are trying to get Homer to roll over for cash, but the Homers they have to bribe are as different as they are.

There are four parties in these two attempted transactions.  In the first we have Burns and regular Homer; and in the second we have Gangster Guy and Zombie Homer.  Before we get to the actual bribery, however, let’s take a quick look at each one of them and why they’re doing what they’re doing:

  • The Burns of Season 4 is the very definition of ruthless.  Not only does he hate his employees, he’s willing to go to the mattresses over their dental plan out of nostalgic spite.  The money is important to him, but not as much as the principle of being able to wall one of them up whenever the urge hits him.  For Burns, bribing the head of the union to betray his fellows is just expediency, and when things don’t go well right away, he goes to hired goons out of habit.
  • The Homer of Season 4 is a working schlub everyman who doesn’t want to have to pay for his daughter’s braces.  In that sense, his motivation going into the negotiations is a lot like Burns’.  The difference is that Homer isn’t acting out of malevolence, he’s reacting to the evil of Burns and just trying to get back something he already had.
  • Gangster Guy has no background, he’s just a gangster.  Why does he want to fix the World Cup?  Because he’s a gangster.  Haven’t you ever seen any of their movies?
  • Zombie Homer is who he pretty much always is: a weirdly invincible superman.  Fly to Brazil to be (apparently) the only referee at the World Cup?  Sure!  Get bribed and threatened  by gangsters?  He’s cool, doesn’t perturb him a bit.  Fall completely to pieces because an eight-year-old called him her hero but didn’t do it in quite the right way?  Also sure.  He has no human center, so incomprehensibly random reactions are the norm.

Down in Brazil, our prop store gangster tries to bribe that fickle lunatic because that’s why prop store gangsters do, and Homer refuses because he’s been perfectly incorruptible for three whole minutes, so it’s now basically his only trait.  There’s no depth to what either of them is doing, which means that the only kind of humor they can go for is repetitive silliness.  They offer him money in outlandish ways, he refuses, and that’s it.  They do it so many times that they have an entire montage of nothing but.  Anyone is free to think that’s funny, of course, but there’s no denying that it’s simplistic and one-dimensional.

Bribery Montage

Over and over and over and over . . .

Compare that to Burns’ repeated attempts to bribe Homer.  Things start out with with the two of them meeting in Burns’ office and Homer completely misunderstanding Burns’ innuendo:

Last Exit to Springfield13

Sure, he’s flattered, maybe even a little curious, but he doesn’t go in for those back door shenanigans.

From there, Homer’s guileless stupidity continues to be misunderstood by Burns as an iron willed resolve and negotiating brilliance.  Homer’s too dumb to be intimidated by hired goons.  The he has to pee too bad to listen to Burns’ offer.  Finally, he inadvertently triggers a strike while trying to resign.  It’s as far as you can get from one serially repeated joke because each of them brings more than just one thing to the table.

There’s an almost ye olde Vaudeville aspect to them, with Burns playing the straight man who just cannot get anything through the thick skull of the yutz who won’t take his money.  Since this is The Simpsons, the straight man is wildly evil and his frustrations quickly rise to trying to destroy the town instead of just demanding to know who’s on first, but the basic comedy of misunderstanding allows the show to employ all manner of topics and tricks.

What gives everything that extra twist is the fact that, right before the first commercial break, the show lets us know that Homer, in fact, would love to be bribed:

“Hey, what does this job pay?” – Homer Simpson
“Nothing.” – Carl
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Unless you’re crooked!” – Carl
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

If Burns had just offered to pay for Lisa’s braces, Homer would have eagerly accepted and the dental plan would be no more.  But that was never going to happen because the two of them are far too different to ever be able to communicate.  Burns, hater of unions, thinks Homer is as conniving and cutthroat as he is.  Homer just really doesn’t want to be there.

What plays out between them is far too rich to ever be shown as a one note montage or a repeated series of offers and exposition.  Between who they are, what they’re trying to do, and their actions and reactions (often inadvertent) towards one another, playing some music and showing a bunch of people handing Homer cash simply wouldn’t work.  Something that thin would be overwhelmed by story, jokes and the like.  In Zombie Simpsons, however, it’s more than enough.

23
Nov
13

Compare & Contrast: Strikes and Strikebreakers

Last Exit to Springfield11

“Goodbye, Springfield, from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!” – C.M. Burns

The line everyone knows from 1987’s Wall Street is, “Greed is good”.  Of course, Michael Douglas doesn’t quite say that; his actual line is “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”.  Either way it’s not the best line in the movie.  That honor goes to Martin Sheen, playing the skeptical head of an airline mechanics union.  Sitting in Gordon Gekko’s excessively 1980s penthouse as the iconic bankster of the time licks his chops over wage cuts now for theoretical profit sharing tomorrow, Sheen sagely notes:

“The rich been doing it to the poor since the beginning of time.  The only difference between the Pyramids and the Empire State Building is the Egyptians didn’t allow unions.”

The fight between labor and management is as old as the hills, and labor has only one weapon: organizing.  Not that unions are all smiles and sunshine.  They can be every bit as corrupt, short sighted, and greedy as their opponents, and the conflict between the two are often complicated, messy and painful.  In other words, the whole thing is fertile territory for satire, parody and general yuk-yuks.

Like many rich comedy veins, whether fart jokes or mocking those clowns in Congress, taking a swing at employers, employees and their eternal struggle against one another can be done with verve, insight and wit, or it can be done quickly and cheaply with the barest minimum of thought or humor.  Not being particularly fond of either thought or humor, Zombie Simpsons went with the second option.

Lisa’s cheerleader union plot begins after she is twice magically transformed by the cheerleaders into and out of a cheerleader outfit, so things don’t exactly get off to a good start, but they do manage to cover the bare minimum of "strike" plot points.  Basically these:

1.  The need to strike

2.  The decision to strike

3.  The strike itself

4.  Management’s counter moves

5.  The resolution

All of these have been done by The Simpsons, of course, most completely in "Last Exit to Springfield".  Obviously the B-plot for “Labor Pains” has much less screen time than the A-plot of “Last Exit to Springfield”, so instead of comparing them in whole, just consider those five scenes that they have in common. 

1.  In Zombie Simpsons, Lisa discovers how poorly compensated the “Atomettes” are when the Rich Texan walks over to them and pays them their meager wages, helpfully expositing the amount just in case anyone wasn’t paying attention.  It’s perfectly hacktacular, with characters walking on and off as needed, repeated explanation, and no real connection to anything we’ve seen so far.  (And nevermind pulling a theoretically 8-year-old girl out of the crowd and putting her in a skimpy costume to dance around in front of a bunch of drunken dudes.)

In The Simpsons, Burns decides he wants to cancel dental insurance for his workers more or less out of spite.  He remembers the good old days when you could wall up impudent employees and wants to get back to that.  He doesn’t specifically target the dental plan because it’s expensive or he needs the money, he just wants to screw his workers on the principle that workers should be screwed.  This being The Simpsons, the union doesn’t come off any better.  They almost accepted a keg of beer in exchange for dental coverage and then elected Homer as their leader.  Not only does all this mesh with the B-plot of Lisa needing braces, but it’s a lot more interesting and involved that some simple and heavily exposited pay dispute.  The conflict flows directly from the evil of Burns, Homer gets naturally caught up (instead of just happening to be there), and things can proceed.

Last Exit to Springfield10

“Unless you’re crooked.” “Woo-hoo!”

2.  From there, we see our two opponents, Burns and Homer, hilariously misunderstand each other, starting with Burns trying to bribe Homer and Homer thinking Burns is hitting on him.  Homer hates his new position so much that he goes to resign, but the hotheads in the union cut him off and assume he wants to go to war with Burns instead.  The whole strike is a farce, built on one comic misperception after another.  In "Labor Pains", Lisa and the Rich Texan both wander to cheerleading practice for another exposition and coincidence filled meeting that sees both of them going through the motions.

Cheerleader Padyday

I’m sure Jerry Jones has done some terrible things to Cowboys cheerleaders over the decades, but even he doesn’t pay their pittance  personally.

3.  Both episodes feature quick strike scenes and little montages, but all you really need to know is that The Simpsons wrote a strike song and had Lisa sing it whereas Zombie Simpsons grabbed an old Woody Guthrie song called “What Are We Waiting On”.  That’s pretty lazy, but it’s even worse than it first seems because while the song does contain the word “union”, Guthrie isn’t referring to a labor union, but rather the Union (as in the United States of America).  The song is about fighting Hitler, not fighting management.  So not only did Zombie Simpsons just buy a song, they picked a song by Woody Guthrie, most famous for singing about the lives of working people, that isn’t actually about working people.  Jebus.

Weak Scabs

Oh, Patty & Selma, remember when you were awesome and didn’t take shit from people?

4.  When Burns counterattacks the union, he goes with head busting strikebreakers, fire hoses, and robot workers.  His ideas are very Burns like: outdated and/or insane, but ruthless and at least theoretically effective.  The Rich Texan, on the other hand, makes just a single countermove: hiring Patty, Selma, Nelson’s mom, and the Crazy Cat Lady to replace the hardbodied twenty-somethings who make up his usual cheer squad.  Say what you want about the robot workers, but the box did say they’d be “100% Loyal”.  It could have worked.  Crazy Cat Lady in spandex, on the other hand, is weak tea gross out humor that nicely demonstrates just how empty this conflict really is.

Last Exit to Springfield12

The kind they had in the 30s . . .

5.  And what happens at the end?  Well, the Rich Texan goes to the Simpson house (which is where the strike is being organized because shut up that’s why) and concedes because apparently it never occurred to him to hire more hardbodied twenty-somethings.  Compare that meek surrender to Burns, who deliberately blacks out all of Springfield (even the red light district and the fake vomit factory) while quoting Captain Ahab’s speech from the end of “Moby Dick”.  Having tried to destroy the entire town rather than surrender, Burns finally admits defeat.  The Rich Texan went down with hardly a peep.

Tried Nothing and I'm All Out of Ideas

Ladies, I’m here to wrap up this B-plot because the A-plot has scenes even worse than this coming right up.

The Simpsons mocked both labor and management to within an inch of reality and let the good guys win only because the bad guy is irredeemably insane.  Zombie Simpsons had some cheerleaders giggle and shake their stuff.

The tragedy of all this is that “cheerleader union” is a fantastic idea.  Real NFL cheerleaders are basically paid in pompoms, and an actual Simpsons episode about them unionizing or just getting something more than a token salary (most make well under $100 per game, and they have to do lots of uncompensated non-game stuff as well) could be hilarious.  Instead we got this.  Oh well.

02
Sep
13

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield10

“I move that Homer Simpson be our new union president!  All in favor?” – Carl
“Aye!” – Nuclear Plant Workers
“All opposed?” – Carl
“Nay.” – Mumbly Guy
“Congratulations, Homer!” – Carl
“Hey, what does this job pay?” – Homer Simpson
“Nothing.” – Carl
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Unless you’re crooked!” – Carl
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

15
May
13

Quote of the Day

Dr. Joyce Brothers (The Naked Gun)

“Tonight on Smartline, the power plant strike: argle-bargle or foofaraw?  With us tonight are plant owner C.M. Burns, union kingpin Homer Simpson, and talk show mainstay Dr. Joyce Brothers.” – Kent Brockman
“I brought my own mike.” – Dr. Joyce Brothers




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