Posts Tagged ‘The Yellow Badge of Cowardge

12
Jun
14

Zombie Simpsons Should Go and Die With a Heated Coathanger In Its Bum

By Connor Dunphy 

Yo, it’s Dead Homer Society. You know how it is, you ain’t here if you don’t. Let’s get straight to it, because I got something to rant about.

Charlie and his accomplices have done a real fine job of utterly deconstructing Zombie Simpsons. And it deserves every single bit of it, because watching it is like seeing your beloved Grandma contract dementia and then proceed to start being really mean and horrible for no reason. Everything they’ve mentioned: the dialogue, the storylines, the characterization, lack thereof of all three, it’s all grade A, 100%, farmer’s dream bullshit. Today, though, I’m here to properly shed some light on something else. I’m gonna scoop some of that bullshit from a corner of the bottom of the barrel which I don’t think has been properly examined: the animation of Zombie Simpsons.

Ever since I started thinking about how this show has declined other than “eh it’s not as good, I guess”, since I read the very first word of this site’s manifesto, what’s pissed me off the most, got me to pause whatever platform I’m watching the show from, made me draw characters on my toilet paper to properly represent where their shenanigans can go, was the way the animation has gone.

Think back to all the classic Simpsons episodes that you know. You got your “You are Lisa Simpson”s, your “Do it for her”s, just all the amazing seasons you see people on Tumblr, Twitter, anything quote. They had amazing animation. Everything felt human. If I could refer to a specific example, it would be the scene where you can pinpoint the exact moment Ralph’s heart breaks in half.

1

 

You can sense, just from how this specific frame is drawn, what the characters are feeling. Lisa feels regret, sorrow, sadness of some kind, and Bart, in his amused indifference, is rubbing it in. You don’t need to watch the entire episode to sense that. You don’t need overwhelming [SOMBER TRUMPET NOISES] to know that they’re feeling that, because you know who the characters are, what their personalities are. If someone came up to me and said “hey dude, I never seen the Simpsons can you show me a quick sum up of the characters”, then I’d take pity on them for being denied a right as entitled to him/her as freedom of speech, and show them this picture. Everyone knows the barest thing about the Simpsons. Hell, I used to listen to this square-ass radio station where middle-aged people would get asked “who is the mischievous person in the Simpsons” and they’d just instantly say Bart.

You look at this picture, and you have the 0.003333333% of Simpsons knowledge that everyone who’s never watched it does, you know what’s going on. This is the beauty of old Simpsons animation, it fit the characters and the storyline. A truly great producer has their music fit the vocalist, whether it’s a rapper or a folk singer, they use the right sounds, samples and all of that to make sure that it all comes together. They may have created them, but the people behind the Simpsons managed to perfectly encapsulate the essence of the characters in every frame.

Sadly, this is the end of the good. The good that makes the bad just a little bit badder. Now we move onto my grievances. The Simpsons died in an unspecified date between 1997 – 1998, and it happened too slowly for us to properly evacuate the premises before being revealed to it’s rotting form, so we could only stiffen our bodies in shock as it began spewing acidic vomit piles such as “Saddlesore Galctica”, “The Principal and the Pauper”, and “Lisa the Skeptic”, just awful episode after awful episode as we stood in front of this now monstrous, decaying creature, our forearms eroding off of our bodies from the acid, nervously thinking “It’s only a little burn, it’s still good! It’s still good!”. Speaking of “Saddlesore Galactica”, I might as well use it as Exhibit A.

2

Does anyone care how this is drawn?
Zombie Simpsons animators: No!

I want you to look real closely at the above picture. If possible, line it up with the previous picture that I so affectionately praised. Remember the whole thing about being able to see what the characters are feeling, having some rudimentary look into their motivations? If you can honestly look at that picture, especially in comparison to the previous one, and see that, then I will personally come over to your house and let you make me watch Season 21, Clockwork Orange style.

Anyways, my point is that you can’t. You can’t see what the characters are feeling, you can’t have an idea of what the story is. Probably the only thing that I can say about this type of animation is that it’s consistent with everything else in the episode.

Just glance at everyone in the picture. Homer has the only actual expression, and even without context it’s a disgustingly-OOC face that spits on the personality built up for him in the past 7 seasons. Everyone else, from the formerly three dimensional main characters, to the background characters, all have blank looks like they just got lobotomized. Chief Wiggum is redundantly inserted into the scene, sans purpose. The three people beside him look like that puppet Krusty brought in to compete with Gabbo (you know, the one whose mouth fell off and terrified all in attendance). The three people in the foreground have no eyes. [Ed note: Eww.]  All of them look like they’re in stasis, waiting to be used, to be actually in some semblance of a sensical story. They aren’t, of course, because this episode prioritizes edgy horses and here today, gone tomorrow jokes about Bill Clinton, but I digress.

It really baffles me how the animators, the writers, the network, could look at frames like this, where basically the minimum amount of effort has been put in, and think “Yes, this is as good as the previous episodes, let’s release it.”. What used to be relatable human beings became a bunch of zombies with thumbs stuck up their collective ass, existing only to provide the most masturbatory and dismissive of jokes.

Now, it’s all well and good to curbstomp “Saddlesore Galactica”, and I’d like to do it a bit more (maybe later, if you’re up for it), but that is not the extent of my problems with this style. Let’s take it 10 years forward. Zombie Simpsons has now achieved Lisa Trevor status, and is shuffling around the Earth, surviving all attacks against it whilst desperately calling out for a remnant of it’s past. Homer’s a high-pitched noise machine now used in Guantanamo Bay interrogation sessions, everybody says how they feel a lot, Bob’s your uncle.

By this time, the Simpsons had converted to HD animation. I wanna precede the following fancy version of saying “Fuck this show” by noting that the problem does not lie with the use of HD. Basically everything other than Zombie Simpsons has shown us that HD can be used to create beautiful works of art. It lies with the fact that the format was not only misused, but also had a hand in revealing just how homogenized the show had and has became.

3

You probably saw this in the most recent Compare and Contrast. This is an example of how crap the Simpsons has become. Sterile as the reconditioning dystopia led by Flanders, as awkward-looking as a guy wearing a fedora with a trollface T-shirt, I believe the layman’s term is “awful”.

As you can see from inside the car, the blank expression thing has returned, albeit evolved. Now, the only expressions a character can have when they’re not explicitly the focus of whatever half-baked storyline they’re putting out is either the aforementioned “Stare into the distance blankly, often with mouth slightly agape” or the brand-new “Stare into the distance blankly EXCEPT NOW YOU SMILE WOAAAAH”. Homer looks like he’s in a goddamned Mr. Men book, like he’s about to tell Mr. Greedy that he’s greedy. Because of that, all this is, sans context, is just Homer and some guy driving around with a bunch of weirdly-shaded gunpowder containers. This could be some one-off joke; it could be a pivotal point in the storyline; it could be it’s climax; shit, it could probably pass for those time-consuming couch gags. I wouldn’t put it past them.

Everything is technically sound, but what it misses is the actual substance behind it. A corporate executive who basically is the embodiment of everything Frank Zappa despises can perfectly replicate something, whether it be music, a book, a video game, anything, but it will always lack the appeal that brought it to their attention in the first place. The emotion, the meaning, the life behind it, they will never be able to replicate that. Simpsons gave us emotional, inspiring moments and the criticisms of a system we all hated, Zombie Simpsons gives us coldly-animated, poorly composed frames and a yellow hand holding a can of Axe body spray.

This show was once a living legend. If it had died in 1997, we would be celebrating it like Tupac. Now that it’s still alive, the entirety of it’s viewership is slowly beginning to sour on it like Jay-Z. All of this animation only contributes to the decline in quality of Zombie Simpsons, and it just starts to get sad. I’ve found there are two stages to this life that you, I, Charlie, and others live. First is the catharsis of criticizing this cascade of crud, then comes the disappointment you have in the show, the show you grew up on, the show that taught you about some parts of the world by making you laugh and making you feel. The show that you no longer have. Believe me, man, I wouldn’t be so expansive in my rage if I thought the Simpsons was okay.

That’s about it. I don’t have anything to plug, I’m just a young Scottish boy on the grind. Shoutout to Charlie for giving me the opportunity to write this. One love. [Ed Note: Aww.]

22
May
14

Compare & Contrast: Homer and 4th of July Fireworks Disasters

Summer of 4 Ft 2(15)

“This baby’s sure to kill something!” – Homer Simpson

There is little doubt that a man who famously likes his beer cold, his teevee loud, and his homosexuals flaming, is a big fan of the thundering light show that is Fourth of July fireworks.  Of course, Homer is also the exact opposite person who should ever actually be involved with them.  He is thoughtless, careless and impulsive, and those are not traits that mix well with gunpowder.  In “The Yellow Badge of Cowardage”, Zombie Simpsons played with that combustible mixture and blew itself up.  In “Summer of 4 Ft. 2”, The Simpsons used the same ingredients to put on a masterful display.

To see the difference between that crowd pleasing spectacle and the kind of disaster that makes people run away screaming, there’s only really two things we need to consider: 1) getting the fireworks and 2) using them.  For the first, Zombie Simpsons makes things easy because they barely bother to show us anything.  Homer and Not Don Vittorio initially go to Cletus’s farm (why? who cares?) where they fail to buy anything.  The very next scene with the two of them is this:

Homer: Okay, let’s make some fireworks.

InstandGunpowder

Uh, I guess they found some?

There’s no explanation of where it came from or how they got it, and certainly not because of time constraints.  After this we get the interminable and mechanically narrated “drive around with gunpowder” scene, which is nothing but the two of them telling us what they’re about to do and then doing it: cobblestone streets, a rickety bridge, gaslights . . . it just keeps going.  So not only did they skip over something important, but they did so with forty-five seconds of filler.

Compare that to Homer’s immortal attempt to act casual like he buys illegal fireworks all the time.  Text is a weak excuse for Castellaneta’s exquisite delivery, and can never hope to reproduce that blithely misplaced confidence that he’s being smooth, but here it is anyway:

Homer: Hi, um, let me have one of those porno magazines, large box of condoms, bottle of Old Harper, couple of those panty shields, and some illegal fireworks . . . and one of those disposable enemas.  Nah, make it two.

This is lunatic insanity of the absolute best kind.  Homer is precisely himself: clueless and utterly incompetent.  The items he thinks are innocuous are the kind of thing that might get a real convenience store owner to tip the police off to this weirdo in his store.  Better yet, the Apu stand-in doesn’t even flinch, calmly explaining that he has no fireworks right up until the coast is clear, whereupon he instantly takes Homer back to his storeroom/arsenal:

Summer of 4 Ft 2(14)

Hey, look, multiple sign gags in just one shot.  I’m particularly fond of “Tang Tse Doodle”.

Once there we get to the M-320 (“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”) and Homer’s quick and happy response: “Alright”. Coincidentally, the entire scene, from the time Homer walks into the store until he purchases the M-320, takes almost exactly the same amount of time as the pointless gunpowder driving scene in “The Yellow Badge of Cowardage”.  This is the entirety of the dialogue from that fiasco:

Not Don Vittorio: Now drive slowly and carefully to my workshop.  It’s in the cobblestone district.
Homer: Oh, thank God, a rickety bridge.
Not Don Vittorio: Don’t worry, we’ll be safe in the gaslamp district.

That’s it.  In the time The Simpsons showed us Homer’s hilariously moronic attempt to be smooth and gave the world the M-320, Zombie Simpsons managed three lines of hapless exposition. The comparison doesn’t get any better for Zombie Simpsons when we move along to the actual using of the fireworks.

Befitting the sudden nonsense that got Homer and Not Don Vittorio the gunpowder in the first place, we see the two of them get into an argument on the fireworks barge over whether July 2nd or July 4th is the right day to celebrate.  The barge then instantly tilts over somehow and points its fireworks at the crowd. This is yet another example of the complete apathy Zombie Simpsons has for even the tiniest bit of story cohesion.  Not Don Vittorio is supposed to be a retired fireworks expert, so it’s not like it would’ve been hard for him to have shown just a little impatience with Homer leading up to this part.  Instead, the two of them just start battling it out over nothing with no warning whatsoever.

Compounding matters, the barge they’re on manages to (again with no warning, no foreshadowing, no nothing) conveniently tip over in way that barges like that are physically incapable of doing.  It’s one thing to have a rubber band reality where things can be stretched a bit from what physics allows here in the real world.  It’s quite another to toss weird, unexpected and just plain stupid events into scenes because you need to cut a very big corner.  This particular one is even worse than usual because this odd break with the audience’s expectations is immediately followed by people screaming in fear, as if we’re meant to take the danger posed by the fireworks seriously.

BargeoftheImagination

Somehow it manages to stay like this, and we’re supposed to be worried.

You can have physically impossible craziness, or you can have serious physical danger; you can’t have both.  The Simpsons, of course, understood that, and that understanding is crucial to making Homer’s disastrous attempt to light the M-320 pitch perfect.

Having purchased all of his fake items anyway despite not needing or wanting them (because he really is that dumb), Homer heads back to the Flanderses beach house, excited to play with his new toy.  Bart not having any matches, Homer heads into the kitchen for another scene that cannot be described in text.  What’s important to remember is that from the time he lights the middle of the fuse all the way through his casually walking away from the grotesque, brackish sewage that comes burbling up from the sink, there’s never any attempt to treat the danger seriously. Instead, we’re treated to Homer’s panic:

M-320

A .gif, is a poor imitation, I know, but you get the idea. 

There’s no attempt to make this serious, it’s just pure, uncut fun.  And while Homer is scared, he’s still Homer; so he’s willing to risk life and limb to save the beer once he realizes it’s in the fridge with his gargantuan firecracker.  Having destroyed the dishwasher and trashed the kitchen, he calmly walks away.  After all, it was like that when he got there.  (And, of course, the episode later shows them using broken dishes and Marge cleaning up Homer’s mess, because unlike on Zombie Simpsons, events on The Simpsons are actually connected to one another.)

In “The Yellow Badge of Cowardage”, Bart eventually saves the day by driving a bus in front of the fireworks Homer and Not Don Vittorio have managed to fire at the crowd.  It’s a cheap ending for the same reason so many of the stories on Zombie Simpsons are cheap: it comes out of nowhere.  Bart conveniently sees the bus, conveniently finds the keys, conveniently drags Milhouse (who’s supposedly furious with him) along, and conveniently wraps everything up with some more of their oh, so helpful exposition.

Homer’s fireworks disaster wasn’t his own doing, it was just a thing that happened because the story needed to be wrapped up.  It was dumb; it was weird; and it was ultimately hollow since the Homer we know and love, the doofus who adores fireworks but it far too dimwitted to know how to use them, didn’t have anything to do with it.  By contrast, the Homer who destroys his neighbor’s kitchen and leaves his wife an unholy mess to clean is the destructive but malice free idiot who can make us laugh with nothing more than a frantic flailing of his limbs.

19
May
14

Behind Us Forever: The Yellow Badge of Cowardge

Chalkboard - The Yellow Badge of Cowardage
“Gratzi, gratzi, you have brought great joy to this old Italian stereotype.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio
“No, no, Don Vittorio, you’re not-” – Legs
“Yes, I am.  I know it, I am.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio

If nothing else, “The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” capped off Season 25 with the same brand of forgettable and lackluster nonsense that we’ve come to expect.  (Points for consistency, if literally nothing else.)  Jokes and childishly simple plot points are explained ad nauseam while the overall story staggers around in a world of dull nonsense.  So, for example, near the middle of the episode Homer and the guy who looks and sounds like Don Vittorio DiMaggio but isn’t Don Vittorio DiMaggio drive around with barrels of gunpowder strapped to their car.  Despite the fact that we know nothing of consequence is going to happen, the show insists on driving them through a bunch of neighborhoods where everything might explode.  It goes on for the better part of a minute and they explain every place they go before they get there.  It’s Season 25 (and really all of Zombie Simpsons) in a nutshell: a bad joke that’s explained ahead of time and then run into the ground.

– At least the couch gag was short.  Didn’t have a couch, but it was short.

– Why is Lisa narrating when the first time we see her she’s asleep?

– Bart banging pots and pans . . . feels like I’ve seen that before.  Also, he explained what he was doing while he was doing it.

– “That’s a prison road crew” – Marge, telling us what we’re looking at.

– Having had a couple of jokes explained while they were happening, here’s Marge to pre-explain the fire department delivering pizza in a pointless, Family Guy aside.

– Narration Lisa is now also pre-explaining the jokes “and run with your leg tied to someone who wouldn’t talk to you all year”.

– Cletus, doing the same.

– Skinner is getting pelted with eggs.  He used to be good at his job.

– As is sometimes the case, the sign gags are at least okay.  Lewis’s out of office text message was kinda funny.  It couldn’t save that extended bit with Chalmers just yelling and mumbling, but it wasn’t terrible.

– This whole field day is an excuse for them to jump from one bad idea to another.

– Okay, Edwin Moses contemptuously saying that all hurdles are the same size was funny.

– The cheese grater abs on Milhouse are kinda gross.

– I think Chalmers reciting all the kids names is supposed to be fan service.  Getting hard to tell.

– Aaaaand, proving once again that they will overuse anything decent, they have Moses jump off a cliff (literally).

– Nelson’s here to punch Milhouse.  Supposedly he’s there because the bullies don’t want to pay off a bet to Martin (which they would do why, exactly?), but maybe he just wanted Milhouse to stop expositing while he ran.

– Speaking of exposition, Narration Lisa is now helpfully explaining his dilemma to us: “Bart faced a terrible choice, take a beating with his friend or slither off like a coward.”

– “Mom, I’m narrating!” <- actual line

– Hibbert, having explained what we just saw happen to Milhouse, now pre-explains the joke about kids having ice cream headaches.

– Time for a Bart dream sequence that re-explains the scene we saw less than two minutes ago.

– Bart is now re-re-re-explaining what happened . . . to Maggie: “You must have figured out I chickened out during the race.”  Shit like this is unforgivably lazy writing.  Could Maggie handing Bart a chicken feather kinda work?  Sure.  But it doesn’t work when she wanders into his room in the middle of the night and then, after the fact, instead of making a joke or even just showing us Bart feeling ashamed, they have him repeat what’s going on.

– Case in point of the above: Narration Lisa is explaining that when Homer was a kid, he liked fireworks because then he couldn’t hear his parents yelling.  Fine.  But instead of showing us that, and maybe even trying to make it funny while it happens, they tell us what’s going on explicitly, “It was the one night of every year that he couldn’t hear his parents argue.  He figured it was because they loved the fireworks just as much as he did.”.

– More of same: “With his mother gone, Homer needed a hero, and no one was more of a hero than the magical little man behind the controls.”  Stop. Explaining. Everything. Please?

– After Homer and the old fireworks guy who looks and talks like Don Vittorio DiMaggio spit one liners at each other, the A-plot returns to once again remind us that Bart is feeling guilty.  This will not be the last time.

– Homer and the repeat old Italian stereotype are now buying fireworks from Cletus.  It ends with an exploding Spider-Pig.

– Bart is now sharing a stage with Drederick Tatum for winning that race.  One of Tatum’s actual lines, “What’s going on?  Seriously, what’s transpiring?”  They’re actually asking themselves for more exposition.

– After some more expositions (“Bart’s a coward”, “He lied to us”), Tatum tells the tattoo guy (what, you didn’t think there’d be a tattoo guy there?) to change his tattoo of Bart.

– Another decent sign gag with “Fruit Tree Sale, Grow a Pear!”.

– Old people saying they’re all cowards is a decent enough idea, but once again they manage to stretch things too long, re-re-re-explain themselves several times, and generally screw things up.

– After Bart wakes up with Milhouse in his bed, we get yet more nonsense exposition, “This is an angry sleepover, I’m only doing it because it was on the books.”.  It’s one thing to have quick aside scenes, it’s another to have them involve both of the main characters in the A-plot in a way that doesn’t fit in with what we’re seeing and then having one of them say why.

– The Homer driving montage would’ve been much funnier if they hadn’t pre-explained every joke and then have it go on for forty-five seconds.

– And speaking of weak jokes that take too long: Wiggum and Lou trying to fire their Revolutionary War muskets.

– Homer has gotten into an unexpected fight for the second week in a row.  This time it’s on a barge full of fireworks that will end up pointing directly at the crowd for a few moments of fake tension.

– Still more evidence of how hacktacular all of this is.  The fireworks are pointed at the crowd.  Bart spies the Retirement Castle bus, then looks at the keys hanging off the back of the driver’s belt.  Fine.  Overly convenient and kinda dumb, but not beyond rescue.  Then Bart says this, “Milhouse, this is my chance to make things right.”.  Ugh.

– Grampa fleeing by saying “Don’t worry, boys, I’ll be with you all the way to Berlin” was kinda funny.  As per standard Zombie Simpsons procedure, however, they have to stretch it by having him jump in a nearby boat that we’d never seen before.

– Carl just made a Twitter joke . . . then he explained it and told us what we were looking at.

– Actual line: “Quit explaining everything!”.  Make of that what you will.

– And we end the season with Grampa playing piano and an unrelated epilogue where Bart brushes his teeth and Maggie squeaks like a chicken.

Anyway, the numbers are in and . . . they did it!  Last night just 3.28 million people wished the writing staff had the courage to let the show die.  That is good for #2 on the all time least watched list (only the 7:30pm, sad-kid-mental-patient “Diggs” remains lower) and it pushes the average overnight rating for Season 25 down to 4.99 million viewers.  Back in March and April, when they were pulling in low 4 and high 3 million numbers, I didn’t think they’d stink out loud enough to get down under 5 for the season, but the last few weeks have gone a long way towards showing just how unloved this show has become.

I’m planning on doing a longer ratings post this week or next, but in the meantime, here is the current list of least watched episodes.  Note that all but #10 are from this season:

(Season-Ep/Date/Viewers in Millions/Title)

  1. 25-12 / 9-Mar-14 / 2.65 / Diggs
  2. 25-22 / 18-May-14 / 3.28 / The Yellow Badge of Cowardage
  3. 25-19 / 27-Apr-14 / 3.38 / What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting
  4. 25-18 / 13-Apr-14 / 3.59 / Days of Future Future
  5. 25-21 / 11-May-14 / 3.61 / Pay Pal
  6. 25-13 / 9-Mar-14 / 3.73 / The Man Who Grew Too Much
  7. 25-11 / 26-Jan-14 / 3.91 / Specs and the City
  8. 25-15 / 23-Mar-14 / 3.93 / The War of Art
  9. 25-16 / 30-Mar-14 / 3.94 / You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee
  10. 23-21 / 13-May-12 / 4.00 / Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend

Those are not the numbers of a healthy show.  Then again, undead things don’t have pulses anyway.

18
May
14

Sunday Preview: The Yellow Badge Of Cowardge

 

The_Yellow_Badge_of_Cowardge_Promo_4 (2)

Bart is plagued with guilt when he wins the annual “last day of school” race around Springfield Elementary, with an assist from Nelson, who beats up frontrunner Milhouse. Meanwhile, Homer tries to bring back the annual 4th of July fireworks display after it’s canceled for budget reasons.

 

This is the season finale, so we got that going for us. However, based on the description, there will most likely be lost of guilt horns, so that sucks.  I also read that Glenn Close will be voicing Mona Simpson tonight. I am almost certain she is dead, unless they brought her back in one of the many ZS episodes I neglected to watch,  so maybe its in a dream sequence. Whateves,  I am less interested in solving that mystery than I am in figuring out why Bart gives a crap about winning a race around the school in the first place.




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