Thursday, November 09, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twenty-Five - “Ultrasuede is a miracle. This is just good timing."

Season 8, Episode 15
“Homer’s Phobia”
First Broadcast: February 16, 1997

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

After one of Bart’s pranks (frankly I forget which – the one with the dryer race, maybe?) adds to the family’s perpetual money troubles, Marge volunteers to sell a Bouvier family heirloom, and the family heads to Cockamamie’s, a store full of kitsch collectables at the mall, leading them to make friends with the store’s proprietor, John – who also discovers that Marge’s heirloom, perceived to be a Civil War-era statuette, is actually a whisky bottle.

John is fascinated with the Simpsons’ sense of style (“pearls on a little girl!”) and the family enjoys his company.  However, Homer shuns John after Marge reveals he is homosexual, and begins to worry about John’s influence on Bart, prompting Homer’s emergency half-assed over-parenting to kick in.

After exposing Bart to as many ‘manly’ activities as possible, including a trip to a steel mill that does not turn out to be as heterosexual as Homer hoped, he takes Bart hunting with Moe and Barney, and having left empty handed, drops by Santa’s Village to bag a reindeer.  This plan backfires when the reindeer attack and encircle Bart and Homer, leaving John to save the day with his robotic Japanese Santa Claus, which in turn re-endears John to Homer.


The introduction of Japanese Robo-Santa:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
The various doo-dads in Cockamamie’s, including Pogo Stilts and a sci-fi robot replete with the bones of its dead operator.

A small piece of dialogue between John and one Waylon Smithers.  We have no idea what that could possibly signify…


“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory receives a couple of choice airings, as the anthem of anybody who works hard and plays hard:


Homosexuality has generally been depicted with repect in The Simpsons, though stereotyping does persist for assumedly harmless comic effect.  Outside of John here and Karl in “Simpson and Delilah”, the most high-profile homosexual character in The Simpsons is Marge’s sister Patty Bouvier, who eventually came out of the closet to marry her girlfriend in “There’s Something About Marrying” – although her girlfriend was later revealed as a man, so…  Yeah.  Season Sixteen, folks.

At this stage, and for no apparent reason, I feel compelled to mention one Waylon Smithers Jr., the real deal with whom is that he is Mr. Burns' assistant.  He's in his early forties, is unmarried, and currently resides in Springfield.  Thanks for writing!

John Waters, who voices – perhaps shockingly – John, is one of America’s most celebrated outsider filmmakers.  Responsible for triumphs of bad taste such as “Pink Flamingos”, “Multiple Maniacs” and “Female Trouble”, he worked for the most part with close friend Divine on a body of work that has to be seen to be believed.

It’s also worth noting that John is first seen wearing Homer’s ‘Pin Pals’ bowling shirt from “Team Homer”, as bought for him by replacement fourth member Mr Burns.  It is heavily implied that Marge gave the shirt to a charity shop without Homer’s prior knowledge.  Homer, of course, barely notices.


This episode does receive a lot of flak from some quarters for Homer’s characterisation; we’re still some years from Jerk-Ass Homer’s wave of inconsideration, but here he is undeniably in an indefensible position – he is, as the title very strongly suggests, homophobic, and the decision to make him so outwardly vile is a controversial one, though one that undeniably keeps the focus of the episode front and centre by involving its primary character.

His redemption of sorts here underpins a message episode, but one that was largely in keeping with social thinking and the progression thereof at the time.  The Simpsons is ostensibly a left wing, inclusive show - aside from the influence of creator Matt Groening, whose NRA membership and many right-wing references are well documented elsewhere - although one that is not afraid to poke fun at the foibles of the left, so the eventual confrontation of this issue was inevitable.

The episode is fun, and the people with the outmoded ideals get the short end of the stick, though not to any horrendous extent – and you can’t argue with the double header of John Waters and C+C Music Factory.  Now ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky…

Join us next time as we get education fraudulently-hee-hee.

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