Thursday, October 19, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twenty-Eight - “We’re gonna grease ourselves up *real good*, and trash that place with a baseball bat!”

Season 7, Episode 16
“Lisa The Iconoclast”
Broadcast: February 18, 1996
Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

As Springfield's perfectly cromulent bicentennial approaches, Lisa attempts to embiggen an essay on Springfield’s founder by learning more about him at Springfield Historical Society.  In the course of her research she discovers that the character of Jebediah was merely an alias for murderous pirate Hans Sprungfeld, and decides to reveal this in her essay.

Labelled a “greasy thug” by the townsfolk for her besmirching of their hero, Lisa is aided in her quest for the truth by Homer, who has taking the ceremonial position of town crier in the related celebratory parade by sheer volume and obnoxiousness.  He uses his clout to have Jebediah’s coffin exhumed; when the skull inside does not contain the silver tongue Sprungfeld used after his own was bitten off in a bar fight, Lisa is discredited and Homer loses his criership.

Lisa eventually discovers that Hollis Hurlbut, the chairman of the Historical Society, saw the tongue at the disinterment and snatched it while the dust was clearing.  He has an epiphany and rushes Lisa to the parade to present the evidence.  On viewing the crowds she decides that the idea of Jebediah is of utmost importance to the town, opts not to shatter their happy illusion, and reunites with Homer, who has assaulted and replaced his successor as town crier, the hapless Ned Flanders.


A throwaway conversation between Miss Hoover and Mrs Krabappel that actually embiggens the English language.  They gift us not only “embiggen” (a verb meaning to grow or expand), but also “croumulent” (an adjective meaning valid or acceptable).
Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
A classic slice of Jerk-Ass Homer (before that was even properly a thing), as he wrests the position of crier from Ned Flanders not once but twice, including damaging the antique hat that Ned actually owns.  Ned, of course, takes it like a champ.
Hans Sprungfeld’s brutal brawl with George Washington, including the most painful employment of wooden dentures imaginable.

"The Ballad of Jebediah Springfield" is played over the closing credits.  This country-fried style seems to suit The Simpsons' songsmiths, as the same basic template would later be used for the classic "Canyonero" and had previously powered Lurleen Lumpkin to what passes for fame for a country singer.


Jebediah Springfield sort-of first appears back in Season One's "The Telltale Head", albeit in statue form.  The founder of Springfield, a town stemming from a disagreement over cousin marriage between Springfield and his good friend Shelbyville Manhattan (as revealed in "Lemon Of Troy"), he was either a buffalo-taming, bear-killing inspiration or a murderous pirate killed by said bear - or, more complicatedly, both.
Some legacy opportunities seem to have been passed by, however: I don’t recall “embiggen”, “cromulent” or the character of Hollis Hurlbut ever making repeat appearances.  That means this bit will be shorter than usual, so...  Er.  Yeah.

“Lisa episodes” have a bad rap with the world in general.  Whereas Bart or Homer’s name in an episode title usually means a mischievous romp is ahead, and Marge’s often alerts us to genuine emotion and adult issues, Lisa’s is usually shorthand for an episode dealing heavy-handedly with an issue around the environment or political and social issues, which is a hard sell for a half-hour comedy.

This one is an exception though.  It deals very deftly with the notion that the idea of a person and the stories around them can be more important than the truth around the person themselves, and that the inspiration taken from these stories can be positive even if the person themselves was no angel, which was recently tackled in a much more on-the-nose fashion by "Rick and Morty", via a paedophilic anthropomorphic jellybean.  As you do.

It’s also a rare episode where we’re entirely on Lisa’s side; she’s not nagging or hectoring, not smug or superior, and the issue at hand is one that is genuinely of a lot of importance, both historically and for her present community.  This time it’s nice to be rooting for the little guy – and she’s the littlest guy we know.
Atomic Sourpuss would like to apologise for the brevity of the "History/Legacy" section in this post.  The author is believed to be too drunk to properly complete his research.  In compensation, we present this picture of a weasel:

Join us next time for part one of a sporting double header, at the blog where I dispense the insults, rather than receive them.

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