Lifetime of Simpsons

S05 E14 – Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy

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Happy Monday everybody! Let’s talk about misogyny and the cutthroat world of plastic dolls! So of course this is a Lisa episode, although it would have been hilarious if this was all about Homer or Bart being upset with the sexism in the doll industry.

We start off with a wonderfully weird scene where Grandpa and good old Jasper are standing around at the opening of a new Center for Geriatric Medicine. But they’re really only there to see TV’s Matlock, who I for the longest time didn’t realize was a real thing. Kind of like McGyver, it was such a strange reference to something that as a kid I was not familiar with, I kind of assumed it was a joke on something else. Like, I didn’t think there was really a show called Matlock about a lawyer putting young people behind bars, where they belong, and assumes it was a parody of some other weird show old people watched. But apparently he’s real, and when he shows up the old people swarm the old man and take his medicine and hair. But as they ride the bus home and we see an ambulance frantically trying to bring Matlock back to life, Grandpa starts to feel some worry about his own mortality. So with death on his mind, he goes to the family’s house to give them their inheritance so he can see them enjoy it before he dies, which is a really sweet gesture. But the inheritance is a little odd. Lisa gets a stack of correspondence Grandpa has acquired over his years of harassing celebrities through the mail, and then everyone else just gets a box of silver dollars he got from when J.D. Rockefeller threw coins from his zeppelin. I’m not sure why only Lisa got something special, but whatever, the family is off to the mall to spend their coins!

They head right to a toy story and quickly blow through all the coins and we get a montage of the crazy things they do in public. We get a rare sighting of Maggie being a genius while she writes her name on an Etch-A-Sketch before Homer slams some crazy GI Joe murder fortress down on her table, thinking that this is an appropriate toy for a baby. Meanwhile Grandpa is just randomly breaking toys while complaining about their shoddy workmanship, and after striking out with Maggie Homer starts playing a giant piano like Big, much to everyone’s hatred. But the real plot gets going when Lisa and Marge head to the part of the story that sells dolls, which is wonderfully named “Valley of the Dolls,” as Lisa starts wailing of other little girls like its Black Friday. But as she tries to grab all the Malibu Stacy crap she can, a man shows up with a cart of new talking Malibu Stacy dolls. So after the little girls maul this man, Lisa gets her talking doll and they head home with all their loot.

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The plot starts up when they get back to the house, and Grandpa is depressed to see that this gesture hasn’t helped with his sense of impending death, and he’s even more bummed that the family clearly doesn’t want to spend time with him. Homer tells him it’s because he’s a cranky old coot, so Grandpa decides to start acting young, even though his first attempt entails drinking Buzz cola, which burns his tongue. And while all of this is going on, Lisa is apparently just sitting to the left of them, getting ready to finally hear Malibu Stacy talk. She gets all the other dolls set up like it’s a press conference, and is shocked to see that Stacy is programmed to say incredibly misogynistic things. She gets super pissed, and takes it all out on Bart since he jokes about sexism being fine. And when Lisa is pissed, we know that she’s going to try and rattle some cages.

Unfortunately, like most of Lisa’s causes, no one else really cares. She tries to get the other girls in school all roiled up, but the only one who even cares is a some weird looking girl whose doll got messed up in the factory and is saying Spider-Man quotes instead. So with her peers not on board, she tries to get the family to help. But they also aren’t really into it, since they’re a little resentful of all the social justice things Lisa keeps making them do. So Lisa calls the Malibu Stacy hotline, and we sadly don’t get a fun hold music gag, but she does learn they do factory tours, so Marge relents and takes her. So they head off to the Malibu Stacy factory for their incredibly strange tour. The female tour-guide is extremely full of praise for the doll, even though we see that it’s just a dingy warehouse where gross men smoke cigarettes and swear at each other while putting the dolls together. “There’s a clog in the torso chute! Leroy! Get your ass in gear!” And the tour ends with a wonderful instructional video, also sadly not hosted by Troy McClure, that shows the history of Malibu Stacy. She was apparently edible in the 50’s, and we also learn that the biggest Malibu Stacy collector in the world is Mr. Smithers. And since the video didn’t really give Lisa an explanation for why the doll is so sexist, she starts asking the tour guide, who doesn’t really care, and we see that the executives are freaking misogynist pigs.

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So Lisa comes home, sad that no one is caring, and starts to commiserate with Grandpa. And while the two complain at each other, they decide to actually do something. Lisa is going to find the creator of the doll and Grandpa is going to get a job at Krusty Burger. And since this is before Google, Lisa doesn’t really have any leads to the reclusive Stacy Lovell, so she heads to Mr. Smithers, since he’s the biggest Stacy fan in the world. He lets her right in and pulls up her last none address after awkwardly watching a wonderful program on Smithers’ computer that has a shirtless Mr. Burns say the immortal line, “Hello Smithers, you are quite good at turning me on.” So Lisa heads off and finds that Lovell lives in the Malibu Stacy Dream House, and that she’s not in the mood to help anybody. That is until Lisa plays the talking Malibu Stacy through the intercom, and she’s instantly disgusted. Turns out Lovell is a bitter old drunk now voiced by the tremendous Kathleen Turner. She’s lived a sad life with a bunch of ex-husbands that are all toys, Dr. Colossus (one of my favorite weird references) and Lee Majors. She doesn’t really have any interest in doing anything about the doll she created, since she was ousted by the company, but Lisa is persistent, and continues to pressure her.

While all of this is going on we occasionally pop over to Grandpa, who is not having a good time working in fast-food with a bunch of teenagers. Even when he goofs off and puts his dentures in a bun, things don’t end well since that bun is wrapped up and sold as a burger. But back in the real plot, Lisa has approached Lovell with the idea to make their own feminist doll, and she finally agrees to help. They then get to work after a wonderful joke where GI Joe shows up, trying to win Stacy back, before threatening to “bomb her home to the ground.” They then head to the Simpsons house and start working on the model of the doll after running into a snag when the Simpson family learn that they all have horrible, horrible hair. Lisa then records the voice for the doll, which also doesn’t go well since Krusty just runs into the room and quickly does the voice for his doll before running off, not even realizing that the dude in the booth wasn’t ready for him.

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But finally the doll is done, and all they need is a name. And since no one takes any of Bart’s wonderful suggestions (Hortence, the Mule-Faced doll) they end up calling it Lisa Lionheart. So the doll is ready to be sold, and things really kick into gear when Kent Brockman’s daughter demands he talks about the doll on the news. And he does, for an excessive amount of time, leading to his wonderful rushed line at the end of the broadcast about that President being arrested for murder. And people are getting excited about the doll, which gets the Malibu Stacy people worried. They even hire a Congressman to throw a brick at their door…which does nothing. We end the weird Grandpa plot around here as he realizes he’d rather be old and complain about things than pretend to be young and contribute to society. Anyway, the doll hits the stores, but right as all the little girls, and Smithers, start running through the store to buy the Lisa Lionheart doll, it turns out they’ve made a new Malibu Stacy, one that has a hat! So they all buy that instead, because people suck. But right as Lisa loses faith in humanity, she sees a single girl buy her doll, and feels content that if she gets through to one little girl, it’ll all be worth it. The episode then ends with Homer obnoxiously playing on the giant piano again, but this time making it play the Simpsons theme.

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This is a pretty great Lisa episode. I feel like the issue I had with Lisa episodes as a kid, and I would wager it’s the issue a lot of people had with them when they were younger, is that they can sometimes be a little preachy. They’re usually about Lisa being indignant about something that really is bad, but that society as a whole just are too apathetic to care about. Institutional misogyny and sexism is a really big deal, and something we definitely haven’t come close to fixing today and it’s great to see them tackling it in the 90s. It’s really shitty that we sell dolls to girls telling them that they have to live up to stereotypes. I feel like there was a real controversy about this sort of thing with Barbie dolls when I was a kid, and it’s great to see Lisa tackling this issue. Good work Lisa.

Take Away: Don’t be a misogynist, especially towards your kids. Oh, and don’t marry Dr. Colossus.

 

“Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” was written by Bill Oakley and directed by Jeffrey Lynch and Josh Weinstein, 1994.

 

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