Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E11 – Marge Be Not Proud

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Man, what an impressive week of episodes. Yeah, we kind of took a bit of a nose-dive yesterday with “the 138th Episode Spectacular,” but we’re about to shoot back up into greatness to end the week. This episode is great. It’s of course funny, but it has some serious emotion in this one, and has some pretty devastating moments in it.

We start off, as we so often do, with an episode of Krusty. But not just any episode of Krusty, we get his Christmas special, a Krusty Kind of Kristmas. Krusty goes through the motions of a typical Christmas special, ignoring the fact that he’s Jewish, and meets his special celebrity guests, Tom Landry and some South American pop star named Xoxchitla that Krusty can’t pronounce. Bart and Lisa are watching Krusty flounder while Bart explains that “Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ,” which is probably what a lot of crazy Christians believe. Anyway, Krusty takes a commercial break, and Bart is enraptured by an ad for a new video game called Bonestorm. It starts off with some kids bored of playing what’s essentially Mortal Kombat, before the most extreme, 90s Santa Claus bursts into their house and makes them play Bonestorm, the most violent thing ever. And Bart needs it!

So as all kids who want a video game they can’t afford do, Bart begins trying every avenue. He goes to Homer and Marge and demands the videogame, but they shoot him down after Homer makes a rambling story about how he got an electronic football game he wanted as a kid. And before Bart keeps looking for ways to get the game, we take a brief break to establish another key part of the episode, the fact that Bart feels he’s being babied. He’s getting ready for bed, and mocks Marge for the elaborate tuck-in song that she clearly sings to him every night, and has done since he was a baby. He explains that he’s mature now, but she pretty much ignores him, and he goes to sleep.

The next day he hits the town to find Bonestorm, and gets excited when he finds the Android’s Dungeon is selling it for 99 cents, but that turns out to only be the rental price, and Comic Book Guy doesn’t even have any left. But he does have an abundance of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. And by the way, I just learned right now that Lee Carvallo isn’t a real golfer, and I’m kind of disappointed. Anyway, Bart leaves the Android’s Dungeon, and finds out Milhouse got Bonestorm, so he heads in to mooch. Milhouse is having a blast playing the game as THRILLHO, and doesn’t really want to share with Bart, so he just ends up yelling out to his mom that Bart’s swearing, which gets him bounced out of the Van Houten house.

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And the plot really gets going when Bart heads over to the Try-N-Save to ogle the Bonestorm copies with the hopes that someone will take pity on him and buy it for him. But that doesn’t happen, and all he sees is some horrible kid named Gavin, who belittles his awful mother into buying him two copies of the game. And while Bart is longing to be a terrible human being like Gavin, he runs into Nelson, Jimbo, and Kearney who are there shoplifting. They tell Bart it’s awesome, and that he should try it, so he begins staring at Bonestorm, contemplating stealing it. He gets visions of Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Sonic who tell him to steal it, while Lee Carvallo is the voice of reason telling him not to. But Bart ignores Lee, and steals the game, heading out of the store with it. But when he leaves the building, he’s stopped by Don Brodka, the security guard.

Bart is brought to Brodka’s office, and is forced to watch the beginning of a terrible Troy McClure video about the dangers of shoplifting. But since the video is mainly Troy McClure making up the history of shoplifting, Brodka ends it and starts intimidating Bart. He ends up leaving a message on the Simpsons’ answering machine, and tells Bart that if he ever comes back to the Try-N-Save he’ll send him to juvenile hall. So Bart rushes home, and manages to switch the answering machine tape with Alan Sherman’s Camp Grenada, confident that no one would ever try to listen to Camp Grenada. Problem solved!

Wrong! The next morning Bart wakes up, in a wonderful mood, only to learn that the family is planning on going to Try-N-Save and get a family photo for Christmas. Bart does his best to avoid this horrible plan, but since he can’t admit that he’s not allowed there, he has to follow them. Marge even guilts him into realizing that Bart has ruined every other family photo they’ve ever taken, and all Marge wants for Christmas is one good photo. So they head to the Try-N-Save, where Bart tries to avoid all the security cameras and speed the whole process up. But the family plans to spend the whole damn day there, and the photo-guy is super slow anyway. And the photo is finally taken, right as Brodka spots Bart and yanks him out of the frame, ruining yet another photo. Brodka then explains that Bart stole the videogame, which Marge absolutely refuses is possible. That is until Brodka shows them the tape of him doing it, showing that Bart is irrefutably guilty.

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So things aren’t going great for Bart. They head home, and Bart is absolutely stunned that Marge isn’t yelling at him. Yeah Homer is screaming at him, while also ranting about how he doesn’t like the Police Academy movies, but Marge is completely silent, more ashamed than mad. She doesn’t even accept his apology. Which really starts to mess with Bart. Especially that night when she refuses to do his little tuck-in song, which makes him even more sad. That night Homer and Marge talk about Bart, and Marge admits how sad she is that he could have done something like this, while Homer decides he’s not allowed to leave the house for a month, doesn’t get any egg nog, and can’t steal for three months, all while drawing a picture of a robot cooking a hotdog.

And Bart’s punishment continues the next day when Bart finds no one woke him up for breakfast, and the family is pretty much already done. They didn’t even give him a marshmallow in his hot chocolate. So Bart goes to hang out with Milhouse, who rambles about some movie with piranhas in it, until Bart realizes that he isn’t playing Bonestorm. Milhouse says he got bored with the game, and the two end up fighting over a ball-in-cup game until Milhouse yells out that Bart’s smoking. So he gets bounced again, but pathetically asks Luanne if she wouldn’t mind him hanging out with her while she does mom stuff, desperate for some motherly love. He ends up heading home only to see that the family have made snowmen of themselves in the front yard, without him, and only leave the snow under the car for him, which he makes into a little goblin.

So things aren’t going well for Bart. After all of this family drama, he goes wandering off into town again, and ends up running back into Nelson. Nelson talks about having stolen from Try-N-Save again and how Bart should go steal again. So Bart makes a declaration about himself being a black sheep, and walks ominously into the Try-N-Save. Later, Marge and Lisa are decorating the Christmas tree when Bart comes in, clearly hiding something in his coat. Marge gets pissed, thinking he stole something again, especially since he’s acting super shady, and ends up chasing him through the house to get it. But when she finally catches him, she’s stunned to find that he didn’t steal anything, he’s gone into the Try-N-Save to get a nice photo of himself taken, to replace the one he ruined. His picture fixes the photo, and his relationship with Marge, and everything is good. So because Marge got a gift early, she lets Bart open one, teasing him that it’s the video game every kid wanted. So Bart opens up Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge, and wonderfully hides his disappointment to make Marge happy. So the family is back together, and Christmas is saved! And the episode ends with Bart playing the horrible golf game, which looks wretched.

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This episode is wonderful. There’s some really funny moments in it, like goofy Bonestorm ads, and Milhouse lying about Bart’s bad behavior to get him kicked out of his room, but the real strength of this episode is the emotional core. It’s such a traumatic moment when you realize, as a kid, that it’s way worse to have your parents be disappointed in you than mad in you. Up until now, Bart has only had his parents be mad at the crap he pulls, but this is the first time he’s had to deal with Marge being ashamed of something he did. Its okay to deal with someone being mad at you, because that can fade away when tempers calm down. But disappointment? That’s a sharp knife in the gut. The stuff with Bart learning not to steal was a little too “after-school special” for the Simpsons, but it was still an interesting idea. And man do I love that last beat of Bart pretending that Marge got him the right video game to save her feelings, which is so great and realistic. But it’s that disappointment, and Bart’s realization that he doesn’t actually want to be treated like an adult yet that really cuts deep in this one.

Take Away: Don’t steal, disappointment is way worse than anger.

 

“Marge Be Not Proud,” was written by Mike Sculley and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 1995.

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