Well after yesterday’s weird episode let’s get into one that I really enjoyed quite a bit. We get a lot of episodes that are about Lisa and Homer’s relationship hitting rocky patches, but I’m also really into episodes that revolve around Marge and Bart. “Marge Be Not Proud?” Great episode. And this one doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a bummer behind the scenes of the episode, but I’ll get to that in the end, let’s focus on the goodness first.
Thing start off with the family sitting around while Marge is going through the junk mail. And while flipping through them she finds a letter from one of those scams for getting a book with the “Whose Who” of American students. Lisa tries to explain that it’s all a scam, but Marge ignores it, and insists that they need a reward, which Bart is all for. So they just let the scam drop and head out to the Family Fun Center for an afternoon of goofing off. They start off by racing around with go-karts where we see Nelson commit vehicular homicide on Milhouse. Nelson then follows that up by stealing some tickets from a skee ball machine while Maggie and Lisa cheat in a more dignified manner.
And now that Nelson has 5,000 tickets he goes up to the sketchy little prize counter where Bart is looking at the terrible prizes that his paltry winning can get him. The Squeaky Voice Teen lets Nelson know that his tickets can earn him either a BB gun or an Easy-Bake oven, and while the allure of a hot meal is pretty tempting, Nelson decides to go for the gun. Bart is quickly impressed by this, and asks Nelson if he can come over and shoot with him. Nelson is ambivalent about it, but Bart is psyched, which Marge quickly tires to nip in the bud. She doesn’t think Nelson is a good influence on Bart, what with his murder of Milhouse she witnessed earlier, and she forbids Bart from spending time with Nelson, since he’s a “lonely, sad little boy who needs to be isolated.”
But as we all know, Bart doesn’t really care about rules like this, and as soon as they get home he sneaks right out of his room. He runs over to Nelson’s house, and starts hanging out with the bully in his sad, empty house. They put some scarves on and go out to Nelson’s backyard where his dad has a beat up old car on the lawn to use as a target. Nelson fires a few rounds off, and Bart asks for a chance. But Nelson starts acting like a jerk, and will only let Bart fire the gun if he aims at a bird in a nest. Bart isn’t really cool with that decision, and decides to purposefully aim away from the bird. Unfortunately the gun has crooked sights, and he ends up hitting the bird right in the throat, killing it.
Meanwhile, Homer and Marge are trying to fold laundry in the kitchen when Marge notices Bart seems to be missing. She asks Lisa where Bart is, and Lisa remains loyal and lies that he’s with Milhouse. But Homer pops a hole in that theory when he just starts screaming at Milhouse out the window, and they learn that he’s actually over at Nelson’s. So Marge runs out of the house, pissed, and heads over to the Muntz household. And when she gets there she finds a horrified Bart trying to distance himself from the dead bird. Bart does his best to hide the bird from Marge, but after some cats start getting to it, she finds what she’s done, and is disgusted. At which point, she basically just gives up on Bart, and tells him that since none of her punishing ever actually gets him to change, he can just do what he wants and be a little hoodlum like Nelson.
So Bart’s upset. And it gets even worse when he realizes that the bird he killed was a mother, and who had eggs in the nest. So, hoping to prove Marge wrong, Bart decides that he needs to do something decent to balance out his karma, and gets to work saving the eggs. He takes them to the library and pulls up a film strip staring Troy McClure about birds in order to learn how to take care of them. And this is where the bummer is. It’s a great Troy McClure educational video, one of the best, but it’s the last one. We already passed the last Lionel Hutz episode, and this is the last Troy McClure episode before Phil Hartman was killed. Which is depressing. Oh well, let’s try to stay positive!
Because now that Bart has watched that video he knows how to take care of eggs, so he heads home and builds an incubator in his treehouse. He starts caring for the eggs, which he names Chirpy Boy and Bart Jr. He then starts spending all day and night taking care of the eggs, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Marge, who is still upset with him. She starts watching him up in the treehouse, and after Homer assumes he’s either reading comics or running a drug lab, she heads up to investigate, after unplugging the extension cord powering the incubator. And when she gets up there, Bart admits everything right away, and she pretty much instantly forgives him for the bird murder, since he’s gone to such ridiculous extremes to save the eggs. Eggs which are beginning to hatch.
So they bring the eggs down to the kitchen, keeping them warm with pies, and await the bird’s arrival. The family sit around as the eggs finally start to hatch. Unfortunately, birds don’t come out. Its lizards. Which no one was anticipating. Bart insists that they’re birds, but Lisa uses some basic science to prove that they’re lizards. But Bart refuses to accept this, and he and Marge head to a local birdwatching club, led by Principal Skinner to get some answers. And answers they get, because it turns out they’re Bolivian Tree Lizards, which are a highly murderous species that wipe out bird populations, and are illegal in the States. So Skinner has to kill them.
Bart is obviously upset about this, and refuses to let Skinner kill them with a power drill. Marge says she’ll talk to Bart, and takes him out to the hallway while everyone else gets ready to kill the lizard. Marge tries to convince Bart to let them kill his lizards, but he gives an impassioned speech about how they may be monsters, but he loves them and raised them, which hits Marge right in the heart. So she lets Bart run away with the lizards, while the birdwatching club follows. They eventually get up to the roof of the building, and when fighting with Skinner of the box containing the lizards, they accidently get thrown off the roof. But it turns out they have webbing and can fly. So they survive! And it turns out that’s a great thing, because they start proliferating, and wipe out Springfield’s pigeon problem, leading Bart to be a hero. And in typical Springfield fashion, they embrace the evil lizards, and have a plan to have snakes eat the lizards when they become a nuisance, and then gorillas to eat the snakes, which will then freeze to death in the winter. Science!
I really love this episode. I’ve complained a bit during this project that my feelings toward Bart have chilled on this go through. He really appealed to me when I was a kid, because he was funny. But this time I’m really more connecting with the more emotional episodes, and it’s become apparent that Bart really doesn’t get a lot of emotional depth in these classic episodes. The other characters get lots of episodes that reveal all kinds of new layers to them, but Bart kind of remains one-dimensional. But episodes like this really show me that while that’s the majority of Bart episodes, there’s a powerful minority of episodes like this one that just work fabulously. And it really ends up working in pretty much the same way as “Marge Be Not Proud,” which Bart realizing that a parent being ashamed of you is much worse than them being mad. Marge’s resigned speech when she finds Bart has murdered a defenseless bird is so depressing and heartbreaking, and seeing him do everything he can to prove to Marge and himself that he’s worth it is wonderful. As is that speech in the hallway, when Bart speaks right to Marge’s soul and talks about loving something everyone else thinks is bad. It’s just so sweet you guys. Takes the sting of Phil Hartman’s death out just a bit.
Take Away: Don’t kill innocent animals. And always love your children, even if other people think they aren’t good.
“Bart the Mother” was written by David S Cohen and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 1998.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons