Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E17 – Bart to the Future

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Having the week start off with the death of Maude Flanders probably made you think that we were starting off Bummer Week with the bleakest episode. But guess what? We kind of aren’t, because while the subject matter of this one isn’t quite a bleak as death, this one is kind of meta-textually the biggest bummer we’ve got!

The episode starts off with the Simpson’s driving off to Larva Lake for a camping trip. Unfortunately that’s not just a cute nickname, because the Lake is now full of man-eating mosquitoes, to the point that a Forest Ranger is not even letting the Simpson’s enter the forest, since they’ve totally eaten his hand off. So the Simpsons are screwed, nothing to do that weekend. That is until they’re driving homer and pass by an Indian casino. Score!

Homer’s super stoked about the idea of going to an Indian Casino, even though Marge isn’t quite sure her gambling addiction is solved, and Lisa doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea at all. So Homer and Bart just ditch the women in the car and run in. Bart’s kicked away immediately, since they don’t even let minors in, so Homer goes on in by himself. Which isn’t going to stop Bart Simpson!

Bart wanders around the outside of the casino, looking for a way in. And he quickly does, because Gabbo and his owner Arthur Crandall are there to perform, and while Crandall is haggling over his fee, Bart hucks Gabbo into the trash and hides in his little trunk. So Crandall brings Bart into the casino, and Bart’s able to burst out, in the casino! Where he’s promptly caught by some guards and brought to the owner of the casino. Bart meets with the guy, who then decides to tell Bart about his future, because he’s a magical American Indian. That’s right, it’s another flash-forward episode.

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We cut to some point in the future where Bart’s life has basically hit rock-bottom. He’s a fat slob, living in a run-down house, working in a weird rip-off Jimmy Buffet cover-band, and living with Ralph. So things are pretty dark. But providence shines down on him when he gets a message from Nelson, who owns the cool club in Springfield, who offers Bart’s “band” a gig. So Bart heads back to Evergreen Terrace to meet with Homer and Marge to try and mooch some money off them to get his amp out of hock. Especially because Lisa is apparently the President of the United States. But Homer and Marge are pretty sick of giving Bart money, so they refuse, causing him to resort to Ned, who is still living next door. Oh, and he’s blind, because apparently Lasik is a bad call. But whatever, they’re able to guilt Flanders into some money, and they get ready for the gig.

Which goes terribly. They get to the club and Bart just kind of rushes through an off-key low-rent parody of “Margaritaville,” which pisses off the crowd to the point that they just start throwing bottles at them. So Bart and Ralph head home, only to find that their house has been foreclosed upon. At which point Ralph gives up on their friendship, and abandons Bart. So, with no other options, Bart holds some sort of ray gun to his head, and fires. Except it’s not a gun, it’s the new way people get news! And after Kent Brockman explains that Lisa is moving into the White House, Bart decides she’ll be the perfect mark for his mooching.

So Bart heads to Washington, and gets into the White House while Lisa is getting ready to start her term off. Which isn’t going to be easy since the economy was destroyed by President Trump’s administration. Oh, did you forget that part of the episode? Yep, the Simpsons made a joke about Donald Trump becoming the President, and then proceeding to devastate the economy. Which is honestly an optimistic view of his administration at this point, since if such a horrible thing happens in our reality we’ll probably be suffering through some sort of World War where it’s everyone against the United States. But hey, we’re getting off topic, so let’s get back to the episode.

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Bart gets into the White House, gets passed Lisa’s Secret Service, and demands that Lisa give him room and board. Which she isn’t really on board with, until Marge shows up, since she and Homer are living in the White House with Lisa, and makes her give in. So Bart gets to bum around the White House and irritate Lisa while she tries to save the nation. Oh, and Homer is off on a moronic quest to find Abraham Lincoln’s secret stash of gold. But that’s a stupid plot.

We get a couple scenes of Lisa trying to run the nation while Bart goofs off in the background, until the central issue of the episode comes up. America is in massive financial debt, and the only way to pay it off is to have a massive tax increase. But Lisa knows that that will make her incredibly unpopular, so she tries her best to spin it in a way that people won’t notice. Which is actually going pretty well, because we see people are happy with her while she’s giving her State of the Union address. That is until Bart wanders into frame and starts singing, before admitting that it’s a tax hike. Way to go Bart.

So Bart has royally screwed over Lisa’s only idea, so she has to go to Plan B. Inviting over all the creditor nations and begging for their forgiveness. So, she logically sends Bart away from the White House so he can’t screw things up. She tells him that he’s the Secretary of Keeping it Real, and sends Bart and his stupid friends to Camp David to write a report on coolness. Which goes pretty well, until Bart’s visited by the ghost of Billy Carter, who explains that he’s just an embarrassment, and that Lisa was just trying to get rid of him.

Oh, and we finish off the Lincoln’s Gold plot with Homer happening to find a chest with a note from Lincoln. But the note just explains that the “Gold” is in the hearts of the American People. Lame. Anyway, we see that representatives of the nations that gave the US money are meeting with Lisa, and yelling at her. That is until Bart comes stumbling in, and uses his vast experience with debt collectors to soothe their anger, and buy the nation more time. So everyone’s happy! We then cut to the present, where Bart’s kind of bummed that his vision was mostly about Lisa, but heads home with the family anyway, not choosing to tell Lisa about their future.

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I’m not a fan of this episode. Most of the flash-forward episodes aren’t that great, but this one is particularly weak. Mainly because of the structure I think. Bart mentions at the end that it’s weird his vision was barely about him, and featured a B-Plot about Lincoln’s gold, which is a really solid point. But it’s not just that, and it’s not just the grim specter of Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency that the episode mentions, it’s the fact that we have yet another episode about how Bart’s future is going to suck. Yeah, he kind of finds his place in the world at the end, but he’s still a loser. And even though this go-through of the series has had me like Bart less than I ever have before, he’s not a loser. Bart’s a smart kid. He doesn’t always show it, but when something really interests him, he excels at it. And it’s just a huge bummer to see him be this worthless bum in the future. His only talent is getting out of trouble. That’s weird. And sad. Bart’s a clever kid, he should have a better future than this, but the show just thinks he’s going to be a sad mooch.

Take Away: Don’t vote for Trump!

 

“Bart to the Future” was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Michael Marcantel, 2000.

 

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