Hey, remember how just a couple episode ago we had a story about Bart wanting a cell-phone? Well how about we do that again, but with an iPod? Oh, and terrorism gets thrown in there too? That’ll probably gel great!
The episode starts off with the Simpsons heading over to the Springfield Mall to take advantage of their Day After Christmas sales. Which of course means they get to shop while workers are ripping down all the Christmas cheer while simultaneously setting up for the next major holiday. Which does lead to a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose lap you can sit on and ask for presents, which is something that I’m quite in favor of.
But the reason the family are at the Mall is because they have a rule where everyone can return one Christmas gift with no guilt associated to returning it. And all of the family members are returning a terrible cat calendar that Bart got them, which is a bummer for Bart. But none of that matters, because they have to drop everything when they realize that there’s a new store in the Mall. A Mapple store, because the episode doesn’t really want to come up with clever Apple puns.
The family race into the pretentious store and start messing around with all the expensive gadgets. And Lisa is incredibly bummed, because she wants all of these needlessly expensive toys, but can’t afford any of them. Which is right when Krusty comes rampaging into the store, furious that he can’t figure out his MyPod. He throws a huge fit, and ends up just hucking the MyPod into the crowd, and right into Lisa’s hands. Score!
But Bart needs to do something fun at the Mapple store, and he finds a perfect outlet for his pranks when the Mapple store gets a live message from their cult leader Steve Mobs. Bart’s able to override Mobs’ broadcast and puts his own voice over the image, making fun of all the Mapple devotees and calling them losers. But when they realize what’s going on they chase Bart out of the store, out of the mall, and into the neighborhoods surrounding the Mall.
Bart eventually gets away from the mob, and hides out in some random backyard. And while he’s hiding he finds that there’s a kid in the backyard grilling some lamb. Bart wanders over to the kid and introduces himself. The boy’s name is Bashir, and he and his family have recently immigrated to Springfield from Jordan. Bashir’s mother Mina finds the two boys, and invites Bart to stay over for dinner, letting Bart and Bashir get to know each other.
They quickly make friends, and the next day Bart is walking to school with Bashir, trying to teach him about American culture. And it looks like things are going to be hard for Bashir, because Bart learns that he’s a Muslim, which instantly makes him the target of the bullies. But Bart really has taken a shine to Bashir, so when the bullies try to hassle him, Bart does his best to defend him. It doesn’t really work, but it’s the thought that counts I suppose.
Obviously this Bart plot is going to be the primary one, but we occasionally are going to have to check back in on Lisa and her plot, and it’s more of a distraction than anything. Because the entire plot is that Lisa enjoys having a MyPod, but spends way too much money on it. She buys a crapload of songs, and ends up getting a massive bill in the mail, leading her to travel to Steve Mobs’ underwater base. And he agrees to let her work off the bill by wearing a MyPod costume on the road, handing out fliers. There, that’s the B-Plot. Let’s move on to the good story.
Bart and Bashir are hanging out at the Simpsons house, having a good time, when Homer comes home and is introduce to Bashir. And he’s a big fan. Bashir is polite and charming, and Homer really approves of him. But that night Homer goes over to Moe’s, and something weird happens. The barflies start to make fun of Homer because he’s letting his son hang out with a kid who happens to be a Muslim, and they find that shameful. And because Homer is fickle, he’s suddenly worried about Bashir.
And it even goes so far that the barflies convince Homer that Bashir and his parents are almost certainly terrorists, and it’s Homer’s American duty to expose them. So Homer decides to invite Bashir and his parents over for a fancy dinner, that will double as an interrogation. He of course doesn’t tell the rest of the family this, but they quickly realize something is up when Homer starts acting sketchy to Bashir’s family the entire time.
Bashir’s family turn out to be incredibly nice, and they’re both scientists. But this doesn’t dissuade Homer, who keeps acting like an asshole. It even reaches the point that Bashir’s parents get too disgusted to stay, and leave the party. Oh, and the rest of the family are disgusted too. But Homer’s convinced that they’re up to something. So he agrees to go over to their house and apologize, and of course peeps into the garage.
And what he finds is a little alarming. Bashir’s father Amid is in the garage, and he has a whole bunch of clearly labeled TNT. Homer then freaks the hell out and storm home so he can tell Marge that he was right all along. Marge tells Homer that there’s probably an explanation for what he saw, but Homer still thinks something is up. Which percolates in his head all night, while he has an insane nightmare where he hangs out with the Genie from Aladdin and sees America transformed into a stereotypical Islamic paradise. And he’s horrified.
So the next day Homer goes back to Bashir’s family’s house and starts to listen in on their conversations. We the viewer learn that Amid is an engineer who specializes in safely demolishing buildings, and has been hired to demolish the old Springfield mall, but Homer misunderstands their conversation and think that Amid is off to set off a suicide bomb in the regular Mall. He briefly talks to Mina, pretending to be apologizing, until he finds the plans to destroy the Mall and rushes off to “save the day.”
Homer arrives at the regular Mall, running around and telling everyone that a terrorist is about to blow it up, obviously causing a lot of panic. But he can’t find Amid. That is until he goes outside and finds the crowd gathered around the old Mall, and sees Amid allowing Bart and Bashir to detonate the explosion. Homer freaks out, runs into the mall to get the TNT, and throws it into the river, where it destroys a recently built bridge. Everything is then explained to Homer, and he realizes what an asshole he’s been. So of course they have a little BBQ where he apologizes to Bashir’s family, and everything is cleared up.
For the most part I really liked this episode. I think it’s interesting that the show hadn’t tried to introduce a prominent Muslim character into the show, and I think the idea of having a Muslim boy become friends with Bart was a great way to go. I also think that the idea of Homer becoming wary of Bashir and his family because his stupid buddies convinced him to be. Homer works well as a proxy for the average American, and certainly since 2001 the average American has been taught to have an irrational distrust of Muslims, primarily because they haven’t met one. Springfield is a quintessential smaller town in middle America, and it’s not shocking that they don’t have a booming Muslim population. So of course, when Homer meets a Muslim family his only frame of reference is one of fear, because he’s learned from media to be afraid of Muslims. Which his idiotic, but the reality of the world. So while the idea of Homer being convinced that Amid is going to commit an act of terror is a little extreme, the idea that Homer would be distrustful of someone who is different than him makes sense. But, like most sane people in the world, when Homer gets to know the people he realizes that they’re just that. People. And he can get along with them. Not every Muslim is a terrorist just like not every Christian is a terrorist, even though both religions have had members commit terrorist acts. They do kind of breeze past Homer’s lesson, just immediately having them all be fine with each other at the end so they can wrap up the ridiculous Lisa plot, but I think overall the episode handled things pretty well.
Take Away: We all need to expand our personal bubbles, and nothing helps that like meeting people from belief systems that we don’t understand. Sitting around in ignorance and believing that everyone who is different than you is bad is a moronic and damaging philosophy.
“Mypods and Boomsticks” was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2008.