Lifetime of Simpsons

S20 E21 – Coming to Homerica

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Well folks, we’ve made it through another season. That’s right, with today’s episode we’ve officially bested the twentieth season of the Simpsons. Two decades. Holy crap. And we still have quite a bit to go. But, on the bright side, we actually have a somewhat decent episode, and probably the only one I’ll talk about this week that actually elicited some emotion in me.

The episode starts off with Krusty and Mr. Teeny sitting in Krusty’s dressing room, playing chess and smoking. And this little tableau is ruined when Krusty’s accountant comes in with some bad news. He tells Krusty about all of his legal woes, and ends by telling him that the Krusty Burger was labeled the most unhealthy burger in the world. So, in a shockingly display of business acumen, Krusty recommends they start making a vegan burger from barley.

This idea takes off, and it’s quickly marketed as much as possible. They release some ridiculous ad trying to say that veggie-burgers are as American as apple pie, and it easily works on the people of Springfield, who mob the Krusty Burger the day the new burger is released. The Simpsons head into the Krusty Burger and buy a crapload of “Mother Nature Burgers.” And, surprisingly, they seem to actually be pretty good.

Well, that is until a few hours later, when everyone in the family becomes violently ill, getting catastrophic food poisoning. And it wasn’t just them; everyone who ate these burgers is now vomiting as much as possible. And why? Well, it turns out that Krusty Burger got the barley from Ogdenville, which is its main export, and they ended up getting a tainted batch. And after Kent Brockman does a report about how Ogdenville barley is no longer safe to consume, an economic crash begins.

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We haven’t really learned that much about Ogdenville over the years, but apparently they’re an agrarian society that focuses all of their energy on barley, and they’re all of Norwegian descent. And because their whole city was in the barley industry, that new report desolates the entire town. So, they all have to pack up, as if they’re in the Dust Bowl, and head to the nearest place to find some gainful employment. Which just happens to be Springfield.

At first this doesn’t have much of an effect. But things change when Homer and Bart are going to the home improvement store to buy gutters, and realize that they’re incapable of installing it themselves. However, a group of Ogdenvillians are hanging out in the parking lot as day laborers, and offer to install the gutters for Homer. They do an impeccable job and word gets out that these new immigrants are extremely handy and willing to work menial jobs.

So the Ogdenvilians begin pouring into Springfield, and the people of Springfield don’t really mind at first, because these people are basically willing to do anything. The Simpsons even hire a woman named Inga to be a housekeeper/nanny to Maggie. Selma even starts dating a man named Torbjorn. So it looks like everything is working out for the best, and surely nothing will cause the people of Springfield to suddenly turn against their new neighbors!

Well. One day Bart is skateboarding at a park, and notices that the Ogdenvillian kids, or barleyjacks as they begin to get called, are all very flashy at it. So Bart decides to try and impress them, and ends up smashing into a bus and dislocating his shoulder. Homer and Marge rush Bart to the emergency room, but find that the hospital is now full of barleyjacks who have hurt themselves doing their labors. And between the overcrowding and the fact that they’re given a Swedish form, the Simpsons suddenly decide they hate the Ogdenvillians.

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The Simpsons return home and pop Bart’s shoulder into place on their own, and begins plotting against the barleyjacks. Homer starts hating the barleyjacks with a passion, and ends up going to Moe’s to complain. However, he finds that Moe has embraced the barleyjacks, and is even selling Aquavit. So Homer decides to drink a whole mug of it, and ends up getting blackout drunk. And this results in him going to work the next day incredibly hungover, and he gets fired. Which he of course blames on the Ogdenvillians.

And apparently Homer isn’t the only person who feels this way, because the people of Springfield are able to get a Town Hall meeting together where they decide to ban all immigration from Ogdenville. Springfield closes the border, but the police find that since it’s just Chief Wiggum and Lou (Eddie is sick), they aren’t very effective. So, of course, they just allow random insane citizens with guns to begin patrolling the border to keep the city safe.

Homer of course leads these border guards, who decide to name themselves the Star Spangled Goofballs. And, shockingly, they do terribly at it. So Quimby decides they need to do something more extreme, and of course turns to the dumbest choice possible. A wall. That’s right, Springfield is going to build a wall to keep out some immigrants they don’t like. What a crazy, make-believe plot that this cartoon show has come up with.

However, the people of Springfield make a realization pretty quickly. They’re terrible at everything, and won’t know how to build the wall. So they of course pay the Ogdenvillians to build the wall for them. But while the wall is being built and the Springfielders and the Ogdenvillians start working together, they find that they aren’t so different. They make friends, and when the wall is complete everyone feels sad. So instead they build a door, and decide to get rid of the ban, letting everyone be friends and ignoring these ridiculous prejudices.

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Hey, this episode feels kind of weird, right? It’s kind of shocking that the Simpsons had never dealt with immigration, and America’s moronic fear of Mexican laborers coming into the country. It’s been a big deal for a long time, and really seemed rife for comedic potential. Which it was. This was an episode that I really liked. They take Ogdenville, which we’ve basically never known anything about, and give it a goofy background and deliver a pretty great metaphor for the larger immigration drama. Obviously the people writing the episode in 2009 had no idea that we would currently be living in a horrible world where an illiterate and racist failed gameshow host would take over the country by promising to build a massive wall so that stupid people would feel safe, but holy crap does it feel prescient. It’s just a fun episode that really hammers in the idea that being fearful of immigrant is ridiculous. Not only are they doing jobs that most people don’t want to do, they’re just people. The Springfielders and the Ogdenvillians realize that they have things in common, and that they can just people and friends, and everything becomes pleasant. The Simpsons clearly take place in a better world than ours though, so they’re more advanced and evolved.

Take Away: Immigrants are people, and discriminating against them and building a wall to keep them out is ridiculous.

 

“Coming to Homerica” was written by Brendan Hay and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2009.

 

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