Oh boy folks, are you ready for a really weird and plodding episode all about internet piracy? Because boy, oh boy, are we getting that today!
The episode starts off with Homer walking around the Nuclear Power Plant, heading to the breakroom so that he can talk to Lenny and Carl. But when he gets there he finds that they’re just standing around talking about the latest Radioactive Man reboot film, which just came out and which Homer has not seen yet. He tries to fake his way through the conversation, but also is terrified of spoilers, so it just ends with him being frustrated.
However, it turns out not to just be Lenny and Carl. Everyone in the Plant is babbling about the movie, and Homer just can’t talk to anyone. And, when he leaves work he finds that Springfield is inundated with people who have seen this movie, and wants to eagerly discuss it. No matter where Homer goes he finds people who want to talk about all the spoilers for the movie, so he finally just snaps and tells the family that he wants to go see the movie that night.
Everyone is game with this idea, so they all head out to a movie theater while leaving Maggie behind with some fancy babysitter that I really thought was going to be of some importance to this episode, but no. And when they get to the theater we’re treated to a bunch of hackneyed movie theater gripes. I mean, yeah, they’re gripes that I have when subjugating myself to an AMC or Regal theater or whatever, but it’s just Homer complaining about high prices of tickets and food, too many ads, weird 3-D glasses, and all the other crap that you usually see people talk about.
Homer really snaps though when he hears people talking through the movie, causing him to stand up in his seat and begin lecturing the people of the theater about purity. Which results in Homer being thrown out of the theater. And this bums Homer the hell out, because now he still hasn’t seen the damn movie! But when they get homer, Bart has an interesting method to get around that. They can just pirate the movie!
Homer is confused about the process of illegally downloading a movie, but Bart just sits down with him and starts walking him through the process, until the FOX network shuts them down and shows us some NASCAR footage, which is actually a solid gag. But, after that they manage to get the movie, and watch it together on a laptop. And Homer loves it! He got to see a movie that everyone was talking about, it was free, and he didn’t even have to leave his couch.
The next day Homer heads into work, eager to talk to Lenny and Carl about the Radioactive Man movie, only to find out that they no longer care about it, because now they’re fixated with the new James Bond movie. Oh, and they give a lot of weird gripes about current Bond movies. Whatever. Homer once again gets frustrated he’s behind the times, but then remembers the joy of piracy, and ends up inviting Lenny and Carl over to pirate the Bond movie and watch it again with him.
And, just like that, Homer is addicted, and has made two new converts. Lenny and Carl also loved the piracy, and they tell Homer that he should open his own theater where he just plays pirated movies. And, shockingly, Homer loves this idea. So he and the people of the neighborhood get together and build a little outdoor theater in his backyard, and they all watch a pirated copy of the newest Judd Apatow comedy.
After the movie everyone is very grateful, but as Homer and Marge talk about it he realizes something odd. Marge thought that the studio gave them permission for this screening, and when she learns that it’s been stolen, she freaks the hell out. In fact, she freaks out so much that she decides to mail a check for the ticket price of the movie, along with a confession of having stolen it, and mails it to the studio in Hollywood.
Which was a bad call. Because the studio executive who somehow gets that letter flips out, and decides to call the FBI, who are more than thrilled to waste their time punishing some piracy. They then send out some agents who raid Homer’s little outdoor theater, causing everyone to flee. But they specifically want Homer, so to aid his escape Bart decides to turn the movie back on, causing the FBI agents to recoil in horror at looking at copy written material. However, Homer’s bad at fleeing, and this distraction barely mattered, so he’s immediately arrested.
Marge feels terrible about getting her husband arrested, even though it was completely unintentional, so she decides to just keep that little secret to herself, as Homer is taken away to jail before his trial. But when Homer is put on the prison bus, he gets talking with the other convicts, who are disgusted that he stole movies. So disgusted that they begin fighting with him, which causes the bus to veer off a cliff, and crash onto some train tracks, putting Homer in a Fugitive scenario.
Homer survives this experience, and just hops on the train since it’s bound for Springfield. And meanwhile, the kids are furious that Homer has been arrested for such a trivial thing, and Marge is feeling incredibly guilty about the whole thing. Which is made much worse when Homer shows back up, as a fugitive. But the family don’t want to send Homer back to prison, so they decide to do something a little odd.
They’re going to go to the Swedish consulate building and claim asylum, since Sweden has notoriously lax laws on copyright laws. But as the Simpsons are discussing things with the Swedish ambassador the FBI arrives, and begin trying to smoke them out of the building. And thus begins a weird period of the Simpson’s lives where they live in the Swedish consulate office. It’s going fine, until Marge finally admits to Homer what she did. And he’s horrified. So much so that he decides to go turn himself in to the FBI.
Homer is then immediately brought to court, where a stable to Hollywood executives come to testify against him. And, almost immediately, he’s found guilty. But before they sentence him Homer is allowed to give a speech, and he decides to try something ridiculous. He begins giving a big speech about being an underdog with a powerful love story, and it ends up convincing the studio executives that they could make this into a movie.
They then drop the charges and buy Homer’s film right, which he graciously gives, as long as Channing Tatum gets fat and plays him. The episode then ends with the people of Springfield trying to hold a pirated screening of the movie based on Homer’s life in Homer’s backyard, which he quickly shuts down, because now that he has a piece of the movie he doesn’t want them to watch it for free. Oh, and we see a weird moment that feels like an after-school special where Lisa and Bart teach us that pirating is a weird thing, because it’s all about both sides trying to screw over each other, and they don’t know what to think about it.
This episode is very strange. I think the concept of piracy, and how you feel about it, are very interesting topics. I won’t lie, I’ve pirated things. I usually have a mentality similar to Marge’s where if I pirate something I still find a way to give the company money, but yeah, people pirate things. It’s easy to steal from giant monolithic companies that exist to pull as much money from us as possible. But there’s not really a whole lot of insight into that in this episode. It kind of came across like the writers of the Simpsons knew what pirating was, but had never done it, and just made an episode about what they thought it was like. The episode had an interesting concept, but it was just full of a bunch of hacky insights into movie culture and piracy. It’s actually been a while since I’ve felt like the Simpsons was showing its age, but this episode really felt like a show that had been going on for twenty five years and was getting to a topic as late as possible, while having nothing to say about it.
Take Away: Piracy is a complicated issue.
“Steal This Episode” was written by J Stewart Burns and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2014.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons