Hey everybody. You know what really bothers Baby Boomers? All these damn participation trophies that the kids today get! That’s a novel and not at all hackneyed opinion to have, right? Boy, I hope so, otherwise this episode is about to feel incredibly out of date and aggravating.
The episode opens up exactly where you’d imagine it to. In frog heaven. A frog who has recently died meets up with a friend of his, and the two chats about how the newcomer died. He explains that he’s about to be dissected in the name of science, a noble death, and they decide to check out how the dissection is going, hopeful that the young scientist is taking the dissection very seriously.
Unfortunately, this frog was given to Bart, who then just starts randomly stabbing the frog and playing with its various innards. The frog is obviously horrified by what’s being done to its body, and the casual racism that Bart is throwing around while doing a Rasta accent. And the frog’s not the only one who isn’t exactly pleased with Bart’s behavior. His science teacher is not amused in the slightest, and sends Bart home with a terrible great.
And it’s not the only one. Bart goes home that evening with a report card full of terrible grades, much to Marge’s frustration. She tries to give Bart a lecture, telling him that he needs to take school more seriously so that he’ll be more secure in his future, but he tells her that’s not going to be a problem. He has a perfect plan all set up for his future. He’s going to spin signs to attract people to condos for sale! An ironclad plan.
Marge is obviously not okay with this, and ends up fretting all night, trying to come up with some way to help Bart’s future. Homer’s not particularly interested, just telling her that they should pump more pills into Bart to solve the issue. She doesn’t want to do that though, and decides to hop on the internet and find a stranger with parenting advice. And, eventually she comes across a mommy blog that catches her interest. She quickly falls for this woman’s advice, and even hires her to come give a lecture for the other parents at Springfield Elementary.
Sometime later the woman, who has also written a book she’s trying to hock, shows up at the auditorium to scam all the eager parents at the school. They’re hanging on her every word, and she tells them that there’s one key to parenting success in her opinion. Positive reinforcement. She tells the parents that kids crave attention, and that can be supplemented with trophies, ribbons, and other useless crap like that.
They all then buy her book and head home to stuff their children with as many trophies as possible. Homer thinks that this idea is incredibly stupid, and starts rattling off the talking points of Baby Boomers who are disgusted with this idea. But, Marge doesn’t care, and she starts giving Bart and Lisa trophies like crazy. Lisa isn’t really on board though, because she says that trophies only matter when you actually earn them, like she does, and she resents Bart getting them for no reason.
But, Lisa does mention something that really interests Homer. She says that this whole fad is just built to trick gullible parents out of their money. And the idea of gullible people with too much money gives Homer an idea. He opens up a business selling the parents of Springfield their stupid trophies, and starts providing the stupid parents of Springfield with all the trophies he could ever need. This causes a boom in the trophy business, and Homer is just raking in the cash.
In fact, things get so busy that Homer’s forced to have Bart help him build the trophies. Unfortunately, Bart doesn’t really care about this, and starts doing a really shoddy job making the trophies, letting them all fall apart. Homer gets pissed off about this, and starts complaining about Bart, saying that he’s too lazy, and bad at everything that he tries. Not a cool thing to say, and it’s extra shitty because Bart ends up hearing it, and getting really depressed.
Bart then wanders off in search of real reinforcement, and goes to talk to Grandpa at the Retirement Castle. Bart tells Grandpa about everything that’s going on, and Grandpa informs him that all his childhood he just told Homer that he was terrible at everything. Which is what Grandpa’s dad did to him, creating a vicious cycle of bad parenting that’s impossible to break. But, Abe also has something for Bart that will give him real reinforcement. A pocket watch that’s a family heirloom and has been in the family for quite some time. And, just like that, Bart starts to feel familial pride.
Meanwhile, Lisa has become very bitter about this whole trophy business. It’s taken the joy out of actually earning trophies, and now that everyone gets one she doesn’t feel special for working hard. And that frustration leads her down a very weird path. She hates that the parents of Springfield chase every new trend, forgetting the last one, and she decides to exploit that. She devises her own parenting strategy, hires an actor to give a lecture, and convinces the parents of Springfield to use her new parenting strategy, GRIT. Get Rid of Idiotic Trophies.
This fad immediately takes off, and Homer is very concerned. Because now his whole trophy business has gone down the drain, and he’s left with a garage full of trophies. But, as he’s lamenting this fact, Bart comes in and starts showing off his new watch. Which pisses Homer off like crazy. Apparently, Homer has coveted this watch his whole life, and resents that Abe has never given it to him. But, now it’s skipped him, and he’ll never have it.
But, you can’t deny the results. The pride and responsibility that Bart now feels because of the watch starts to actually have an effect, making Bart into a better kid. He starts carrying the watch around with him all the time, loving the thing. Unfortunately, when he takes the watch on a hike, disaster strikes. The watch ends up falling out of his hands and off a cliff, seemingly gone forever. And, to make matters worse, he gets a call from Grandpa informing him that the two are supposed to be on the cover of an heirloom magazine, and he’s going to disappoint Abe like crazy.
While all of this is going on though, Homer has gotten frustrated with his scam and has brought all of his unsold trophies to a pawn shop. And, while he’s selling them, he finds the watch for sale. Turns out that Milhouse found it, but sold it to the pawn shop to spite Bart. So, now Homer gets to buy the watch and finally own it. Plus, he gets to make fun of Bart and rub in the fact that he gets the watch.
However, when Homer gets home, ready to gloat like crazy to Bart, he discovers something depressing. Bart’s just sitting in his room weeping, crushed that he let Abe down. And, seeing this, Homer decides that he can’t go through with the gloating, and decides to break the cycle of parenting and do something good. He gives Bart the watch, Bart gets his confidence back, and he’s allowed to go on the cover of that magazine, making everyone happy.
This is a very confounding episode. On the one hand, I’m flabbergasted by the idea that the Simpsons decided, in 2017, to spend an entire episode bitching about the idea that the kids today are too spoiled and have to have participation trophies for everything. Because is that even a thing anymore? I was supposedly from the generation where this was rampant, but I personally don’t remember a single participation trophy being tossed my way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever way you can give some kids some joy. Plus, I don’t understand why this was always a way to yell at millennials when it was their parents who were giving the trophies. Blame them! But, regardless of that, it’s just bizarre that this episode would talk about such a trite and hackneyed topic. The only thing that I feel saves this episode is the fact that there’s some sweet moments in here between Bart and Abe. There’s been some great interactions between them lately, and this one was pretty solid. I guess it’s also nice that Lisa’s take on the whole trophy thing is probably the most rational one, but it gets overpowered by all of the elderly complaining that radiates from this episode.
Take Away: Don’t chase parenting trends, just do what you think will work for your kids. And stop bitching about participation trophies, it doesn’t affect you.
“A Father’s Watch” was written by Simon Rich and directed by Bob Anderson, 2017.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons