Lifetime of Simpsons

S31 E11 – Hail to the Teeth

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Well folks, after a brief winter break it’s time to talk about the Simpsons once more. This season has been…challenging so far, and it looks like that trend is going to be continuing. Because, folks, this episode is weird as hell. We get what appears to be a main plot that peters out into a B-Plot, and what certainly feels like a side story that just ends up coming back so many times that it ends up taking over the episode.

The episode begins with Lisa wandering around Springfield, reading an uplifting magazine about ecological disaster, when she’s stopped by a strange old man. He starts pulling the usual old guy bullshit by telling Lisa she’d be prettier if she smiled more, and she just kind of leaves this terrible interaction as quickly as possible. But, it sticks with her, so that night she brings it up at dinner, trying to get confirmation that it was weird.

And, taking a cue to bully his sister, Bart starts talking about how shes going to have no social life, using some app to predict her puberty, which includes her wearing braces again. And, weirdly, that confirms that she’s going to need to get braces again, despite there being a very famous episode where she had to get braces. They kind of hand-wave that away, saying that she just needs them again, mainly just to make Lisa unhappy.

But, things get distracted when Marge realizes that they’ve been given a strange package. They open it up, and find that it’s a hologram projector sent by Artie Ziff, providing them with an invitation to his wedding. He claims he’s found a soul-mate and it would mean a lot for them to come attend. Homer tries arguing that it’s too creepy, but the hologram just keeps yelling at them all night until they finally relent, RSVPing that they’ll go to the wedding.

And, what’s more, Homer has apparently agreed to attend Artie’s bachelor party. It’s held at the top of a skyscraper, full of extravagant activities and party favors, and Artie spends the party riding a rhinoceros. Artie does seem happy that Homer came, and that they’re going to bury that hatchet over the whole “being obsessed with Marge” thing. But, Homer starts to feel a little weird about the whole thing, especially when he starts to realize that no one seems to know the bride, or even has seen her.

But, before we tug on that string, it’s time for Lisa to get braces again! She meets with her new orthodontist and gets some sort of essentially invisible braces, but ones that need to get put on one week at a time, tops then bottoms. And, for some reason part of the procedure makes it so that while Lisa’s top teeth are healing, she’s forced into a rictus smile.

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It’s very strange, but what’s stranger is the reaction that it starts having. People at school immediately seem to like her more, and it even makes people think that her explanation of the plot of Charlotte’s Web is uplifting. She quickly realizes that people actually do respond better to a smiling woman, and starts to milk it, enjoying the attention, despite knowing how shallow it all is.

But, eventually she starts wondering about the reaction, and ends up doing research in the library. She somehow comes across a VHS of a workplace training video from the 1980’s which is basically just a man telling women that they need to smile and be pleasant to be taken seriously, and she realizes that it’s all sexist, but it actually does work. Which, really starts to muddle the message of this episode.

It’s time to check back in on Artie Ziff though, because Homer and Marge have flown out to the strange island where his wedding is taking place, and immediately start feeling like things are off. Mainly because there’s literally no on on the bride’s side of the ceremony. And, what’s more, some random lady walks up to Homer and asks him to walk the bride down the aisle, which he complies with for some reason. So, Homer walks the veiled woman down the aisle, and we realize that she looks exactly like Marge, to the point that they awkwardly leave the wedding, too creeped out to continue.

 

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Meanwhile, Lisa has become pretty frustrated with the whole smiling thing, and has grown irritated with the attention it gets her. Until she realizes that she can weaponize it, using her new charisma to get students to recycle, eat vegetables, read books, and meditate. So, she decides to really capitalize on this, and run for student body president, where she hopes to make some big changes.

And, it goes really well. People love her, and her only competition is one of Cleetus’ kids, who mainly talks about shooting guns. But, Lisa finds herself getting so confident that she decides that she can still go get the second half of her orthodontia taken care of before the election. And, as you probably could have guessed, when she gets the bottom row of braces put on the same bizarre unexplained bullshit happens, and now Lisa can’t stop making a frowny face.

Back on Artie’s creepy island, we see Homer raiding the mini-bar before they flee. But, Marge is feeling guilty, deciding that they should go tell Artie’s new wife that the only reason he’s marrying her is because she looks like Marge. So, they go track down Artie and his bride, and thing immediately go off the deep end. Because it turns out that this wife is a robot Artie built to look like Marge.

But, not because he wanted a robotic wife. Because he was hoping that Marge seeing herself marry Artie would make her realize she loves him. He then shows off the litany of terrifying Marge-bots that he’s built over the years. Marge once again rejects Artie, but tells him that he should use his brilliance for good instead of deeply creepy evil. So, Artie decides to use his Marge robots for good, having them build homes for people.

And, back at the school, it’s time for a debate between the candidates, moderated by the governor for some reason. And, because of the frown, Lisa ends up Skyping into the debate, using some filter to give herself a smile. But it starts erroring during the debate, revealing her true frown. And, people are furious. Everyone starts to feel like Lisa’s face is just making her nag all the time, and she loses quite badly in the election. She then defeatedly talks to Marge about the terrible way women are treated in this country, and Marge does her best to convince her that things will get better, some day. At which point that creepy old man from earlier shows up, and is then killed by a Marge bot. Huzzah!

 

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This is an incredibly strange episode. On the one hand, I guess the unifying theme is that men are the worst, and toxic masculinity is the greatest evil in the world, but it just doesn’t really seem to come together that well. It definitely seems like the Artie Ziff stuff was going to become the main plot, since they usually save Artie for full episodes, but it just spins its wheels the entire time, and doesn’t lead to much. Plus, its so weird that Artie Ziff has evolved into some sort of supervillain, capable of inventing an army of robots, but whatever, the show barely seems to remember who these characters are anymore. And boy is the Lisa plot strange. The whole inciting incident of the braces that cause her to have perpetual grins and grimmaces was utterly ridiculous, and then to make it this weird take on the 2016 election just felt really unfocused. Especially when it all seemed to boil down to an idea that women smiling actually does make them more popular, so they should probably just do it and become more accepted. I don’t know, it’s just a really messy episode, folks.

 

“Hail to the Teeth” was written by Elisabeth Kiernan Averick and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2020

 

 

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