Lifetime of Simpsons

S31 E14 – Bart the Bad Guy

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Hey, have you been curious about how exactly the Simpsons was going to react to the fact that Fox has been purchased by Disney in their ever-growing mission of corporate supremacy over the entertainment industry? It felt like it was only a matter of time before they starting making light jabs at the hands that feed them, much as they did to Fox, and it turns out that today’s episode is the first time that they’ve really gone at it. And, it’s mainly a lot of head-shaking at people caring about superhero movies!

The episode begins with everyone in Springfield attending a screening of the latest blockbuster superhero movie, the Vindicators! It’s a riff on Infinity War where the various Vindicators are fighting Chinnos, a Thanos parody, who is trying to install some sort of reality-shaping app onto his new smartphone. And, as you would expect, he ends up succeeding, turning the heroes into crystal and then shattering them all, much to the horror of the audience.

The various townsfolk react in horror as they realize they have an entire year to deal with this cliffhanger, and essentially start a riot in the theater, knowing that they won’t be able to contain themselves. But, they have no choice, and we jump ahead eleven months, where Vindicators fever is ramping up again, and everyone is excited to learn the resolution of their big story.

But, we also see that the kids of Springfield Elementary are forced into a school assembly where Principal Skinner wants to warn them against doing the latest dangerous trend. And, to explain said trend, he just shows videos of it to them, which primarily takes the form of people being raised up flag-poles by their buddies. And, obviously, the kids think that this sounds like a great plan.

So, Bart and his buddies head over to the local VFW and he gets raised up to flap in the wind. But, their poor planning ends up jostling an old artillery cannon loose, and it rolls down a hill, dragging Milhouse behind it. He ends up getting hurt pretty bad, getting some sort of full-body sprain, and it brought to the hospital, where only Bart is present with him, apparently being an emergency contact.

But, while Milhouse is getting his physical therapy, something exciting happens. Glen Tangier, a drunken actor who portrays Airshot, a member of the Vindicators, has arrived at the hospital to do a Make a Wish thing. And, because he’s quite drunk, he doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, and ends up walking into Milhouse’s room to find Bart. Bart decides to go with it, and when Tangier makes a reference to the fact that his laptop has the new movie on it to show kids who are going to die before the release, he realizes he needs to steal that laptop.

 

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Thankfully, he doesn’t really need to, because Tangier just passes out for four hours, and Bart is able to watch the entire movie in Milhouse’s hospital room. He loves the movie, and immediately realizes that he’s now the only person in town who knows what’s going to happen in the most anticipated film of the year, and has an amazing amount of power. He attempts to use that immediately by showing up to the Android’s Dungeon, telling Comic Book Guy that he’ll tell him what happens in exchange for some expensive comics. But, Comic Book Guy holds fast, and refuses. So, Bart changes tactics and instead asks for a bribe in order to not get spoiled, which works real well.

So, Bart now realizes that he can blackmail people in town to do whatever he wants in exchange for spoiler immunity, and starts becoming the king of the town. He takes over the school, even scaring Skinner with his spoilers, and just starts leading the high life. Which, ends up catching Homer’s attention. But, much to Homer’s frustration, Homer doesn’t really care about the movie, doing that thing where he claims he’s an adult so he doesn’t care about a stupid movie where the bad guys are probably going to lose.

However, Bart does offer to help Homer with his evil powers, and Homer jumps at that chance, getting a bunch of free beer in exchange for Bart not telling Moe what happens in the movie. The whole family starts getting benefits from Bart’s powers, even to the point where Glen Tangier comes and takes Lisa to some school dance in exchange for Bart not telling “Marbel Studios” that he let Bart see the movie.

But, Tangier spoils Bart’s plan by pointing out that the movie is coming out in a week, at which point his powers will be nullified. So, Bart decides to go for one last haul, and interrupts some insane birthday party for a famous tree in town, forcing the random citizens who came to the party to build him a tree-house mansion or else they’ll get spoiled. And, they do it. Bart has fully become a supervillain.

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At which point Milhouse finally shows back up, mad that Bart exploited his injury to get this power. The two yell about it in the Simpsons’ backyard when things start to get crazy. Because one of the Vindicators, Magnesium Man, shows up and attacks Bart, knocking him unconscious. And, when Bart finally wakes up he finds himself in the Vindicator’s headquarters, seemingly in an alternate dimension where this is all real.

The Vindicators start scolding Bart for his actions, explaining that in their dimension everything that happens in the movies happens to them. And, because of Bart’s frequent spoiling the writers had to change the script to be much darker, which has resulted in Airshot being killed. And, Bart realizes what his actions have actually caused.

Which is when we learn that, of course, this isn’t actually happening. But, it’s not a dream. Bart was kidnapped by Marbel Studios, and placed in some sort of VR torture device, run by the Russo Brothes, who are doing all of this to shame Bart out of spoiling things. But, they have the full support of Homer and Marge, who agree that gaslighting their child is fine, because if this massive movie fails it will cause a cascading effect that will destroy a very fragile economy.

They start making the simulation even more intense, having Chinnos show up and attack Bart, offering to give him superpowers in exchange for the spoilers so he can kill the Vindicators. And, Bart seems to be down with this exchange at first, seemingly cementing the idea that he’s a villain, but he ends up staying good and defeating Chinnos, which I guess means his soul is safe? At which point he’s drugged and put back in his backyard, with the rest of the family playing along.

 

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So, yeah, this is a weird one, isn’t it? Like I said, it was inevitable that the show would start to make cracks at Disney’s expense, and I guess the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe thing is a pretty easy target for their typical light ribbing. But, it just felt a little neutered. They do the usual snobby argument that these are stupid movies for children, and adults shouldn’t waste their time getting invested in them, but other than that it just kind of gives off the impression that they’re trying to make fun of their corporate overlords while fully embracing them. I mean, they had the Russo Brothers and Kevin Feige do voices in the episode, so it’s not exactly the sharpest critique. Which isn’t to say that I expected the show to like, really get into the dark stuff, but at least their shots at Fox back in the day were a little sharper than this. It just feels a tad toothless, and makes me concerned that the show is going to become even less sharp than it currently is as it gets fit into the Disney machine for however many seasons it has left in it.

 

“Bart the Bad Guy” was written by Dan Vebber and directed by Jennifer Moeller, 2020.

 

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