EPISODE 1: Treehouse of Horror XV
What more can I say about an episode that ends with Homer living, full size, inside Mr. Burns body? Seeing the two of them dance together was one of the most bizarre bits of animation I think I’ve ever seen.
The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes are always violent (definitely not for children) and they lovingly tip their hat to classic horror/sci-fi stories from the past. For a thorough discussion of the horror genre from a Christian perspective, check out the recent roundtable discussion here at HJ.
EPISODE 2: All’s Fair in Oven War
Bart and Milhouse find some Playdude magazines in the trash can (Marge already cut the pictures out) and begin to mimic the Playdude lifestyle, while Marge enters a baking contest where her ethics are put to the test.
After Homer gives Bart a quick explanation of the birds and the bees, Bart soon decides that the playdude lifestyle isn’t for him. Funny how a good dose of reality can peel away the fantasies of sexual culture. The free-love movement hit a major roadblock in the 80s with the rise of STDs and HIV, and today the risks are even higher. Bart and Milhouse’s brief dally in the “Playdude” lifestyle is innocently funny, but it points to the larger reality of how we allow magazines and the media in general to shape our practices and lifestyle. And many times, when reality is whispered in our ear, we have the same reaction as Bart when we realize how ridiculous our pretend life really is.
And let’s not forget Marge and Lisa in this episode. Marge eventually cracks under the stress of the contest and (gasp) cheats. In many ways, life is like a giant Ovenfresh Baking Contest in that people are constantly trying to beat us down and force us to lose. In the midst of this we are bombarded by the message to win and achieve at all costs. How do we respond to ethical choices within this pressure cooker? In Marge’s case, she finally confesses her sins after some gentle prodding by Lisa. If only we all had the conscience of young Lisa, with the conviction and moral integrity to stand up for what’s right.
EPISODE 3: Sleeping With the Enemy
Lisa becomes self-conscious of her image (specifically her posterior region), and Nelson moves in with the Simpsons after Marge “adopts” him. Nelson’s mother has neglected him and run away to become an actress. AND this episode marks the return of Nelson’s father.
After Lisa is teased about the size of her backside, she tries desperately to change her image. Her experience reflects the dilemma faced by many young girls in our society today. Girls are presented with unreal expectations about their bodies and are prodded, teased, and ridiculed about their weight. They then starve themselves to look stick thin (Lisa, after eating a carrot: “Now I can’t have toothpaste tonight”). This sick state of affairs is beginning at a younger and younger age (Lisa shops in the “Saks Fifth Grade”). Thus, our girls are programmed before they even have a chance to fight it. The episode doesn’t end with a neat resolution to Lisa’s problem, which is refreshing for a sitcom. And you know, there really isn’t an easy answer to this problem. The church needs to begin to reformulate the American mind about this image issue instead of ignoring it—or fostering it along with everyone else.
And then there’s Nelson . . . Marge (feeling ignored by her own family) decides to spend quality time with him and—what do you know?—Nelson responds positively! Bart doesn’t quite understand his mother’s involvement with the school bully (Bart’s reaction upon seeing Nelson and Marge in the front yard: “My mother, my bully, my god!”) but Marge nonetheless continues to reach out to Nelson. Ever wonder why school bullies are school bullies? We get a glimpse into Nelson’s reason—his dad left him, his mother’s an alcoholic, and he’s neglected. By treating Nelson with respect, as a true child of God, Marge is able to encourage his life. How often do we simply label the outcasts, cast them aside, and leave them alone? I’m sure you have a Nelson in your neighborhood, school, or job. Hopefully, you also have a Marge who will give him the time of day.