Two weeks ago, we argued that the latest season of The Simpsons has seen Lisa Simpson exiled to storyline purgatory, doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. In this week’s episode, we have the middle Simpson child ambling down a well-worn path yet again – but finding that those around her don’t react like they did last time.
Lisa thinks her B- in a school project (a B- for a ‘what inspires me’ report) will affect her dream of getting to Yale. But her Yale dreams have changed – where once she dreamed of finding an academic utopia, she now imagines being surrounded by moronic, unicycle-riding, over-privileged guys in boater hats.
In the past, Homer would scoff at Lisa’s championing of unsung women of colour. Yet this week, when she makes a mobile inspired by Gladys West, a woman whose work on satellites helped develop GPS, the joke is that Homer knows exactly who she is and resents her for inventing a system that means he can no longer pretend to get lost.
Lisa’s typical response to imperfect grades would be to suck up (season 14’s ‘Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade’), to cheat (season 10’s ‘Lisa Gets an “A”’) or to play saxophone (season 29’s ‘Lisa Gets the Blues’). Here, she calls Miss Hoover a “hack” and refuses to apologise, arguing women are made to feel “we have to apologise for existing”. When she briefly considers turning to the blues, the ghost of Bleeding Gums Murphy pops up and tells her “don’t you drag us into your problems”. Ouch.
At the end of it all, Lisa can’t figure out what the moral of the story was either. The timing of the episode is better here in the UK than its original US broadcast, falling in the week of International Women’s Day and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview – both of which have sparked intelligent debate about privilege, sexism and race. In contrast, this episode is muddled. We have an 8-year-old girl who used to be considered Greta Thunberg-level righteous who now can’t get it right. Might it be possible that The Simpsons’ writers are projecting?
Lisa’s insolence to her teacher, Miss Hoover, lands her in detention, where Bart helps her toughen up. When her refusal to apologise to Miss Hoover doesn’t restore the status quo, Lisa follows Hoover home in order to better understand her foe – but is instead saddened to find her teacher living in miserable conditions. Can she make it better? She’ll certainly try.
What was good
Bart’s ingenious way of swerving apologies by saying “I’m soggy” instead of “I’m sorry”. Bet you try it out IRL.
The clumsiness – but we’ve said enough about that.
Gag of the week
Bart, to Lisa, in detention. “There is a detention for teachers. It’s called being a teacher.”
Easter Egg of the week
Yes, that’s an El Barto tag in Miss Hoover’s neighbourhood – good to see Bart’s graffiti-spraying alter-ego lives on. And later, ears peeled for the Yale jerks singing to the tune of ‘Baby On Board’ from season five’s ‘Homer’s Barbershop Quartet’.
Sight gag of the week
Miss Hoover reading What Time Is Lunch? magazine. Where do we subscribe?
Did you spot these pop culture references?
One kid’s class presentation is a Jack O’Lantern head inspired by The Masked Singer. Later, when Lisa says her presentation will be in the form of a rap, a classmate in a Drake T-shirt bolts through the window.
Weird moment of the week
Maggie Simpson quietly building a model of a Diethyl 4-Methylbenzylphosphonate molecule, a compound that a small amount of research tells me is used for “Horner-Emmons reactions”. Odd.
Eye on Springfield
- Writer: Nell Scovell
- Guest stars: None
- Couch gag: The Simpsons do Pacman, in glorious 8-bit.
- Blackboard message: “I will not put laxatives in Santa’s cookies”.
- Is it as good as the old ones? No. But there are some great character gags along the way.
- Like this episode? Try this one: ‘Lisa on Ice’, from season six. It’s another ‘Lisa can’t handle failure’ episode – on ice!