The Simpsons: a probably-too-detailed look at ‘Homer’s Enemy’

"So what's new, Grimey?"

In his review of the two newest episodes of Futurama, Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club (which: is one of my favourite websites. If you are a geek who adores crazy-in-depth pop-culture analysis, subscribe to it now) goes off on a thoughtful tangent in which he proposes that the episode ‘Homer’s Enemy’ marks “the beginning of the end” of The Simpsons.

If you’re not a Simpsons nerd and can’t identify episodes by their titles, ‘Homer’s Enemy’ is basically The One with Frank Grimes:

A fastidious new employee at the plant [Frank Grimes] doesn’t get along with Homer, who is anxious to make amends. Meanwhile, Bart comes into the possession of an abandoned factory.

Wikipedia rightly identifies ‘Homer’s Enemy’ as “one of the darkest episodes of The Simpsons“: Grimes, who’s “had to struggle for everything he ever got”, becomes increasingly furious with Homer and the ease of his accomplishments. It culminates with Grimes – nicknamed “Grimey”, against his wishes – impersonating Homer’s buffoonery, electrocuting and killing himself in the process. Homer then ruins his funeral by snoring during the service.

It is indeed dark. Handlen, while declaring the episode “hilarious, no question” (it is),  argues that “it fundamentally and permanently undermines the series’ core” – The Simpsons, he says, is built on “family”, and the series “can’t support that level of darkness without losing its heart”.

I disagree (though I do agree with Handlen’s other point, that the episode is “a clever piece of meta-commentary on certain basic elements that have been with the show since the beginning”), because The Simpsons has always had dark elements, particularly concerning Homer’s behaviour – consider ‘A Streetcar Named Marge’, in which he flat-out tells Marge he doesn’t care about her interests, or ‘Lisa’s Substitute’, where he says pretty much the same thing to his eight-year-old daughter. Both stories are wrapped up tidily, though in neither does Homer really earn his redemption (I remember being shocked by his selfishness in ‘Streetcar’ even as a small child) ((One could argue that Homer earns his ‘Lisa’s Substitute’ redemption in the later instalment ‘Lisa’s Wedding’, which functions as a sort of unofficial sequel; both episodes are about Homer’s relationship with other men in Lisa’s life.)).

Note that both these episodes are from early on in The Simpsons‘ run (seasons four and two, respectively); Homer was a much darker, more selfish character before he morphed into the loveable idiot we’re familar with. ‘Homer’s Enemy’ really just combines those two sides of his character  in a single episode.


How Australia’s online media is reacting to the Rudd leadership spill

As I write this (timely!) Australia is going nutso over the possibility that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will get the boot in favour of his deputy PM Julia Gillard. How responsive are (some of) Australia’s leading online media outlets to a breaking story that may emerge as one of the biggest political stories of the year?

ABC news: It’s their lead story!

The Australian: The lead (ie, the image slot) is the Afghan war. Rudd doesn’t even get his picture! Predictably dry of the Oz. Top story – Photoshopped World Cup malarkey. (Of course that is their top story.) Rudd has an image, at least.

Ninemsn news: “CEO’s sticky fingers” wins the lead spot, but Gillard has her picture up there.

SBS World News: It’s the lead story, natch. Seinfeld vs. Gaga is deemed the most important story (to be fair, SMH has five rotating “lead” spots, though none of them is devoted to Rudd/Gillard). The Rudd leadership threat is right up there, though.


Elaine vs. Soup Nazi

This is probably the greatest scene to emerge from nine seasons of Seinfeld:

However, every time I watch this episode – and it airs on pay TV frequently – I get anxious. Because it’s never made clear whether Elaine has made copies of the Soup Nazi’s recipes; if he was to snatch the recipes back from her, her gloriously delivered revenge would collapse. And even though I’ve seen the ep enough times to know he doesn’t snatch the recipes back, the dread always lingers in the back of my mind.

Solution: travel in time to 1995, request that Jerry Seinfeld and  writing team insert awkward line into the scene along lines of, “Hello Soup Nazi: I, Elaine Benes, have already duplicated your recipes, thus rendering your attempts to snatch them back from me ineffective. Next!” Sparkling dialogue!