Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Simpson and Delilah” is both a footnote and a masterpiece.

2.2 Simpson and Delilah

Homer’s life turns around when he discovers an expensive new hair growth product.

This episode is a fine cocktail of superficiality and male fragility with a lovely capitalism garnish.

When Homer is informed of the exorbitant price of Dimoxinil by a salesman, he breaks down, crying, “Forget you pal, thanks for nothing.” In the next scene, Homer recounts the story to Lenny and Carl, using the same words, but as though he defiantly told the salesman off.

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Gender is a performance, and you’ll never make it without an advertising budget. 

Hair is continually equated with virility and success in this episode, and it’s done in a way that criticizes both ideal masculinity and superficiality. Homer gets a big promotion as soon as his hair grows in, and then loses it as soon as he loses his hair. Near the end, he gives a speech on how the nuclear power plant can save money, and while it’s a perfectly compelling speech, the audience has no interest in his ideas because of his bland, uninteresting appearance.

Of course in real life, aging men who are bald and bland often still do very well for themselves. It’s not like superficiality doesn’t hurt men, though, even in a workforce that’s male-dominated. For example, less than 3% of CEOs are under 5’7”, and over 90% are above average height.

What I most like about this episode is how dark a tone it gives its critique. After luscious-haired Homer is given the key to the executive bathroom, a jealous Smithers angrily throws a towel on the bathroom’s enormous tile floor. As he walks off in a bird’s eye view, the floor crossfades into the exterior of the building. It’s a gorgeous transition, reminiscent of several in Citizen Kane.

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“Simpson and Delilah”

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Citizen Kane

When Homer’s Dimoxinil begins to work, the sky is sunny and pink; it’s morning in America

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As Homer becomes more successful, the animators start employing greyer tones, and the sky in particular gets cloudier, before finally pouring rain.

As for Karl, Homer’s secretary, he’s a fascinating character. This is his only major appearance, and he barely interacts with anyone outside of Homer. He seems out of place in the Simpsons universe, perhaps because he’s so pure and selfless.

The Simpsons often makes a point of nudging its story just past the point of earnestness and into the absurd, and in this case it’s when Karl, having taken the fall for Homer, walks out into the rain, takes out his umbrella, and tosses it to Homer, who is still inside. Karl is the antithesis of the superficial. While the characters around him are mostly selfish or ineffectual, Karl represents something of the divine (I have to assume this is intentional, given the episode title’s reference to the Book of Judges). Luscious-haired Homer was dancing around in the sun; now that he his bald and burdened again, his guardian tosses him a little something to shield him from the elements.

James L. Brooks once said, “You don’t run across that many role models in real life. Why should television be full of them?” Characters on The Simpsons have their moments of grace, but pretty much stumble through life the rest of the time, so it’s no accident that when the series brings in a perfect character, they really stick out.

If Karl is Homer’s guardian angel, Frank Grimes is the angel of death, brought to tell Homer that he has lost all of the qualities Karl once said he had on the inside. Both Karl and Grimes exist outside the show’s reality and provide pure, if inverse, commentary on the show’s characters, and, by extension, us.

Of note: The brief, platonic kiss between Karl and Homer is believed to be the first animated male-on-male kiss ever to air on network television.

This was a bigger deal in 1991 than it is today. Also I love the bland, corporate office painting as a backdrop. It illustrates the darkly absurd tone of the episode, while also emphasizing the Karl-as-guardian-angel argument.

This is an episode you kind of have to footnote in. It’s not spoken of among the classics, but it sure is gripping, if in a different way. It ends with Homer losing his promotion, but getting his old position back. He’s sad about his hair, so Marge sings “You Are So Beautiful” to him. It’s a moment too underwhelming to be saccharine. The lyrics are as gaudy as Burns’ executive bathroom, but coming from Marge they say, quite simply, “You are enough.”

Best Moment: Karl tossing Homer his umbrella.

Best Quote: “I’m not gonna kill you, but I’m gonna tell you three things that will haunt you for the rest of your days. You ruined your father, you crippled your family, and baldness is hereditary.” -Homer

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