Classic Simpsons Reviews: “The Way We Was” paints Marge’s character into a corner.

2.12 The Way We Was

When the Simpsons’ TV breaks down, Marge and Homer tell the story of how they got together in 1974.

It’s fun to see Homer and Barney’s high school days. Them getting busted for smoking in the boys room, Homer just beginning to lose his hair, and Barney streaking through the prom are great moments.

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I kinda wish this were the whole episode.

The writers put Marge at a feminist rally and give her the idea of starting bra burning. Ok here’s the deal, kids: Bra burning never happened.

Women did picket a Miss America pageant in 1968, but no one took their bras off, no one set them on fire, and there weren’t any bra burnings anywhere else in the country afterwards. A Margaret Wente-esque New York Post writer linked the Miss America protest to an unrelated Vietnam protest, and called it a “bra burning,” and the myth lives on because it’s a convenient way to straw-man feminists.

I’m sure it’s possible Gloria Steinem singed a bra strap while stoking a campfire once or twice, but on an organized level, feminists never burned bras. It just wasn’t a thing.

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Guys. Do some research.

Marge ends up in detention, and even quips, “Last time I ever take a stand.”

Well, she does marry Homer, so…

Anyway, the acting in this show is so underrated. Dan Castellenata manages to make both Abe and Homer Simpson sound 15 years younger without sacrificing any characterization or making them sound remotely like any of the other fifty voices Castellenata does.

Also a very nice guest spot by Jon Lovitz as Artie Ziff, Marge’s would-be flame.

Marge’s mom, Jackie Bouvier makes another great appearance, with the classic line, “Ladies pinch, whores use rouge.”

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Terrible, but I’m laughing for the same reason I laugh at Lucille Bluth; the level of cruelty is just absurd enough to be more satirical than instructive.

Ultimately this episode misses the mark for me because it gives Marge very little justification for choosing Homer outside of ‘Artie got grabby’. Well…ok, fuck Artie, so there weren’t any other non-grabby guys? I don’t care if her reason for being with Homer comes from a dysfunctional place; at least give us something.

The writers do hint at it being some sort of rebellion against her family, who she overhears dissing Homer…That could be a good reason, but the Bouvier dynamic isn’t explored with enough depth to offset the fact that Homer lied to Marge, harassed her constantly, and caused her to fail an exam, but oh, he didn’t grab her, so, bar cleared.

It smacks of male entitlement when the leading woman’s romantic decisions are unmotivated and nonsensical. Whole lotta that happening here.

As for Artie’s grabbiness, this is a similar situation to “Life on the Fast Lane,” where the writers make the male threat to the show’s central monogamous relationship just happen to be a total dink. It’s a cute little trick patriarchy plays in order to justify its resplendent mediocrity.

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The writers choose to have Marge physically dwarf Artie as a mechanism for getting her character out of the corner into which they’ve painted her.

So remember, kids, the “other man” is always the asshole, whereas the patriarch, despite his many, many, many flaws, is a good notch or two above all the other men the writers happen to plunk in front of the leading woman, soooo we cool.

In The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand is a vocal anti-war activist, and Robert Redford is a politically carefree wasp. Despite their best interests, they fall in love, and their political differences eventually tear them apart. Part of why it’s an important movie, in my view, is that the solution it arrives at doesn’t involve Streisand’s character becoming more docile. Watch any film where the leading woman is strident and outspoken, particularly if there’s a political bent. In almost every case, she’ll be pacified by the end of the film.

I’m not suggesting The Simpsons isn’t allowed to go the other way in what is a very loose parody, but if you’re going to go full patriarchy in how you resolve a story’s conflict, you need to justify that and draw attention to it, otherwise I can only assume your women characters exist as a means to an end for the more important men.

Best Moment: 17 year old Homer singing “Space Cowboy” in the end credits. I’m not being flippant here; it’s fucking hilarious.

Best Quote: “Hello classmates. Instead of voting for some athletic hero, or a pretty boy, you have elected me, an intellectual superior, as your king. Good for you!” -Artie Ziff

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