2.13 Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
Lisa protests Homer’s illegal cable hookup.
One of the many things I love about Lisa is that her morals are influenced by her values as a churchgoer and by real-world social issues.
(These of course shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive, but they often are.)
Lisa’s faith and secular humanism are never at war with each other, and so never create any by-product that would halt her intellectual growth. She reads the Bible, but also the Tao Te Ching. She views the Ten Commandments not as some archaic power trip, but as a way for people to be good to each other. And within all of that, she can still laugh at Bart’s crank calls. That’s a hard character to make believable and consistent, but Yeardley Smith manages it.
Part of why this episode works so well is that while it specifically chooses a religious theme, it explores it in such a universal way. Besides the fact that everyone can relate to the idea of stealing cable, we can all imagine the moral complexity of stealing from a faceless corporation as opposed to someone you know.
I also appreciate that while The Simpsons pulls no punches in terms of making fun of religion, it does so while managing to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Lisa is troubled by Homer’s decision to steal cable, so Reverend Lovejoy suggests she protest non-violently by announcing her refusal to watch any of it. I have never been part of any organized faith, but I have to think a lot of conversations between pastors and congregation members are perfectly healthy. I can only think of The Simpsons when I try to come up with a modern comedy that acknowledges this. That nuance and the message of non-violent resistance give this episode a lot of substance.
Homer getting cable makes for great little bits of satire of TV programming, from infomercials, to schlocky standup comedy, to late night soft-core porn. We also get introduced to Troy McClure and Drederick Tatum, who are both hilarious. And the throwback to “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” with the friendly lemonade episode of Itchy & Scratchy briefly heard on the TV is great. No one earns its self-referential moments like The Simpsons.
All the secondary characters watching the fight at the Simpson home is so much fun, with Mr. Burns’ contribution of a tiny bag of chips stealing the show. I love how the comedy there comes out of the character while contributing to the story’s theme of selfishness.
Unlike some animated programs, where there is no character or story, and the jokes are tacked on and perfunctory.
I’m a fan of little character consistencies, too. Mr. Burns aged himself in “Dancin’ Homer” by mentioning his heckling of MLB legend, Connie Mack many decades ago. Here he mentions having watched boxer, Jim Corbett, who fought his last bout in 1903.
The episode ends with a nice meta twist, as Homer cuts the cable and it immediately transitions to static. It’s a nice way of pointing a finger at the viewer…not that anyone watched this episode and actually got rid of their illegal cable hookup.
Best Moment: Everything Monty Burns before and during the big fight.
Best Quote: “I should box your ears, you…you…you sneaky Pete!” -Ned Flanders