Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Principal Charming” is a deceptively good commentary on relationships.

2.14 Principal Charming

Homer tries to set Principal Skinner up with Selma, but Skinner and Patty fall in love instead.

In “The Way We Was,” I griped about the lack of Bouvier plot development justifying why Marge chooses to be with Homer. “Principal Charming” partially makes up for that, as the Patty and Selma A story is both touching and hilarious, and Homer, while he complains a few times, is a champ for trying to help Marge’s sisters (who never thank him for his efforts).

Homer’s man-finding radar is classic. I love that it lands on Smithers and only comes up with “Jerk” as a reason why he shouldn’t date Selma. That’s way under the radar, so to speak.

I had forgotten about the “Homer Sexual” crank call to Moe’s. I find myself chuckling; and yet, does that joke get made in 2015? It’s funny, and yet kinda crowbarred in. I’m gonna say “possible Homer Sexual” as a con for Skinner either doesn’t fly now or is given just a little extra analysis. I’m not saying it’s off the wall problematic, I just think it’s interesting to evaluate what jokes from 1991 look different now.

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I’ll say it again: Homer is at his best when his obtuseness is coming from an almost intelligent place.

Anyway, the character developments for Patty and Selma are all great. We learn that they work at the DMV, which, of course they work at the DMV, the most miserable place in America. Patty is hilarious when she rebuffs Skinner’s attempt at the “yawn while putting your arm around your date” move. And Selma’s break up with Barney on their date is phenomenal. She tries to come up with a half-hearted line and just says “whatever” and walks away. Patty and Selma are the Sedins of deadpan humour, and are very well acted by Julie Kavner.

Also of note is how convincing Kavner and Harry Shearer are playing opposite each other as Patty and Skinner. They sound like real 40-somethings trying to make their world-weary feelings for each other work.

The Simpsons actors’ ability to take any two characters and play them off each other with interesting results is a huge reason for the series’ longevity.

No shortage of funny shit here. Groundskeeper Willie is introduced, and his making Bart reseed the school field is great stuff. The references to Vertigo and Gone With the Wind are seamlessly woven in and well chosen, given Skinner and Patty’s ages. And I love Moe’s line, “Homer, lighten up. You’re making happy hour bitterly ironic.”

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Skinner and Patty both have a moment after their breakup where they come full circle. I do find it irksome that Skinner’s involves a return to professional devotion, and Patty’s involves a return to filial devotion. She does have a job and he does have a mother, so it’s fair to scrutinize where the writers place their emphasis. I also challenge the assumption that a romantic relationship negates the rest of one’s relationships in their community, but I’m a relationship anarchist, so…

It’s great to see Patty and Selma given some humanity outside of being the bitter, overbearing sister-in-laws who hate Homer. Their loyalty to each other in the end is really quite moving, despite my criticisms above. Patty gives up Skinner for Selma knowing full well that Selma may have gone all in with a new flame. That’s some unconditional love right there. What could have been a throwaway ending with Patty and Skinner not working out simply because it serves the writers’ interests ends up being a very mature take on breakups. Patty says, “We decided we loved each other enough never to see each other again.” I’m happy to report that I’d describe most of my breakups this way.*

I had some reservations about the “40-something woman hellbent on finding a man” trope with Selma, but I was won over by how the writers use Patty’s just not giving a shit as a counterpoint. Patty’s lack of investment in finding someone lands her a fling, which is kinda how it works.

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Patty don’t give a FUCK.

Best Moment: Homer’s ‘find Selma a man’ radar.

Best Quote:  -“Isn’t it nice we hate the same things?” -Skinner

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Now that’s what I call love.

*-most of

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