2.17 Old Money
Abe Simpson’s new flame, Bea dies, leaving him with a healthy inheritance. Abe takes suitors on who to donate the money to, and then decides to gamble it all, before ultimately using it to renovate the retirement home.
This episode takes a (somewhat lateral) look at elder abuse, as well as greed and forgiveness. I’d describe it as top of the middle of the pack.
Comedy tends to treat the elderly as rich, out of touch prudes, providing us with a fountain of old person jokes. They’re easy targets, because you never find them at stand-up shows, and they’re never the intended demographic of mainstream sitcoms.
In reality, 600,000 seniors in Canada live in poverty, and 40% report having a disability (the able-washing of seniors in western storytelling is a real problem, imho).
There are definitely racist aunts and uncles to be found, but a large percentage of the elderly are in a marginalized group. Many are easily taken in by opportunistic relatives and scammers; I would even argue that a good chunk of infomercials and “cash for gold” schemes constitute a form of elder abuse. (It’s only fair if I’m to argue that teaching children about hell is child abuse, which it is.)
So it’s kind of important that shows dealing with how we treat and portray the elderly employ at least some degree of tact. We’ll all be part of that demographic someday if we’re lucky.
For the most part, “Old Money” passes with flying colours. When the family drops Abe Simpson off at the retirement home they agree they should make the “third Sunday of every month” fun, and each character suggests an outing only they would enjoy. Even Lisa does it. I love that for all her worldliness, Lisa is given pockets of ignorance just like everybody else.
The Simpsons see an ad for a lion safari and shout, “Discount lion safari!” Their shouting it a second time once Abe is in the car with them pushes the narrative into the absurd to amplify the satire of elder neglect.
It’s important that the writers do that, too, because I find that with the “Grandpa in a home” bits they often laugh at Abe’s neglect without really challenging it. So I’m glad the writers have Abe miss his final hours with his new flame, Bea, as it holds up a mirror to the family’s selfishness as opposed to just laughing it off.
Heh. Abe. Bea. I just got that.
I appreciate the moment when the two meet and Abe just flat out says, “Look at us, we’re staring at each other like a couple of teenagers.” I don’t know what it’s like to love as a senior, but I imagine there’s a heightened awareness of self and time that this moment captures.
There are a couple moments I feel kinda “meh” about. One is when Abe and Bea eat their pills all seductively for each other. I’m not behind the idea of making anyone’s mutual attraction a source of gross-out comedy, and that goes for old folks too.
I was once propositioned by a 93-year old woman. I didn’t go for it, but Jesus Murphy, good for her. I just think of it as being hit on by three 31 year olds.
Making liver disorder and a missing kidney the topic of Abe and Bea’s first date conversation is kinda meh, too. Get it? They’re old! That’s the joke! It’s unfortunate when writers rely on lazy stereotypes in a way that undercuts the humanizing message they’re going for. The writers were guilty of this in “Homer’s Night Out” and they fall into that trap a few times here.
Bea’s death and everything after it is treated perfectly, though. A+ to Dan Castellaneta’s portrayal of Abe’s grief, and A+ to the writers for sicking Lionel Hutz on Abe immediately. I’ve worked in a bank, and I’ve encountered a lot of people salivating over dying clients and relatives’ money. Treating dying human beings as walking wallets simply because they’re old and vulnerable is very real, and tragic to witness.
The townspeople trying to get Abe’s inheritance is hilarious. The best part is Dr. Marvin Monroe’s desire to raise a baby in an isolation chamber to test his theory that the kid will grow up with a deep resentment of him. The writers eventually had to retire Dr. Monroe because of the stress on Harry Shearer’s voice. It’s too bad, as the character is a great sendup of pop psychology.
At one point Mr. Burns begs for the money and Abe says he doesn’t know him, but they’re the last two Flying Hellfish a season later. Oh well. The series is still finding its feet at this point. It’s nothing like the unforgivable “Skinner is a fraud” twist at the start of season nine.
The scene with Abe trying to gamble his inheritance is great for the Kipling quote on how losing everything at a game of pitch and toss makes you a man somehow. I assumed it was a satirical paraphrase of the poem, “If,” but no, it’s a direct quote. Good grief Kipling is terrible.
In the end Abe gives his money to the retirement home, which was in a state of disrepair. It’s a nice touch, but the renovations are a bit too palatial. Going from disrepair to comfort as opposed to luxury would have made for a better final point.
That said, it’s still a pretty good look at ageism. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the activists of my generation begin to view ageism as a more real and immediate axis of oppression a few decades from now, particularly insofar as it intersects with ableism.
Best Moment: The conversation on the roller coaster between Abe and the ghost of Bea.
Best Quote: “Nothing says I love you better than a military antique.” -Herman