3.8 Lisa’s Pony
Homer gets Lisa a new pony after not showing up for her when she needs help with the school talent show.
The opening scene parodies the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with Homer-as-early-human lounging on the pillar of knowledge as the others learn to use tools. He wakes up in the power plant, with Lisa begging him to get the reed she needs for her saxophone. Homer gets to the music store with five minutes to spare, but goes to Moe’s instead, and doesn’t show up to the talent show in time.
First of all, ha ha Homer as monkey. It’s good for a laugh, sure, but there isn’t much depth beyond that. It’s been done to death as a trope (We’ve already seen it with Homer as early as “The Call of the Simpsons”).
Secondly, we’re once again entrenched in the every-sitcom-ever formula of patriarch fucks up, patriarch is really sorry, patriarch gets forgiven because aww he’s being so adorable though! Homer boozes instead of showing up for his kid and then worries spending time with her will turn him gay. I’m supposed to find this charming? Like…he tries to scam Apu, who responds by giving him a job. To their credit, I feel like the writers *kind of* wanted to look down on Homer in this episode, but any attempt to do so was undercut by the very male tendency to always reward the resplendent mediocrity of the patriarch.
Not only that, the writers sneak in the message of “Hey Homer’s fuck ups are excusable because he supports the family financially,” which, nope. I totally sympathize with his 24 hour work day, but you can have Lisa learn just how hard Homer is working to pay for the pony without also having it function to absolve his behaviour. Some men bring home the bacon and treat their kids like they exist. Complex world out there.
The scene where Lisa tells the trainer what the pony likes as she gives it up is really good, but it could have been a much bigger gutpunch had the writers trusted her to carry the plot more.
It’s also one of those sitcom plots where a simple conversation with Lisa about how much a pony costs could have prevented the whole episode from happening. Am I expecting too much? Probably. I will say I like how Marge gets Lisa to decide for herself to give up the pony. That moment saved the episode imho.
Are there laughs at least? Of course. That’s the nice thing about golden era Simpsons; you get laughs even when there isn’t a lot of depth happening. Lisa finding the pony in her bed a la The Godfather is hilarious, as is the scene where Burns gives Homer an employee line of credit, but not before making sure Homer doesn’t know what “usury” means.
Thing I also found neat: Early Seymour Skinner is a much more jovial, self-aware version of the morose Vietnam veteran we get to know later in the series. We don’t lose the joviality altogether (See his enthusiasm for stargazing in “Bart’s Comet”), but it’s an interesting contrast, and I think both Skinners are hilarious.
And early Ralph Wiggum is um…different. Seeing Lisa on her pony he remarks, “But what man can tame her.” As much as I don’t love where Homer is going, I uh…I prefer later-series Ralph.
Anyway, back to me dropping a deuce on this episode. I think Homer is at his best when his obtuseness comes out of a sorta kinda almost intelligent place. He’s as much of an oaf in “Simpson and Delilah” or “O Brother Where Are Thou,” for example, but he has just enough of a broad sense of consequence to give his foibles nuance. In “Lisa’s Pony” he’s just another one of TV’s blithering id*ots. Sure there are funny moments, but the attempt at a sophisticated framing with the 2001 reference rings hollow because of this.
You know what, though? I can forgive all the rewarding of Homer for being a complete dipshit if I think of “Homer’s Enemy” (Season 8) as the spiritual series finale. It’s like the writers finally had enough of this dynamic and gave us hell for buying into what in their minds was an attempt at satire for so many years. It’s why I’m only reviewing up to that episode. It frames “Lisa’s Pony” and many other episodes before and after it in a much more palatable way.
Best Moment: Lisa wakes up with the pony in her bed.
Best Quote: “All the years I’ve lobbied to be treated like an adult have blown up in my face.” -Lisa