Classic Simpsons: “I Married Marge” is an almost good exploration of employment and dignity.

3.12 I Married Marge

Homer tells the Simpson kids the story of Marge’s first pregnancy.

This is a better flashback episode than “The Way We Was,” which, despite outstanding voice acting from the regular cast as well as guest, Jon Lovitz, reinforced ahistorical myths about bra burning while romanticizing the type of courting behaviour that any reasonable person would consider harassment.

“I Married Marge,” on the other hand, is funnier and actually pretty darn romantic.

The funny: Homer choosing a brand of home pregnancy test based on it coming with a free corncob pipe. Homer making a kid cry because he did such a bad job making a wax candle. Homer spoiling the Luke-Vader twist in The Empire Strikes Back for a lineup of moviegoers (I remember laughing hysterically at that as a very young kid).

Like, that one Star Wars gag was funnier than every single joke in Spaceballs. Mel Brooks is overrated. Fight me.

The romantic: Marge’s line, “I’d by lying if I said this is how I pictured my wedding day. But you are how I pictured my husband.” Homer sending Marge an envelope full of money he scrounged together at his fast food job.

And, of course, the onion ring-ring. Diamond rings are the ultimate in romance, and by romance I mean sexism and forced relocation of Indigenous populations. Onion rings, which are disgusting, are far less so by comparison. Millennials can afford onion rings.

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Beyonce didn’t specify which kind.

While I appreciate the money-isn’t-everything message of this episode, I’m bothered by the idea that having a “real job” is what endows Homer with the status of manhood and puts him in a position to demand respect from Patty & Selma. While that moment was awesome and had me rooting for Homer, he is every bit as deserving of dignity when he’s sending Gulp n’ Blow money to Marge as he is when he has nuclear power plant money.

It should also be acknowledged that the economic climate of the time is what affords Homer the ability to be one of three candidates for a steady, well-paying job, let alone march into the power plant later, demand a position, and get it. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

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Great Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reference.

When Homer is first interviewed by Smithers, he is asked to name one of his weaknesses and answers, “It takes me a long time to learn anything” (I’ve said before that Homer is neurodivergent). Smithers immediately retorts, “That’ll do.” That is so on point. The only time I have ever gotten hired has been when I’ve successfully hid my cognitive impairments. I’ve not once received even an interview when disclosing. I’m adding a layer of analysis the writers didn’t here, but I still appreciated that moment.

Oh, and can we talk about the whole “As long as the kid has 10 fingers & 10 toes” comment expecting parents make? I get that the writers are riffing on that with the “8 fingers & 8 toes” line of Homer’s, and it’s a good riff, but the whole idea is ableist as fuck. We know what you’re really saying—you don’t want a kid with a disability/disfigurement. Well, guess what, if you’re not prepared to have a disabled child, you shouldn’t be having children, period.

Anyway. Those are my criticisms. Here are a few more compliments:

No wait, South Park has more disabled kids in its elementary school than The Simpsons does. Freaking South Park. The closest The Simpsons has to a neurodivergent kid is probably Ralph Wiggum, and the whole point of the character outside of the scrap of nuance they give him in “I Love Lisa” is that lol he’s not very bright, is he. Okay I’m done.

I’ve also said before that Homer is at his best when he’s being perceptive sort of. The baby naming conversation is a great example, as Homer nails a bunch of ways Bart could be made fun of with other names, but misses an obvious one in the name they end up choosing. Give your fool characters nuance, for Christsake.

Dan Castellanetta is so good at aging his characters. Early 1980’s Abe Simpson sounds somewhere in between 90’s Abe and the 70’s Abe we heard in “The Way We Was.” Also, Julie Kavner got an Emmy for this episode, and while it is 100% deserved, I will say the Jackie Bouvier moments are more golden in “The Way We Was” than they are here.

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The red eye effect in the wedding photo is an awesome little detail that I missed on every rewatch before this one.

I like how he writers turned the very staid “potential employee gets job by being confident and demanding” trope on its head by having Homer tell Mr. Burns he’ll be the best sycophantic employee a boss could ever hope for.

Finally, I loved how Homer opens his proposal to Marge, because it’s just absurd enough to be critical of how men deal with rejection. He says, “There’s something I want to ask you, but I’m afraid if you say no it’ll destroy me and make me a criminal.” That’s…appropriate.

Best Moment: Homer & Marge’s wedding ceremony.

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“Here’s ten dollars worth of chips, you may kiss the bride.”

Best Quote: “I like your attitude. Feisty, yet spineless.” —Mr. Burns