Simpsons Did It!: “A Streetcar Named Marge”


Today’s episode was actually blocked from the Fox affiliate in the city of New Orleans when it first ran.  Apparently, some critic got ahold of the lyrics for one of the made-up songs in the fake musical Marge appears in.  Said lyrics describe New Orleans as being full of pirates, thieves, whores, and the like.  That angered people.  What they didn’t see was the song was a joke and the lyrics were way over the top and that no one involved with the show actually was saying that stuff about New Orleans was true.  The people there found that out when the episode was back as a rerun.

Meanwhile, the estate of Tennessee Williams blocked using A Streetcar Named Desire from being used, but American copyright law allows for the use of a handful of lines so long as it doesn’t go beyond that.  That was why Marge is in a musical in the first place.

Now, what we have here is a Marge episode.  Marge episodes usually deal with Marge trying to figure something out about herself to get out of the horrible everyday existence she leads as a wife and mother to a family of demanding people.

Or, more precisely, married to a selfish jerk like Homer, who comes out and admits that though he would never say anything to hurt Marge’s feelings, he is very good about faking enthusiasm for her kooky projects.  Homer’s apathy means he doesn’t pay much attention to what his wife is saying, even if she says it multiple times.  Those beauty pageants aren’t going to watch themselves!

Jon Lovitz comes back for another pair of new characters, namely highly temperamental stage director Llewellyn Sinclair and his sister with no first name.  Sinclair badgers and bullies his cast, including Marge, Chief Wiggum, Apu, and a surprisingly buff Ned Flanders into a brilliant stage production that he will, of course, take all the credit for.  But he’s still less scary than the calligraphy guy.

His sister, still without a first name, runs the Ayn Rand School For Tots, and if there’s a less appropriate philosopher this side of Neitzsche, I can’t think of it.  I really can’t.  I don’t know much about philosophy.  Maggie gets sent there, leading to a rare but highly rewarding Maggie B-plot as she works to get her pacifier back for herself and the other babies.  Ms. Sinclair believes babies with those are saying they are leaches.  If she weren’t running the only daycare not currently being investigated by the state, I am sure Marge would have taken Maggie somewhere else.

Maggie’s two attempts to retrieve the pacifiers come courtesy of scenes right out of The Great Escape, or maybe those Tweety cartoons when Sylvester would stack a bunch of stuff to get to the bird cage suspended from the ceiling.  After her success, Homer retrieving Maggie turns into The Birds with all the happy babies with their pacifiers.  And there’s even a Hitchcock cameo going by outside if you missed the reference, unless you don’t recognize Hitchcock, in which case you are out of luck.

Marge, it turns out, is greatly able to channel her frustrations into a wonderful performance.  All she has to do is see Homer when she’s acting across from Ned, and then Ned has little hope of subduing the angry housewife.

But Homer is better than Stanley Kowalski.  In fact, unsurprisingly, the half-assed musical version of the original play misses the whole point, turning Blanche’s final fate into a happy, carefree send-off.  The original play does that in a less playful manner after Stanley rapes her.  The fact that Marge doesn’t see what’s so bad about the guy, and all Llewellyn can explain is that Stanley is thoughtless and rude, and Homer thinks all Stanley really had to do was be nice to Blanche, that makes me think the musical was highly sanitized.

But Homer did learn a lesson, expressed some remorse and genuine amazement at Marge’s acting, and the two reconcile.  Homer thinks he might be a lot like Stanley, but Marge says only a little, since Stanley doesn’t learn lessons.

Of course, Homer is just dumb and inconsiderate.  He’ll forget whatever he’s learned before too long.


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