Recap / The Simpsons S1 E5 "Bart the General"
Episode - 7G05
First Aired - 2/4/1990

After Nelson steals cupcakes Lisa made for her teacher, Bart decides to stand up for her and ends up getting bullied by Nelson. After taking advice from Marge and Homer, Bart visits Grampa Simpson and a one-armed, mentally unstable miltary antique store owner named Herman and the three plan an all-out war against Nelson and his cronies.

This episode contains examples of:

  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The episode ends with Bart telling the audience that war isn't cool or glamorous, unless it's The American Revolutionary War, World War II, or the Star Wars trilogynote 
  • Art Evolution: Whereas the previous four episodes (in production order) were all over the place in terms of animation quality, by this point the animators were evidently starting to get the feel for the series, resulting in this being the first episode that really resembles the more familiar animation style employed by the series.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Bart gets in trouble with Nelson after tearing into one of his lackies harassing Lisa.
  • The Bully: Nelson. Natch.
  • Bully Brutality: The whole dilemma of the story: Nelson's brutality growing to the point Bart fears he will be killed someday.
  • Butt Monkey: Bart. Milhouse also can't catch a break in the training sequence.
  • Characterization Marches On: Nelson was a truly feared bully in this early episode. With this, his first defeat, he began to be less and less threatening. Other bully characters like Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney were more likely to play the role of a bully strong enough to threaten someone like Bart while Nelson became more of a parody of bully clichés.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Homer says that Simpsons have to fight dirty to overcome their physical shortcomings. Even that didn't work for Bart.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: For giving a swipe on the nose that causes light bleeding, Nelson gives Bart a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, and continues the treatment every single day afterwards.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The whole episode is a set-up for Bart doing this to Nelson... alongside every kid that Nelson has bullied.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Nelson has a more common Evil Laugh than his famous "Haw! Haw!". He also had two kids called "The Weasels" as his sidekicks; later episodes would have Nelson either bullying alone or bullying with Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney.
      • According to the season 25 episode "Winter of His Content", the Weasels moved to Shelbyville Elementary, which is why they haven't been seen in ages.
    • Grampa was more of a bitter and deceptively wily old man rather than a forgetful loser like in most later episodes.
    • Jasper is more a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis to Grampa, used to exemplify his theories of bullying, compared to being his Blue Oni companion in most later episodes.
    • A smaller one: the Kwik-E-Mart being spelled "Quick-E-Mart" (though that could be a mistake made by the animators).
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": During a scene where Bart envisions his own funeral, Homer cheerfully expresses his pleasure at getting a day off — until Marge sets him straight. Later, as Bart's classmates are tearfully filing past his casket to say their goodbyes, Nelson punches Bart's corpse as a parting shot.
  • Groin Attack: Or as Homer calls it, "the Family Jewels." He suggests Bart give Nelson this when he fights. note .
  • Imagine Spot: Prior to their first fight, Bart pictures himself trying to run from Nelson, trying to ward him off with every method in his arsenal, but Nelson is unfazed and grows into a giant ... before grabbing Bart, growling "Lunchtime!" and swallowing him whole. Later, Bart imagines his own funeral, his friends, teachers and family tearfully saying their goodbyes before Nelson punches Bart's corpse.
  • Just Following Orders: This is what Nelson's lackeys claim when they surrender.
  • Last Disrespects: Bart imagines his funeral after being killed by Nelson, who takes a cupcake left in the casket by Lisa and resumes beating up Bart's corpse one last time.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Nelson, in Bart's Imagine Spot. In fact, all of Bart's weapons have the reverse effect; instead of hurting Nelson, the knives, guns, arrows, etc. only make Nelson angrier ... and much larger.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Herman's voice is based upon then-President George H.W. Bush.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Abe Simpson types up a very long letter on an old fashioned typewriter regarding the portrayal of the elderly on television.
  • Running Gag, They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character, and What Could Have Been: The DVD commentary reveals that Herman's story of losing his arm while sticking it out a school bus window was intended to be the start of one, with him giving a different outlandish story about it every time he appeared. Like with most good ideas from the early seasons, the writers never used this again.
  • Shout-Out: To the majority of war films.
    • Some music was directly lifted from Patton. As Fox owned the rights to the soundtrack, there were no issues in using the music.
      • There is also a spoof of the famous scene where Patton slaps a soldier for crying.
    • The marching sequence is from Full Metal Jacket.
    • A random kid kisses Lisa at the end of the "war," referencing the famous photo of a sailor newly returned from World War II kissing a nurse in the middle of Time Square.
    • A shot of the kids charging with a fallen helmet in the foreground references The Longest Day.
    • In the public service announcement at the end, Bart mentions the Star Wars trilogy as one of the only good wars ever fought (along with the American Revolutionary War and World War II).