The Cartridge Family is the fifth episode of the ninth season of The Simpsons. It was also the first episode (in production order) where Mike Scully was showrunner, taking over from Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, the showrunners for seasons seven and eight.Homer buys a handgun to better protect his family after a soccer riot plagues the town — much to Marge's dismay.
- Americans Are Cowboys: The episode tackles American gun politics.
- Both Sides Have a Point: The writers gave both sides of the gun rights debate reasonable arguments. Word of God says that if there is any message in the episode, it is that irresponsible idiots like Homer shouldn't own guns.
- Bowdlerization and Banned in the UK: The heavy references to guns and scenes playing gun misuse for laughs got this episode banned on the UK's Sky One channel; it was available on the VHS release "Too Hot for TV", and when the BBC (the terrestrial broadcaster of The Simpsons in the UK) got the rights to season 9 they had no qualms about showing the episode uncut, and Sky followed suit when the rights reverted to them. However, these days the terrestrial channel showing The Simpsons in the UK is Channel 4, which has edited the episode (most notably removing the final sequence where Marge takes the gun for herself).
- Brick Joke: When Homer defends having a gun to Marge and Lisa, he says that without it the King of England could walk into their house and push them around. Later in the episode Krusty claims that that guns should only be used for three things: family protection, hunting and keeping the King of England out of your face.
- Call Back:
- Everyone Has Standards: Springfield's NRA members (which include a bitter, emotionally abusive old womannote , a Mafia henchmannote , a surly bartendernote , a Depraved Kids' Show Hostnote , a single mother who stole her lazy husband's convertible to get him to pay child supportnote , and a gun-crazy rednecknote ) are shocked at how recklessly Homer uses his gun.
- When Cletus of all people asks if you're a moron for your behavior, you'd better believe you've screwed up somehow.
- Hypocrite: Despite all her anti-gun talk from start-to-almost-finish, Marge keeps the gun for herself when she sees herself with it in the trashcan lid reflection.
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: As Homer gets kicked out of Springfield's NRA, he has his membership card ripped up and is told to turn in his tattoo, which Moe offered to remove with a cheese grater (to Moe's disappointment, Homer never got the tattoo).
- Large Ham Announcer: The Spanish soccer announcer, a stark contrast to Kent Brockman's bored delivery.
- Lost Aesop: Marge and Homer are at odds over the gun he buys, which even leads Marge to briefly leave him. In the end, Homer finally agrees to let Marge get rid of the gun, so Marge heads to the nearest garbage bin to throw it out. However, seeing herself holding the gun from a reflection in the lid, she likes how dangerous and cool she looks so she decides to hold on to the gun, putting it in her purse. The writers said that there was no real message from the story, but if there was, it'd be that people like Homer Simpson should not have a gun, so... mission accomplished?
- Mundane Made Awesome: Kent Brockman is unable to make the boring soccer match interesting, but his overly excited Latino counterpart does manage to do so.
- Negative Continuity: The main plot revolves around Homer buying a gun for the first time, yet previous episodes establish that Homer owned a gun (he tells Marge to "get [his] gun" in Marge Gets a Job and in $pringfield he brandishes a shotgun when he gets freaked out by Lisa's nightmare about the boogeyman).
- The Oldest Profession: Bart unknowingly courts two prostitutes outside the Sleep-Eazy Motel.Prostitute: Looking for a good time, sailor?
Bart: I certainly am!
Marge: (grabs Bart) No you're not! (to prostitutes) He's really not.
- Powder Keg Crowd: Springfield descends into a full-blown riot out of sheer boredom.
- Pun-Based Title: The title is a pun on The Partridge Family.
- Reality Ensues: Homer gets expelled from the NRA the second they witness his Reckless Gun Usage.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Homer, in spades:
- In the gun store, Home points it at the clerk and pulls the trigger five times (unloaded, thankfully). If this wasn't Springfield, he would have been banned from the store immediately at best, or shot by other patrons of the store at worst (as there have been several instances of would-be gun store robbers or other idiots being killed for pointing a weapon at a clerk).
- Homer trap shooting in his backyard using dinner plates.
- Homer shoots a soda can display on a food counter behind the shooting line at a range.
- Homer stores his (loaded) gun in the vegetable crisper inside the refrigerator, where Bart finds it and plays "William Tell" with Milhouse (with Milhouse holding the apple in his mouth).
- The NRA are appalled at Homer when they see him shoot a beer can and his television and expel him on the spot. When they leave, he shoots out the lights instead of turning them off.
- Rube Goldberg Device: Homer's burglar alarm, which somehow involves a goldfish. Someone reaches their hand through the mailslot and steals the fish.
- Shoot the Television: Parodied and inverted as Homer turns his TV on by shooting it. Hilariously, the image that comes on the screen when it does turn on is of a cowboy, having been shot, falling off a roof.
- Sticky Fingers: The home security system salesman pockets various items around the Simpson house.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: When Lisa told Homer the Second Amendment was just a relic, Homer counter-argued that it keeps them safe from the King of England. Later in the episode, when the NRA learned how irresponsible Homer was with his gun, Krusty started berating him by claiming that guns should be used for "family protection, hunting dangerous or delicious animals, and keeping the King of England out of your face."
- Take That: The reason the soccer riot starts is because the soccer game is incredibly slow and boring.Krusty: Come on, you schnorrers, do something!
- Time Passes Montage: Homer spends the entire 5-day waiting period sitting on his lawn, seeing different things he could shoot with a gun (Flanders, Patty and Selma, a row of ducks, rabbits, a truck owned by Target, because of the famous bullseye logo on the side) while Tom Petty's "The Waiting" plays.
- Two Decades Behind: Both Homer and Krusty are unaware that the United Kingdom hasn't had a king since 1952.
- Violent Glaswegian: When the riot starts, Groundskeeper Willie and his Scottish friends are disappointed that it isn't violent enough.Willie: They call this a riot? Come on, lads, let's take 'em to school!
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The soccer riot was over with in a single night, and despite the city-wide looting and destruction, Springfield appears to be perfectly normal afterwards. No consequences were seen from the riot's actions, the issue was never resolved, and it basically just made an excuse to have Homer buy a gun.
- William Telling: Bart and Milhouse try to do this with a gun and an apple placed inside Milhouse's mouth.