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As the show goes on, there have been many points in which one of the characters have been flanderized to a point where it's jarring and grading.
One of the infamous examples of these changes as the show goes is Ned Flanders, who originally was suppose to be a kind person who held many Christian beliefs but was still approachable and Homer had no real reason to hate him; as the show progresses, his Christian fundamentals started to take over his personality to the point where he's a bigot to anyone who isn't Christian, giving Homer a legitimate reason to hate him.
"Three Men and a Comic Book" is a pretty good early-run episode, but goddamn it Marge and Homer. Bart spends a full week working himself (literally) raw for an old, mostly-infirm lady. At the end of enduring the kind of work (and pain) that most adults would suffer working menial labour, the old lady gives him FIFTY CENTS. That's not really the wallbanger, she's just an old lady and doesn't know better. The REAL wallbanger is Bart's parents completely ignoring his suffering instead of, say, rewarding him themselves. Homer even congratulates him for deciding that work isn't worth the effort. No wonder Bart is so determined to never succeed as the seasons go on.
"The Itchy Scratchy and Poochie Show" is generally a good episode; an equal amount of self-parody, Biting-the-Hand Humor and ribbing of the audience. But they take it a step too far when Bart tells The Comic Book Guy (who spent the last evening registering his disgust on the internet over a bad Itchy and Scratchy episode), that he has no right to complain about the show's quality because "They're giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? If anything, you owe them." Even for satire, the last line is so preposterous (as if the broadcast of a television show was charity work), that it puts Comic Book Guy into Straw FanHas A Point territory.
Made worse when you consider how often the show lampshades its massive amounts of The Merch - you know, the stuff that the show's existence advertises for. You can't have it both ways.
The ending of "Bart the Murderer." Long story short, Bart ends up becoming a bartender for the Springfield Mob. When Principal Skinner goes missing after punishing Bart in school, Bart is immediately accused of murdering him, resulting in his standing trial in court. Luckily, Skinner shows up and explains that he was accidentally trapped in his garage all week, clearing Bart of all the charges. Nothing wrong with that, right? WRONGO. During the trial, Fat Tony and the other gangsters claim that Bart is the leader of the Springfield Mob... and everyone in court believes them, completely ignoring the fact that Bart is a 10-year-old boy! I know the people of Springfield aren't exactly Einsteins, but come on! We're supposed to accept that they honestly believe a 10-year-old is capable of leading a group of thugs, robbers, blackmailers, and murderers?!
To be fair to the writers, this was actually lampshaded by Mr. Burns, of all people. When Smithers notes that Bart is looking at 180 years in jail, Burns replies that he's thankful to live in a country so hysterical about crime that a ten year old child could be tried as an adult.
The ending-ending is even worse! After Principal Skinner appears in the courtroom, telling everyone what actually happened that day and where he's been (when Fat Tony and his men came to him at school, they simply wanted to talk with him, and left when Skinner told them to leave. Later, while he was at home, in the basement, he fell and knocked over a huge stack of newspapers, which pinned him down. The police searched his house for him for days, and never thought to check the basement, nor could they hear Skinner yelling "I'M DOWN HERE!" Despite the fact that apparently Skinner could hear them perfectly fine when they were talking at normal audio levels). After it's clear that Bart is innocent, however... the family goes home and sees a made-for-TV movie which paints Bart as a cold-blooded murderer of his principal, and the mob as a terrified group of adults who let a ten-year-old smack them around. Granted, Bart thought the movie was cool, but still! What the hell?!
Then again, this is Chief Wiggum and his men we're talking about. They're not exactly the brightest bulbs in the box.
What about the idea that they could arrest, try, and convict anyone of a bodiless murder, commonly seen as one of the most difficult prosecutions possible, within one week?
The fact that Lionel Hutz was Bart's attorney probably had something to do with it.
They also continued this child mob boss idea with Fat Tony's son taking over the business, somewhat, while he was incapacitated. Taking out the family's enemies and doing a spoof of the ending from Godfather to boot.
Another bad ending is the one of "Regarding Margie." Homer goes out of his way to restore Marge's memories of him, but is only toward the end when he mentions beer that Marge's memory is fully restored. That ending left me feeling sorry for Homer. Imagine all the trouble he could have saved himself if he had just mentioned beer in the first place.
Well, she only remembered Bart and Lisa because of a certain word each of them said. So logically her memory of Homer would have to be restored in the same way. Plus toward the end he was trying to hide his alcoholism.
"You Kent Always Say What You Want" - the episode where Kent Brockman gets fired for blurting out a swear after Homer spills hot coffee in his lap. Instead of an f-bomb, s-bomb, d-bomb, etc? It's circumcision that's TREATED as a swear instead of what it really is! And this is also the episode where Ned Flanders' Flanderization hits full circle so badly, it becomes Character Derailment.
Granted, Ned Flanders being... well, Ned Flanders was annoying, but I've seen that episode a half-dozen times, and the word is never mentioned.
They bleep it out whenever it's said. Well not 'bleep' but still, you can tell by what Kent starts with and what he ends with.
Circumcision was the covenant made in The Bible, starting from Abraham-aka the patriarch of Ned's freaking religion!
I always thought the word in question was "Motherf***er", though the "circumcision" theory could work, considering that there was a time in TV and movie history where certain words like "pregnant" and "toilet" were considered too taboo because of what they implied (sex for "pregnant" and gross, yet necessary bodily functions for "toilet"), and with the such censorship making a comeback after the whole "Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction" fiasco, it does sorta make sense that The Simpsons would call TV out on this — never mind that they did a better job of bashing TV censorship and Moral Guardians before (anyone remember "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" from season two?).
The episode also suffers from the real-life, very public mess involving Don Imus. For those that forget, Imus got into trouble for referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." So like with Brockman, the backlash against Imus was severe, but real-life was flipped from what the episode portrayed. After Imus publicly apologized, FOX News commentators felt the issue was settled, but a sizable chorus of liberals still called for Imus to be fired regardless because of his initial comments (to be fair, these attitudes weren't universal for either side, but they did bear out in the majority.) Production even outright stated that the Imus situation created an Analogy Backfire on them.
Marge's behavior during "Two Cars In Every Garage, Three Eyes On Every Fish" has always bugged the hell out of me. To put this in context, Bart catches a three-eyed fish in a stream near the Nuclear Power Plant. Once this hits the fan, a regulatory committee believes that nuclear waste from the plant is mutating the fish and they send a team to inspect. The results reveal a huge list of violations that would cost millions to resolve. While Burns ponders ways to avoid paying up, Homer only casually mentions that he could try running for governor. Burns, however, latches onto the idea and Homer ends up supporting his campaign. Marge, on the other hand, supports the current governor, Mary Bailey, and the Simpson family becomes divided as a result. Now granted, Monty Burns IS a terrible man and would have made an even worse governor, but her anger at Homer seems petty considering that Burns is his BOSS and thus Homer had no choice but to support his campaign (Homer even says as much during the episode). Particularly annoying was her refusal to snuggle because Homer wasn't letting her "express herself"... what does that even mean? And Homer didn't exactly volunteer his home for the photo-op and his refusal (assuming he was even given the option) would undoubtedly have resulted in his immediate dismissal... or worse. And the ending, with Marge's condescending attempts to "comfort" Homer (after Burns threatens to make his dreams go unfulfilled) by basically implying that he's a fat loser and thus has no dreams to crush, irritates me even more. I understand what the writers were aiming for, but they only succeeded making Marge an annoying pain-in-the-ass (and a bit hypocritical, considering her actions in "Blood Feud" later that season).
"The Fat and the Furriest". Homer is attacked by a grizzly bear and, like any sane human being would do, he runs and hides and comes back alive. The incident is videotaped and aired on the news, where Kent Brockman, and subsequently the entire town, proceed to ridicule him as a coward for not attempting to fight the ursid with his bare hands. What the hell, Springfield?
This is specially hypocritical since in an early episode ("Much Apu about nothing") the entire town goes into an overreacting panic after a single bear wanders into town and calmly rummages through a garbage can.
True, but soon every person in the entire town apologizes after Marge scolds them for being so inhuman, and they actually decide to re-stage the game until Bart wins to make him feel better. They truly were jerks, but at least they tried to make up for being so uncaring.
The fact that they had to have someone guilt them at all is horrible! You should just KNOW not to be that level of mean! If you require someone to guilt you into regretting a misread, there is something wrong with you!
One moment that's kinda 'ugh'-worthy is when the Isotots enter the championship and they are granted the right to "behave like arrogant oafs". What follows is a crowd of people gleefully being pelted with eggs by Bart and the others and Bart mooning them. Of course, the moment Bart missed the ball, things really got bad.
Heck, this plot wouldn't look too out of place on South Park.
Or any of Seth Macfarlane's shows (at least Family Guy) for that matter; at least in his universe that kind of cruelty would make sense. "Boys Of Bummer" felt like a Family Guy episode with Bart taking Meg's place (except his treatment made hers look almost humane by comparison).
Another case of Homer being unfairly mocked: "Krusty Gets Busted." Homer is publicly called a coward for his actions during Sideshow Bob's robbery of the Kwik-E-Mart, which amounted to "trying not to get shot." It's arguably one of the smartest things Homer has ever done: Homer has no weapons or combat skills, had angered the gunman by stepping on his foot, was justifiably afraid for his life, and, by the way, wasn't even being robbed. The person who was being robbed, Apu, cheerfully complies with the gunman and receives no such criticism.
The "ending" to "Missionary Impossible". Was it REALLY that difficult for the writers to come up with an actual ending instead of a No Ending cop-out with a dig against Family Guy disappearing from the airwaves (it did, but it got Un-Canceled just as quick), and a lame fourth-wall joke about The Simpsons saving FOX?
It still felt like lazy writing and reminded me of the ending to "Das Bus" (the episode that parodies "Lord Of The Flies) in that regard, but at least that ending made sense since Lord Of The Flies itself had a non-ending. Interestingly enough, SNPP came up with a proposed alternate ending like that (Moe flying in with his fan-man suit and saving them, saying that Homer was the only one who could keep Barney distracted long enough for him to get towed out of the bar) which actually sounded pretty plausible.
To be fair, there's probably not many wives or mothers who would be particularly impressed with their husband getting caught and photographed dancing with a stripper by their ten-year-old son. Even with rape and overt sexual harassment out of the picture (and one would hope Marge would be more upset than she was with these involved), you don't have to be a hyper-repressed prude terrified of sexuality to wonder whether that's setting the best possible example you can for the boy with regards to the whole 'women-as-objects' thing. As for the bowling ball example, that's clearly established as being the tip of an iceberg of selfish behavior on Homer's part, not least an ongoing tendency to both forget her birthday and then selfishly buy something for himself under the pretext of getting her something. She was not contemplating cheating on Homer in that episode just because he bought her a bowling ball (although let's face it, that's still an incredibly selfish thing for him to do), she's doing so because she feels taken-for-granted and ignored by him — perhaps not the best reasons for adultery, but not quite as trivial as made out above either.
"So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show" pretty much is a display of what a Jerk Ass Homer is (and this was a season four episode, well before the Mike Scully-run episodes of seasons 9, 10, 11, 12, and some leftover episodes that aired in season 13). He pulls tons of cruel April Fool's pranks on Bart (such as making him drink six-month old milk and putting duct tape over his eyes while he slept) and Bart tries to get back at him by giving him a can of beer that was shaken up by a paint shaker from a hardware store. When Homer went to open it, it caused an explosion and landed Homer in a coma (though Bart was blown back and he should have suffered some injuries from that as well). Bart, having not expected this to happen, sadly apologizes to Homer. Homer then proceeds to wake up... and begin strangling Bart. Pretty much all of this episode is one big Kick the Dog for Bart (and a Clip Show to pad out the running time as the writers at the time decided to do a clip show episode due to creative exhaustion).
In addition, Lisa, of all people, should know that contrary to popular usage, "vegetarian" and "herbivore" are not synonymous/interchangeable. Being a vegetarian is a personal choice (and in some cases a cultural one), whereas being a herbivore is a preset design by nature.
"The Haw-Hawed Couple" (the one with Bart and Nelson being friends) really bugs me with Marge. Bart says he's not going to Nelson's birthday party, but then Marge whips right around in anger and tells him to go. Even worse, when he figures out the flaw in her logic, she doesn't back off and smacks him on the head with a wooden spoon. She even threatens to do it a second time. Why the hell is Marge forcing him to go when she's already told him in a previous episode (Bart the Mother) never to hang around with him again (especially since he's going to be walking into a death trap)?!
Not only that, she's put him in a similar situation when he told him to give a group of people —turning out to be Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney— his lunch money. Granted she didn't know they were the schoolyard bullies, but still... WHY?!
Speaking of "On A Clear Day I Can't See My Sister", it's outrageous that Lisa gets away with a restraining order on Bart, after he only made a fart prank and teased her a little bit when she was being an annoying Soapbox Sadie anyway. Then no, she doesn't stop there as she gets a stick with a Philips head screw-driver and follows him everywhere he goes to force him into horrible conditions, and forces him to leave the kitchen when he is having a talk with Marge, knocking over his milk. All of which by the way is illegal since the idea of a restraining order is to prevent people from coming near you, you can't go anywhere they already are and force them to leave; otherwise 'you' are violating your own order! After that, when Marge finally somewhat calls her out, Lisa responds by saying that she can't remember anything nice Bart has done, because clearly hugging her on the hockey field never happened. Then after Bart makes a huge idol... everything is suddenly just better, without any consequences.
The ending to "The Old Man And Lisa" comes across as a big-time Wall Banger. Burns takes Lisa on a tour of the new recycling plant that he built based partly on her advice. She likes everything she sees until they get to the part where giant improvised fishing nets made of 6-pack holders are used to gather up large amounts of sea life for a slurry that is used as animal feed and engine coolant. Okay, so using sea life might be morally ambiguous, at least if endangered species are involved (they do not say), but she is absolutely outraged at this, treating it as unambiguously evil, and apparently the writers expect us to agree with her. Never mind that feed made of sea life is arguably better than some of the feed on farms today (hint: some kinds of feed for some species involves making them eat their own kind) or that if this form of engine coolant was not used something else would probably have been used in its place. Also, Burns' response to this is "I don't understand. Pigs need food. Engines need coolant. Dynamiters need dynamite. I'm supplying it to them at a tiny profit, and not a single sea creature was wasted." It is clearly a reasonable response, yet if the BGM is anything to go by, it is portrayed as if it were some kind of Hannibal Lecture. Lisa storms out of the recycling plant, and later on when Burns shows up to offer her 10 percent of the profit, she says "knowing where it came from..." and rips the check in half. Really? When you liked everything else about the plant, that one aspect of it is enough reason to make you refuse to accept money from it, despite the explanations offered for why it is there? Despite that Burns would probably have kept the money anyway, whereas if you had some of it you could use that money to undo what you perceived as damage? Simpsons writers, thank you for foreshadowing my disillusionment with mainstream environmentalism that would take until college (and my involvement with the environmental groups I met there) to solidify (on a side-note, it is POSSIBLE that this was a Stealth Parody of environmentalism, but given the exceedingly one-sided nature of that aesops on that show, I doubt that is likely.)
Take a closer look at all the creatures caught. There were not only fishes of all kinds and sizes but also crustaceans and even a freaking whale. That net is not "morally ambiguous", it's a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Okay, let's put all those arguments aside for a second and focus on something else. Burns didn't know he was doing something that could be (and is) seen as something evil. He genuinely believed it to be the next step in recycling. He didn't even think it was an "ends justify the means" situation, but rather, he wholeheartedly thought that the means were an act of good. Even if it is an evil act, that didn't make Burns himself evil in that situation. It made him misguided at worst. But no, the writers have to make it so that Lisa is a Soapbox SadieCanon Sue.
Burns says that his net "wipes the sea clean", and it's shown pulling in a ridiculous amount of sea life in a matter of seconds. This isn't just something that harvests from the sea, but completely wipes out all sea life in the area.
In the Treehouse of Horror episode G-G-Ghost D-Dad, Homer has 24 hours to do one good deed. He does manage to do one where he saves a baby from getting run over by cars, but SAINT PETER DIDN'T SEE THAT? They're supposed to see everything, including that! To add insult, he then tells Homer that it was really Santa Claus who saw everything, but not them too? Then he sends Homer to hell just because he did not see that good deed.
The common counterargument is that the show has Negative Continuity. The problem is that continuity isn't just a plot thing; we have no reason to care about characters if their existence is subject to revision at any time. The show basically sacrificed any character jokes then and now for one episode.
One does not forget Marge's behavior through the whole thing. So Marge could afford to study in the university she attended to in the flashback, Homer works for Abe in a job that he clearly hates and that makes him miserable. Marge then repays this kindness by basically dumping Homer for her teacher who manipulated her into thinking Homer was an oppressive boyfriend who keeps her from improving and pays for Marge's fees as if he was her owner. Marge being as unbelievably naive as she is, falls for the whole thing and dumps Homer because he "embarrasses her". While Homer isn't exactly Husband of the Year, in the whole series' run it is clear to everyone how much he loves and cares about Marge. And many fans asked themselves "What does he see in her?". When you make Homer look more mature and wise, you know you took a few missteps.
I guess this episode just may as well be non-canon.
"Bart Vs Thanksgiving" - okay, I'm not denying that Bart did a bad thing by destroying Lisa's centerpiece (even if it was an accident) and I accept that his parents have every right to be mad at him, but Marge telling him he's ruined Thanksgiving?! Children may need discipline, but you do not, under ANY circumstances, tell them they've ruined a special occasion! And it gets worse - instead of explaining to Bart why what he did was a bad thing and trying to make it better, Marge orders him to apologize, not even considering that, y'know, maybe he doesn't understand WHY he's being punished! Granted, she regrets her actions when she learns that he ran away, but even so!
Marge's behavior in the Catholic episode. Alongside one of Ned Flanders' most flanderized appearances to date and the Continuity Snarl with Ned and Reverend Lovejoy (isn't he meant to hate Ned, or something?), the behavior of Marge in this episode is absolutely atrocious. She feels justified in taking Bart from a Catholic school, one which she helped pick in the first place, to re-introduce him to Protestant Christianity. She feels that the Catholics brainwashed him with gory stories, so she tries to brainwash him again with christian rock and christian paintball. Really, what the HELL. Marge used to be the voice of reason in the series.
"Brother's Little Helper". Here, it's explained that Bart's hellion behavior is the result of ADD and needs medication. What!? Oh, and to uphold the point, he acts crazier than normal here (like when he dresses up as a cheerleader). He's usually just a kid who acts out, but knows when he goes too far, not some mentally challenged nut. It's offensive and insulting to real ADD sufferers.
There was also when Principal Skinner showed a diagram of Bart bringing down the grades of who he surrounds. How does that work? It seems to me like Principal Skinner is just reaching for it.
"Skinner's Sense Of Snow". The plot in a nutshell: Skinner reaches the epitome of educational idiocy by pulling his most despicable (from a grade-schooler's perspective, anyway) stunt ever - keeping his school open in a ridiculously snowy day, right before Christmas, to avoid breaking the school's streak of being open without delay. Obviously, this cleverly thought-through "last day of school" - which the other teachers wisely chose to spend elsewhere - happens to end right as a snowstorm buries the entire school. You'd expect Skinner to apologize, but no; instead, he goes Drill Sergeant Nasty on his own students, which, you guessed it, causes them to gang up on him soon enoughnote (Complete with Bart calling Skinner out on forcing him to write all those lines on the chalkboard.). This doesn't change the fact they're trapped there, with the only ones trying to save them being two bloodthirsty dogs and Homer and Flanders, who risked to die of carbon monoxide intoxication in the latter's car. By the end of the episode, Homer and Ned happen to crash into a silo full of salt, that thankfully collapses in front of the school. This is the worst part: Skinner asks Bart not to speak of this incident...and Bart agrees. Yep, a principal whose shenanigans could have resulted in his students' untimely death... gets away with it, scot-free!
Don't forget Flanders' reason for not having airbags in his car. "The church opposes them for some reason!"
In the episode A Test Before Trying, Springfield Elementary School apparently did even worse than the worst school in the state (however, it's not as bad) with Bart being the only one who didn't take it, even with smart overachieving kids like Lisa, Martin, and the Superfriends. Wouldn't they have helped the school's grades to come up? Apparently not.
The entire premise of the episode Lisa the Simpson is one big wall banger. In this non-canon episode, it is revealed that there is a defective gene passed through the Simpson family that makes them lose their intelligence at age 8. In other episodes, this is shown to not be true. Bart has been shown to be very clever sometimes while often failing in school, and Homer became smarter in a later episode (HOMR) when a crayon lodged in his brain got removed.
"Dark Knight Court" was mostly funny, but then there was a brief joke of Ralph saying "I can go koo-koo and no one can stop me" and the judge mentioning that George W. Bush said the exact thing at his inauguration. It's like they're not even trying!
In The Spy Who Learned Me, Bart gets an idea from a video he and the rest of the class saw (except Nelson, who got in trouble for offending Mrs. Krabappel) that if Nelson just kept eating from Krusty Burger and nothing else, then he wouldn't be able to bully anybody. He gives Nelson a lot of Krusty Burger coupons. Nelson's happy because then he actually has lunch and doesn't need to bully kids for their lunch money anymore. He uses them all and eventually gets obese. Then Lisa makes Nelson go into Krusty's exercise program so he can lose all that weight. He does, and eventually he starts bullying everyone again. Why didn't Lisa realize that Nelson could just bully everyone again? Besides, the other kids were happy with Nelson not being around to bully them. Sure, fattening people up is bad, but bullying is A-OK?! I don't think so! Besides, everyone was happy with no one to bully them, and Nelson had about a month's worth of coupons that he could use for lunch so that he doesn't even need to bully anyone to get their lunch money. So it was kind of a win-win there.
"Homer and Lisa Exchange Crosswords" has Lisa getting mad at Homer for betting against her in the cross-wording competition. Um, isn't Lisa supposed to be mad at Homer for gambling, period?!
"The Color Yellow": Lisa gets upset when she finds out her ancestor Eliza didn't speak out against her father betraying a runaway black slave to Col. Burns and wails "There is no noble Simpson!" This is stupid for several reasons. First of all Lisa forgets all the noble things she and her family have done over the years and bases her opinion of her whole family tree on one event. Secondly, Eliza was only a child when this happened at a time when children had no influence at all (Burns says as much), meaning Lisa is unfairly holding Eliza to a standard that was forbidden in the 19th century. To make it even worse, at the end of the episode we find out Eliza's mother eloped with the slave and it's from them that the Simpsons are descended. Rather than have Lisa accept what happened in the past, Eliza is virtually disowned from the modern Simpson family just because she wasn't as "courageous" as Lisa would have liked her to be.
"Fear of Flying": One thing that has always bothered me is that Homer gets banned from Moe's bar, and they never resolved that plot. Granted, Marge's fears began to take it over, but they should have had something in the episode where Homer makes up with Moe's patrons. The next episode, it seemed to be resolved with no explanation.
That happens all the time Homer gets kicked out of the bar. Presumably Moe just lets him back because Homer spends a ton of cash there.
In the episode The War Of Art, Homer tries a fictional alcohol (made from capers) called "Strupo". What follows is possibly one of the worst jokes in the history of The Simpsons: He wonders if it's any good, drinks it, then immediately says in a deapan 'It's not.' Not only was it not funny, but it was such a painfully, well... Family Guy joke. It actually hurts to watch the simpsons literally steal jokes from a consistently less funny show.
The Episode "Yellow Subterfuge" almost from start to finish. Skinner offers a field trip for only the best behaved students, but then starts crossing students 'off the list' for minor infractions like touching a lip to a water fountain. Bart naturally tries his hardest to stay good (to the mocking of his family), even going so far as to RUN to school when the bus breaks down, only to be taken 'off the list' for having muddy shoes. He then goes so far as to perform almost all of Skinner's chores, and perform his second part-time job for him... only for Skinner to shoot him down last minute. But the worst part? Bart was actually changing himself greatly. His lack of misbehaviour was enough that he suddenly started getting straight As! What the fuck. Even if it was for a reward, Bart managed to overcome his desire to misbehave, and his only reward was to be punished for an arbitrary reason! No wonder Bart has become so much more... well, evil in the later seasons. He's been shown by everyone time and again that trying to change offers no reward, so he might as well just do what makes him happy!