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Recap / The Simpsons S1 E6 "Moaning Lisa"

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I got a bratty brother, he bugs me every day.
And this morning, my own mother, she gave my last cupcake away.
My dad acts like he belongs, he belongs in the zoo.
I'm the saddest kid in Grade #2.
Lisa Simpson

Original air date: 2/11/1990

Production code: 7G06

Lately, Lisa is feeling depressed about life, but doesn't want to talk about it, as no one truly understands what she's going through. She runs away and befriends "Bleeding Gums" Murphy (Ron Taylor), a homeless black saxophonist.

Meanwhile, Bart repeatedly beats Homer at a two-player boxing video game. Homer really wants to beat Bart at the game, so he gets help from Howard (Susan Blu), a video game master, at the local arcade.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Almighty Mom: Even Homer is scolded by Howard's mom for playing video games with little children.
  • Bowdlerization: A lot of the violence in the boxing video game (including Homer's nightmare of Bart beating him) was edited when shown on BBC Two in the UK.
  • Call-Back: The chalkboard gag "I will not instigate revolution" references the previous episode where Bart uses war-like tactics to fight back against Nelson.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Homer wakes up from his dream screaming when Bart beats him in a boxing match.
  • Characterisation Click Moment: Lisa for the large part in the early shorts and episodes was just a slightly more savvy version of Bart. This episode established a more precocious, self-aware, and melancholy side to her (as well as her passion for jazz music), that would slowly transform into the insecure TV Genius characterisation she had in seasons after.
  • Characterization Marches On: This episode helped set Lisa apart from being a female Bart as a more introspective, soulful and creative type. But later episodes she became more of an overachiever obsessed with school grades and social causes, with her apparent issues with depression shown in this episode rarely, if ever, shown again. It also hints that she feels overlooked and ignored, while later episodes more focus on Lisa getting all the attention for being a prodigy and Bart feeling overshadowed.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Marge only has two cupcakes to give to the other family members, and Bart and Homer are getting ready to plead their cases when a despondent Lisa tells them they can have hers, as "a simple cupcake will bring me no pleasure." They look at each other in confusion before cheering and high-fiving.
  • Cool Shades: "Bleeding Gums" Murphy wears sunglasses.
  • Couch Gag: The family sits, but Maggie gets squashed into the air and is caught by Marge.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: The first appearance of Lisa as the brainy, wise sibling rather than a troublemaking female clone of Bart.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Lisa says this to Bart after he's ordered by Marge to cheer Lisa up.
    Bart: Hey.
    Lisa: I don't want your pity.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Ralph Wiggum first appears in this episode, but he's just a regular kid instead of The Ditz he would become.note 
  • Epic Fail: Bart beats Homer so badly in the boxing video game that it shows Homer's boxer being lowered into a grave. Bart's boxer dances on his opponent's grave.
  • Fictional Video Game: Super Slugfest, a boxing game that Homer becomes obsessed with beating Bart at; it has arcade and console versions (the latter with single button Atari 2600-style controllers).
  • Flashback: Marge's dream is a memory of her childhood, where Jacqueline tells her to smile so that people will know how good a mother she has.
  • Food Fight: Bart starts one in the school cafeteria. Lisa just sits there sadly as she's pelted with food.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • Marge tells Lisa to shove down her sad feelings and fit in by always smiling no matter what because that's what her mother taught her even though it made her miserable, but she changes her tune once she sees Lisa smiling through the regular pains of her day within a few seconds of getting to school: bullying from other kids and derision from teachers who won't let her express herself in her music. Marge then tells her to just feel however she wants and her family will be there for her regardless, with the lesson ending up "Learn the difference between parenting and parroting, because parents can be wrong in ways that will destroy their children emotionally."
    • Issues with depression have no easy answers, nor do they have an obvious cause that can be addressed directly. Lisa sings about her annoyance with Homer and Bart, and expressing herself with music helps a little, but even she admits she doesn't really know why she's sad.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Bart gets to demonstrate a kinder side to two of his family members:
    • Marge asks Bart if he loves Lisa. Bart says they all know the answer, but he doesn't want to have to actually say it. Marge still urges him to try cheering up Lisa, so Bart decides to put in a prank call to Moe, something they both enjoy. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, but it says a lot about Bart that he still tried.
    • Surprisingly, in spite of gloating about his multiple victories against Homer in the boxing video game, Bart briefly feels very sorry towards him for his lack of skills:
      Bart: [feeling distraught towards Homer over his lack of skills] Gee, Dad, you're really bad at this.
  • Hope Spot: Just when Homer is about to finally beat Bart at the game, Marge unplugs it so she can talk to both of them.
  • It's All About Me: Both Homer and Marge are shown to be incredibly neglectful in this episode. Homer cares more about a video game and the fact that the bowling alley is closing down than his daughter’s depression, while Marge tells Lisa to suppress her sadness and smile because it makes her look better. At least Marge learned the error of her ways.
  • A Lesson Learned Too Well: Marge tries to give Lisa a tip to handle her depression by repeating a lesson her own mother gave to her: be a Stepford Smiler and shove it all deep inside. Lisa instead becomes an Extreme Doormat who allows people to step on her and accepts making their homework with a smile on her face. Marge, however, defies this after a few seconds of seeing how Lisa is gonna take her lesson by pulling her back into the car and telling her that it's okay for Lisa to act however she feels like and Marge will support her every step of the way.
  • Limited Animation: There's a strange moment at the beginning of the episode when Bart stands perfectly still and his pupils are digitally moved downward.
  • Mama Bear: Marge immediately puts a stop to Lisa suppressing her feelings when she sees Lisa being bullied.
  • The Many Deaths of You: The Super Slugfest game has several different death animations when one of the boxers is knocked out. One has Bart's boxer hitting Homer's boxer so hard Homer's boxer's bloody head goes flying off and lands in the ring. Another animation has Bart's boxer knocking Homer's boxer out, Homer's boxer being counted out by the referee and then Bart's boxer dancing on Homer's boxer's grave.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Lisa is in such a depressed state that the school takes notice and sends a note home to her parents, and even then out of worry rather than her being in trouble. Homer's so used to Bart being in trouble with the school instead that, in response, he punishes his son anyway by making him vacuum the entire house, despite Bart not doing anything wrong. Bart understandably is less than pleased with this and also makes sure to vacuum up a deck of Homer's playing cards in retaliation.
    Homer: In times of trouble, you've gotta go with what you know. Now, hop to it, boy!
  • Never My Fault: A minor example. In her song, Lisa mentions that Marge gave her last cupcake away, even though Lisa told her to because "A simple cupcake will bring me no pleasure." Bart even tried to point out that Homer clearly didn't even need more cupcakes.
  • Nightmare Sequence: After losing to him so often in the game, Homer dreams about engaging in a Super Slugfest boxing match with Bart. Bart mercilessly beats him and gives him a "Reason You Suck" Speech as he does it; with Homer waking up screaming just as Bart finishes him off with a huge windmill punch.
    Bart: Put up your dukes, Homer! [swings a left hook at him]
    Homer: [screams and ducks the punch] Bart...! [cowers] Go easy on me, I'm your Dad!
    Bart: I am going easy on you. [begins laying into Homer with a barrage of punches] But you're just so old. [punches him hard each time] And slow! And weak!
    Homer: [is sent flying backward] No!
    Bart: And PATHETIC! [winds up for his finishing punch]
    [Bart throws the final punch; right as it hits, Homer wakes up screaming loudly]
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Bart does this to Homer in the video game so often that he has a nightmare about it. He's the boxer getting pummeled and his pleas for mercy are ignored.
  • Not Me This Time: Marge tells Homer about a note she received from school, and the latter immediately thinks that Bart is the one in trouble like usual. However, Marge correctly states that Bart isn't in trouble this time as the note is actually about Lisa refusing to play dodgeball because of her depression.
  • Pac-Man Fever: Bart and Homer play a contemporary-looking game using Atari 2600-style controllers.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is a pun on The Mona Lisa.
  • Shout-Out: Video games: Mike Tyson's Punch Out takes center stage, as "Super Slugfest" is patterned directly off the legendary game. Other games in the arcade are "Eat My Shorts" (an early Simpsons Shout Out), Itchy & Scratchy and "Pac Rat" (a parody of Pac-Man).
  • Special Guest: Ron Taylor as "Bleeding Gums" Murphy.
  • Stepford Smiler: Marge encourages Lisa to be this, as her mother had enforced upon her beforehand. She takes it back when it only makes her a doormat to people around her.
  • Stranger Danger: Marge taking Lisa away from "Bleeding Gums" Murphy, even though the two of them were getting along.
    Marge: [to Murphy] Nothing personal, I just fear the unfamiliar.
  • Superior Successor: Homer dreads how Bart keeps beating him at that video game.
    Homer: Y'know, Marge, getting old is a terrible thing. I think the saddest day of my life was when I realized I could beat my dad at most things. And Bart experienced that at the age of four.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Marge says they got a note from school, Homer immediately accuses Bart of misbehavior.
    Bart: I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. There's no way they can prove anything.
  • Take a Third Option: Bart and Lisa stand on opposite sides of the living room and ask Maggie to walk to the one she loves the most. After looking at both of them, she just walks over to the TV and hugs it.
  • Vengeance Denied: Homer manages to get this close to finally beating Bart at the boxing game just once, and then Marge pulls the plug on the console right at the very nanosecond before Homer's character knocks out Bart's, followed by Bart deciding to quit playing the game ever again to maintain his unbroken streak. Homer is pretty much reduced to tears.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: After getting tips from a kid at the Noiseland Arcade, Homer goes to face Bart one more time in the boxing game. He had the winning advantage and he would've won after so many beatings if Marge hadn't come in and unplugged the game to get the boys' attention. And then Bart says he's giving up on the game to make sure his winning streak remains unbroken.