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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E9 "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge"

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Original air date: 12/20/1990

Production code: 7F09

Marge leads a protest against The Itchy & Scratchy Show after Maggie whacks Homer on the head with a mallet, but viewer interest drops when the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons become Lighter and Softer and Marge gets branded a hypocrite when her anti-TV violence group wants to go after Michaelangelo's David for depicting male frontal nudity but she sees nothing wrong it.


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This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Homer incorrectly calls David "Michelangelo's Dave" when Marge takes him to see it at the end of the episode; she ruefully corrects him.
  • Actor Allusion: Many people behind The Simpsons were huge fans of The Godfather and director Jim Reardon looked for a way to shoot Roger Meyers Jr. in the eye as a reference to Alex Rocco's character, Moe Greene.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Despite the supposed abuse he suffered due to the show, Homer can't help tittering at Itchy & Scratchy himself.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • Most Simpsons characters think of Itchy & Scratchy as a funny, amusing cartoon. Only when Marge actually sits down to watch the episodes she notices what most sane people in Real Life would immediately say: that these graphically violent cartoons are unsuitable for young children. That said, this episode had much saner ultra-violence (after a fashion) such as Itchy kicking an exploding football to Scratchy, Itchy trying to stab Scratchy, and the two whacking each other with baseball bats and aiming progressively larger guns at each other. The cartoon in this episode with the closest resemblance to later, more violent shorts would probably be the one where Itchy knocks Scratchy's eyes out and replaces them with bombs that then explode.
  • An Aesop: No matter how well-intentioned your actions are, be prepared for consequences and future challenges to your beliefs. Marge wanted Itchy and Scratchy to be toned down because she felt that the show was too violent and corrupting the children of Springfield. After the media finally agrees to her terms, her followers want her to oppose the Statue of David because of its depiction of nudity, something that Marge disagrees with because she sees the statue as a work of art. Her comment about the Statue of David causes immediately causes her opponents to brand her as a hypocrite for praising one form of art while condemning another and it causes Marge to accept that she can't reasonably draw the line on what can be considered art.
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    • Censorship is a delicate topic. If you have to censor a game or a show, only do it to tone down the more mature aspects of what is not fit for minors, don't do it out of pettiness or personal dislike of the media.
  • Animation Age Ghetto: Brought up In-Universe during the debate on cartoon violence. No definitive stance on the matter wins out, however.
  • Armor-Piercing Question
    Dr. Marvin Monroe: What do you have to say to all them Marge Simpson wannabes out there who wish to suppress David's doodle?
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Marge makes a list of questionable content in Itchy and Scratchy. Most of her grievances are over-the-top violent acts on the show, but one of them is "dogs tricked."
  • Audience-Alienating Era: An In-Universe example; thanks to SNUH, The Itchy and Scratchy Show goes in a Lighter and Softer direction, which causes its child audience to stop watching the show because of how non-violent it's become, with episodes depicting Itchy and Scratchy doing such things as drinking lemonade, reading bedtime stories, and dancing. This era ends when Marge has no objections to Michelangelo's David despite the rest of SNUH protesting.
  • Baby See, Baby Do: Maggie copies the antics of Itchy, injuring Homer as a result. In response, Marge forms a group to protest the show for being a bad influence on children, eventually persuading the creators to go in a Lighter and Softer direction. The first non-violent episode of Itchy & Scratchy shown involves Itchy giving Scratchy lemonade, which Maggie copies by giving Homer a lemonade and, as a joke, ominous music plays in the background. Near the end of the episode, when Itchy & Scratchy cartoons go back to being violent, Maggie shoots at a picture of Homer with a plunger gun, imitating the scene where Itchy shoots Scratchy.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The episode very notably doesn't take a side on the issue of whether censorship is good or bad (but it does have the moral of "Be prepared for consequences, hypocrisy, and opposing viewpoints if you choose to stand up for a cause").
    • Sure, Roger Meyers is a "sleaze merchant" who doesn't care if his shows induce kids to hurt themselves and others, but he doesn't force people to watch his products and he knows that it's not his responsibility to control a child's behavior. It is a parent's responsibility; to teach their children right from wrong, to monitor their child's activities, to keep harmful objects out of their child's reach in case they decide to play with them, and they should restrict their child's content exposure if they don't think the content involved is appropriate for them.
    • Sure, SNUH is a bunch of Moral Guardians who want to censor even masterpieces for offending their conservative housewife sensibilities, but they are kind of right in that kids shouldn't be exposed to graphic violence at such a young age. Their argument is that companies and creators ought to have some sense of responsibility and common sense over their content because what's funny to one person may be grossly offensive or damaging to another. Creators have to make a clear point that their content should not be replicated in real life and raise awareness of the real-life consequences of doing so.
  • Can't Take Criticism: When Roger Meyers Jr receives a letter of concern about his show from Marge, he calmly responds with what seems to be a civil letter addressing her concerns before ending it by telling her to go screw herself. He continues insulting Marge throughout the debate, curtly telling her there's nothing wrong with his show, and only considers meeting her demands when he gets overwhelmed by tons of nasty letters of his own from other angry parents.
  • Characterisation Click Moment: Marge was a fairly passive character in the shorts and early episodes, with even Homer sometimes being a more proactive voice of concern. While signs of her Wet Blanket Wife persona do seep in at times in late Season One note , this episode codifies her overprotective moral guardian role, with later episodes making her more comically out of touch and prone to nagging.
  • Characterization Marches On: Compared to his more jaded, Only in It for the Money characterization in later seasons, Krusty is more genuinely enthusiastic about his job in this episode, to the point he struggles not to pander to the kids in a serious news interview.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • When Marge forbids her children from watching Itchy & Scratchy, Lisa objects that, without the cartoons, they'll grow up to be humorless robots. Bart replies, "Really? What kind of robots?"
    • After one of the show's new episodes features the duo decapitating a nagging squirrel (an obvious caricature of Marge down to the hairstyle), she's furious while Homer just laughs at the "dumb squirrel" getting what was coming to her.
  • Continuity Nod: When Krusty gets Marge's letter, he holds it upside-down, looks at it with a confused look, then throws it away. This is because he is illiterate, as revealed in "Krusty Gets Busted".
  • Couch Gag: The family comes in to find the couch missing.
  • Crappy Homemade Gift: Homer builds a spice rack for Marge (despite having no prior experience with building), which ends up incredibly poorly-made. Marge still uses it anyways.
  • Curse Cut Short: A version, with Roger Meyers' letter to Marge.
    Roger Meyers: In regards to your specific comments about the show, our research indicates that one person cannot make a difference, no matter how big a screwball she is. So let me close by saying...
    (Cut to Marge reading the letter.)
  • Dear Negative Reader: In-Universe. After Marge believes The Itchy and Scratchy Show is being a bad influence on the kids, she makes a Strongly Worded Letter to the studios. Unimpressed, the chairman, Roger Meyers Jr, makes a sarcastically cordial letter thanking the "valued viewer" for their concerns about the show and noting that "our research shows that one person cannot make a difference, no matter how big a screwball she is, so let me close by saying..."
    Marge: *reading letter* And the horse I rode in on?!?
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the retooled version of their show, Itchy and Scratchy speak with mechanically sped-up voices akin to those of Alvin and the Chipmunks. In later episodes, the few occasions where they had dialogue would have them speaking with more natural-sounding falsetto voices.
  • Enemy Mine: Itchy and Scratchy break from their feud to brutalize a nagging blue-haired squirrel (meant to be a Take That! towards Marge and her letter), even happily shaking hands afterwards.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Because Marge drummed up a highly successful protest against Itchy & Scratchy, the rest of Springfield's Moral Guardians expect her to also lead the charge against a visiting exhibit of Michelangelo's David. However, far from being offended by the statue's nudity, Marge regards David as a masterpiece and thinks everyone in Springfield should see it. Realizing that she needs to be consistent in her stance on artistic expression is what gets her to rethink her crusade against the cartoon.
  • Hypocrite: Marge is accused of this when she refuses to support the campaign to get Michelangelo's David banned from Springfield. Her opponents point out that she can hardly demand the banning of one controversial and potentially offensive form of expression because she doesn't approve of it while refusing to support a campaign to get another controversial and potentially offensive form of expression banned because she does approve of it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Roger Meyers Jr defends his case in the rudest way possible, replying to Marge's letter by labelling her a "screwball" (among what is implied to be something even more profane). When Marge in turn encourages moral guardians to make their opinions heard, Meyers gets a ton of very angry letters he is sincerely choked up by.
    Roger Meyers Jr: "Dear Sleaze Merchant"? Oh come on, that hurts.
  • Jerkass: The chairman of the Itchy & Scratchy franchise, Roger Meyers, Jr., pivots Marge's tirade against the show by responding to her letter with a blunt, vulgar insult.
  • Jerkass Ball: Marge can be seen as grabbing this. If she had just kept an eye on Maggie, then she would have stopped her sooner from hitting Homer (or better yet, kept her from watching Itchy & Scratchy, since that show isn't appropriate for a baby).
  • Kent Brockman News: Kent makes no attempt to hide his own viewpoint while hosting a debate on cartoon violence.
  • Moral Guardians:
    • Parodied almost to the point of deconstruction; Marge protests against cartoon violence, wins her argument by organizing a huge protest rally which forces the animators to make some changes. The newer episodes of Itchy & Scratchy are so boring invoked that the older kids actually go and play outside. According to the DVD Commentary, the makers intentionally made this appear ridiculously harmonic.
    • On top of that, Marge's anti-indecency group wants to go after Michelangelo Buonarroti's classic statue David for depicting male frontal nudity. Marge, however, thinks this is art and opposes censoring something that is not violent at all, only harmless nudity. She loses her credibility, Itchy & Scratchy returns to being violent, and Marge complains over her kids "never knowing true art" (until Homer says that the schools will eventually force them to learn to come and look at David's "doodle").
  • Never My Fault: It never seems to occur to Marge that she could have prevented Maggie from injuring Homer by simply keeping a closer eye on her (or the fact Maggie shouldn't have been watching something not geared towards babies in the first place). Similarly, while Roger Meyers' response to her letter was vulgar, her letter was condescending and insulting, calling them "Purveyors of Senseless Violence" and demanding that they tone down the violence in their cartoons without fully explaining the situation.
  • Noodle Incident: At some point, Homer tries to avoid work by using an excuse that sounds lamer than "a baby whacked me on the head with a mallet." Homer is angry for not being believed.
  • Off-Model: When SNUH protests Michelangelo's David going on tour in Springfield, a miscolored Helen Lovejoy and Maude Flanders are standing at the Simpsons' doorstep as they try to summon Marge.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Maggie bonking Homer on the head with a mallet is enough to knock him senseless despite staying conscious after previous blows like Bart accidentally hitting him with a baseball while playing catch.
  • "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody and "Psycho" Strings: Maggie hits Homer with a mallet in a clever parody of this iconic scene. Subverted later in the episode when the "Psycho" Strings play again, only this time when Maggie pours Homer some lemonade.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: One of the animators see Marge protesting outside the studio and begins sketching her. The next episode shows a squirrel caricatured as Marge telling Itchy and Scratchy to stop hitting each other; she gets her head knocked off her body with a bat.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Maggie hitting Homer is a shot-for-shot spoof of the shower scene from Psycho.
    • Nelson painting the fence with his friends is a reference to Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
    • Itchy and Scratchy in their musketeer outfits is a clear reference to the similar Tom and Jerry cartoons set in this time period.
    • The scene of the kids playing is a parody of the "Pastoral Symphony" segment from Fantasia.
    • When Marge's group is Waving Signs Around while picketing Meyers' studio, Moe can be seen holding a sign that reads, "Bring Back Wagon Train".
  • Special Guest: Alex Rocco as Roger Meyers, Jr.
  • Status Quo Is God: Come on, you really thought that the changes made to Itchy & Scratchy would stick? (Especially when later episodes show, obviously, that Marge's manifestation did zip in the long run.)
  • Strongly Worded Letter: Of the Escalating War kind. Marge writes a somewhat condescending letter to Meyers about the violent nature of his cartoons. Meyers replies with an openly insulting one that makes clear he is not empathetic ("...and the horse I rode in on???"). Marge in turn encourages other parents to write to Meyers, resulting in the studio getting a truck load of hate mail bordering on death threats.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Previously limited to laughs, screams, and the like, the Lighter and Softer retool gives Itchy and Scratchy spoken lines for the first time, albeit with different voice actors.
  • Sugar Bowl: When Itchy and Scratchy's revising drives all of the kids of Springfield outside, all of them engage and play with each other in harmony. It doesn't last.
    • The rebranded nonviolent version of Itchy & Scratchy is nothing but the duo enjoying themselves together and complimenting each other, without any kind of conflict. Its sickeningly sweet yet uncanny art style certainly doesn't do it any favors either.
  • Symbolic Blood: In line with the Psycho reference when Maggie hits Homer with the mallet, he spills a can of red paint that pools on the floor.
  • Take That!: The Lighter and Softer non-violent version of Itchy and Scratchy most closely resembles 1975's The Tom and Jerry Show, which, you guessed it, removed all of the slapstick violence and made Tom and Jerry friends.
  • Take That, Critics!: In-universe. Marge is caricatured as a cranky squirrel that Itchy decapitates by a disgruntled animator. Her reaction makes it clear that she intends to sue the studio if Kent Brockman didn't call in for an interview.
    • By contrast, the episode itself represents a notably even-handed and good-natured example, making a strong argument in favor of free speech in the media but casting Marge's crusade in a sympathetic light: like many parents critical of The Simpsons at the height of Bartmania, she's simply concerned for her kids. There's plenty of parallel Self-Deprecation, most noticeably in the fact that when all the kids in Springfield stop watching their beloved cartoon, they're immediately much better off—not because they lost the violent influence, but because it frees them up to do more constructive and satisfying things with their time.
  • The Television Talks Back: When Homer and the kids are watching a power tool commercial:
    TV: It's 67 tools in one! How much would you pay for a machine that can do all this?
    Homer: One thousand dollars!
    TV: Oh, don't answer yet!
    Homer: Oh, sorry.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: In-universe. The retooled Itchy and Scratchy episodes are so boring that, as a result, everyone except infants now hate it. Even Krusty is flabbergasted by the negative reception when he opens his show to find an empty audience.
  • Touché: After Meyers rudely dismisses her once again on a not-so-evenly handled TV debate, Marge uses her eight seconds to talk to encourage all parents to make their opinions known to Meyers. Gilligan Cut to Meyers going through heaps of angry letters, realising he got outplayed.
    Meyers: People, the screwballs have spoken.

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