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Recap / The Simpsons S 4 E 2 A Streetcar Named Marge

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Original air date: 10/1/1992

Production code: 8F18

"♫ Long before the Superdome
Where the saints of football play
Lived a city that the damned call home
Hear their hellish roundelay... ♫"

Marge auditions for the role of Blanche in the local community theater's production of Oh, Streetcar!, a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire, and gets it after the director (voiced by Jon Lovitz) notices how beaten-down and depressed she is whenever Homer orders her around. Meanwhile, Maggie is put in a daycare center modeled after the teachings of Ayn Rand.

This episode was the last one (in terms of airdates) to have Klasky-Csupo as an animation company. From "Homer the Heretic" through season 27, the show would be handled by Film Roman.


This episode contains examples of:

  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: The plot of the episode revolves around a musical adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire titled Oh, Streetcar!
  • Bad Boss: By his own admission, Llewelyn's not easy to work for, often driving cast members (including children) to tears.
  • Beauty Contest: The episode opens with the Simpsons watching one on TV.
  • The Big Easy: "Oh, Streetcar!", a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire that Marge stars in, with its songs being so catchy, offensive, and lyrically accurate to the original play's script that the first few lyrics of the opening number serve as the page quote.
  • Bowdlerise: Some stations have cut out Bart's Deadpan Snarker remark with Mr. Boswell.
    Bart: (Laughs) He's such a bitch!
  • Brainy Baby: Maggie organizes plans to get back the pacifiers. When her first attempt fails, she comes up with an even more elaborate plan that succeeds.
  • Advertisement:
  • Brick Joke: During rehearsals, Marge attacks Ned with the bottle, but he struggles to overpower her. In his next scene, he has a bloody bandage on his chest.
  • Brig Ball Bouncing: At Ayn Rand School for Tots, Maggie bounces a ball against the wall of the playpen (which is the daycare equivalent of solitary confinement) she is put in by Ms. Sinclair, similar to Captain Hilts in The Great Escape.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Llewelyn Sinclair is obnoxious, hammy, and possibly crazy, but the play is a smash hit.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A vending machine can be seen in the background of several scenes at the rehearsals, Homer tries to get candy from it in a Funny Background Event, eventually resorting to ramming it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Lampshaded and subverted. The musical's final number completely misses the point of the original quote it's based on. Ironically, when Homer tells Marge how he interpreted the play before admitting he has a history of missing the point of things, he's actually entirely correct and Marge tells him so.
    • Bart has a very Literal-Minded reading of a scene where Blanche is suspended above the stage on ropes and sways to and fro in the air moaning as if in pain, in what Lisa clarifies is likely "supposed to symbolize her descent into madness."
      Bart: Whoa, she can fly!
  • Couch Gag: The family sits on the couch, which transforms into a monster that swallows them all.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe for the play's director as Sinclair introduces himself by saying he's had a heart attack during each of his previous plays, and is planning for another this time.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Ned mentions having been in a prior production of A Streetcar Named Desire as Blanche.
    "Just part of the fun of going to an all-male school."
  • Damned by Faint Praise: The owner of the preschool does that to herself as her only qualification appears to be that unlike every other daycare in Springfield, she's not currently under federal investigation. The daycare itself is shown to be run by objectivist standards, which is utterly insane as babies are by definition reliant on their parents or caretakers.
  • Dawson Casting: In-Universe with Apu as the teenaged paper boy seduced by Blanche.
  • Daycare Nightmare: The Ayn Rand School for Tots, that takes pacifiers away from babies and locks them up in order to force children to stop depending on them and otherwise acts like a Lighter and Softer version of the Stalag from The Great Escape, cooler included.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Maggie's subplot plays out like Die Hard in a nursery.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Invoked. To get the bottle scene right, Marge pictures Ned as Homer. Marge gets so angry she is able to overpower Ned with berserk fury alone, and genuinely wounds him with the broken bottle.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending. In-universe. Oh, Streetcar! ends to the bright and cheery tune about how you can always depend on the kindness of strangers while Blanche is being carted off to the asylum. It's possible the ending was somehow rewritten as a happy ending.
  • Extreme Doormat: There's a good glimpse into Marge's worldview when she's trying to play Blanche. She suggests that, rather than try and stab Stanley, she "just take his abuse with gentle good humor".
  • Fictional Video Game: Homer plays Bowling 2000 on a Game Boy style handheld.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The moment where the Simpsons sit down to watch the play Llewelyn's sister is briefly seen, haggard from all the babies sucking their pacifiers.
  • Funny Background Event: As Llewelyn talks to Marge about Stanley crushing Blanche's fragile spirit, Homer struggles to get candy out of vending machine — ultimately screaming and ramming it.
  • Great Escape: The subplot with Maggie in daycare. Instead of actually escaping, the plot is to liberate all of the confiscated pacifiers.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The sound of dozens of babies sucking on pacifiers, echoed through an auditorium, is quite eerie. "Ughhhh, babies."
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Due to having once played Blanche himself in a Cross-Cast Role, Ned Flanders knows exactly how to break a bottle.
      Ned: There's the ol' face-shredder.
    • In the background at the auditions, Jasper can be seen pirouetting and extending his leg straight over his head.
    • Chief Wiggum knows the man who runs the calligraphy class (and considers him a lunatic).
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lionel Hutz, despite having a role in the play, is suing the producers on behalf of people who didn't get roles.
  • Improvised Zipline: Maggie makes one with a clothesline, toy dart-gun, and a hanger to get to the locker of confiscated pacifiers.
  • Incoming Ham: Llewelyn's intro is bursting through the door shouting, "HELLO?!"
  • Isn't It Ironic?:
    • The final song of Oh, Streetcar! is a bright, peppy tune about how "You can always depend on the kindness of strangers!", completely oblivious to the point of that line in the script (even Homer interprets the play better than that song does).
    • Earlier in the episode, a beauty pageant on TV begins with the contestants singing "At Seventeen" ("I learned the truth at seventeen/that love was meant for beauty queens!"), completely oblivious to what the song is actually about (a plain girl singing about how the pretty girls in school had it so much better than her, but now their lives are worse).
  • Jerkass:
    • Llewelyn Sinclair. He's also a bit of a Narcissist.
    • Homer is especially bad here, to better fit the comparisons to Stanley Kowalski. He's more of an ignorant Jerkass than Stanley though.
  • Jerkass Realization: Homer points out how much of a jerk Stanley was in the play, then not long after, admits that he's a lot like Stanley, perhaps realizing on a subconscious level how much of a jerk he was in this episode.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Despite the above, by the end of the play, when Marge sees what she is convinced is an utterly bored uncaring expression, Homer has in fact been left rather solemn and touched by the play's story, even seeing himself in Stanley.
    • Llewelyn Sinclair, with a slight more emphasis on the Jerkass. He belittles everyone about everything, is quite demanding and somewhat of a perfectionist elitist when it comes to his work, and he even fires one of his play's cast-members (Otto) on the night of the performance, but he is passionate about his work, can see talent when it truly presents itself, does his best to draw out the best of his actors, and even if a bit vain, adores the audience, feeling they help make the production what it is as well. It's just that he's not without his flaws, like most of The Simpsons cast.
  • Large Ham: Jon Lovitz as Llewelyn Sinclair. The commentary notes that his bombastic introductory speech is actually the "smallest" take Lovitz did.
    • The typically understated Ned Flanders gets the chance to chew scenery as Stanley Kowalski, and boy does he chew it.
  • Lighter and Softer: Oh, Streetcar! is implied to be this. While not completely In Name Only, it's been rewritten as a musical, includes a bizarre happy ending that goes against the plot of the original movie, and it's implied Stanley raping Stella didn't happen.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Ned Flanders plays Stanley Kowalski, due entirely to his impressive physique. Other candidates trying for the role were Chief Wiggum (too fat), and Otto (had a massive, Big Daddy Roth-inspired tattoo on his chest).
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Maggie does this in her attempt to get the keys to the pacifier locker, using a Krusty doll pull string as the wire and milk bottles as weights.
  • Literal-Minded:
    Ms. Sinclair: Mrs. Simpson, do you know what a baby's saying when she reaches for a bottle?
    Marge: ..."Ba-ba"?
  • Money Slap: Subverted: when Homer keeps pestering Marge for change for a nearby candy machine during her rehearsal for a play, Mr. Llewellyn finally yells out, "Oh, here!" and throws a pocketful of change at his feet to get him to stop.
  • Noodle Incident: Exactly what it was the previous year's Miss American Girl said at the UN is never revealed.
  • Painful Rhyme: The musical number around the famous "STELLA!" utterance:
    Can't you hear me yell-a?
    You're putting me through hell-a!
  • The Parody: Maggie's rebellion at first places her in Steve McQueen's role in The Great Escape, complete with the movie's actual theme music. Once Homer arrives at the daycare center it turns into The Birds, including Alfred Hitchcock walking two dogs afterward.
  • Place Worse Than Death: The opening number of Oh! Streetcar, infamously (leading to actual controversy in Louisiana even though it was intended to parody the similar treatment of London in Sweeney Todd rather than the city itself):
    New Orleans!
    New Orleans!
    If you want to go to Hell, you should take a trip
    To the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississip',
    New Orleans!
    Stinky, rotten, vomiting, vile,
    New Orleans!
    Putrid, brackish, maggoty, foul
    New Orleans!
  • Prima Donna Director: Llewelyn Sinclair actually winds up on stage when he takes over Otto's role right before the performance, having realized Otto wasn't good enough.
    "I am not an easy man to work for. While directing Hats Off to Hanukkah, I reduced more than one cast member to tears. Did I expect too much from fourth graders? [Takes out review] The review 'Play enjoyed by all' speaks for itself."
  • Product Placement: While Homer plays what is clearly an original Game Boy, the device's name is never said or seen.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Thanks to Homer's unusually boorish and selfish behavior in this episode, Marge ends up snapping while rehearsing the scene where Stella attacks Stanley with a broken bottle. She imagines Homer in Ned's place, and goes into a fury so bad that Ned can't overpower her during the struggle! In the next scene with the two, it turns out she actually managed to stab him for real!
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Marge makes peanut butter cookies for the rest of the cast during a rehearsal. Llewellyn Sinclair eats one and then asks if anybody else wants "a bit of banality." Chief Wiggum immediately says that he would.
  • Say My Name: To go with the Streetcar parallels.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Bart mentions having a pain in the Gulliver.
    • Homer blowing on a piece of paper out of boredom during the play is a reference to a similar scene in Citizen Kane.
    • The Birds is referenced when Homer goes to pick up Maggie and is surrounded by various babies with their pacifiers echoing in the room. A cartoon version of Alfred Hitchcock passes him by while walking his dogs, echoing his actual cameo in the movie.
    • Maggie's struggle at the day-care center quickly mutates into a riff on The Great Escape.
    • The musical's song about New Orleans is a parody of "No Place Like London" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • Show Within a Show: Oh, Streetcar!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Llwellyn carries around a good review he got for directing a fourth-grade play.
    Llewellyn Sinclair: Did I expect too much from fourth graders? The review "play enjoyed by all"... speaks for itself!
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure; Jon Lovitz as Llewellyn Sinclair and Ms. Sinclair (Llewellyn's sister).
  • Spoof Aesop: You can always depend on the kindness of strangers!
  • Stylistic Suck: Similar to the later Planet of the Apes (1968) musical, though the overall production is surprisingly competent, the idea of a lighthearted musical based on A Streetcar Named Desire is played for all the mileage it's worth. It tops off with "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" (in its original context, a reflection on how Blanche's mind has been completely broken and how she has deluded herself into thinking her prior trauma at the hands of Stanley was actually kindness) being converted into a jaunty, completely unironic end number about how "A stranger is a friend you haven't met!"
  • Take That!:
  • Tempting Fate: As Marge leaves to go rehearse with Ned, Homer asks her to open his pudding can. Marge tells him to do it himself, but the minute she's gone Homer breaks the tab off.
    Homer: So I can open my own can of pudding, can I? Shows what you know, Marge!
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The audition scene in general, but especially the ladies of Springfield auditioning for the role of Blanche. Llewelyn is so unimpressed by the bunch that he almost cancels the entire play.
    Llewelyn Sinclair: You're all terrible! Forget it, just strike the sets! Clear the stage!
  • Token Minority: Played straight with Drederick Tatum, who was one of the judge panelists.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: A Funny Background Event has Homer beating the crap out of an uncooperative vending machine.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To A Streetcar Named Desire.