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Recap / The Simpsons S5 E14 "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy"

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Original air date: 2/17/1994 (produced in 1993)

Production code: 1F12

Offended by the female stereotypes embodied in the new talking Malibu Stacy doll ("Don't ask me, I'm just a girl!", "Thinking too much gives you wrinkles!"), Lisa tries to introduce a progressive alternative. Meanwhile, Grampa Simpson takes a job at Krusty Burger in order to feel young and hip.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Actor/Role Confusion: Andy Griffith is only referred to as "TV's Matlock" at the Retirement Castle, despite Griffith having been a sitcom star and having starred in movies earlier in his career.
  • All for Nothing: Zig-zagged. Lisa decides to call it a victory when a single girl buys the Lisa Lionheart doll but Stacy Lovell then mutters that she lost almost $46,000 investing in its creation.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Smithers' boot-up screen is a picture of Mr. Burns nude and a recording of him saying a Double Entendre.
    Mr. Burns: Hello. Smithers. You're. Quite. Good. At. Turning. Me. On.
    Smithers: (to Lisa) Um, you probably should ignore that.
  • And Another Thing...: When Abe quits the Krusty Burger, he tells his boss, "And one more thing, I never once washed my hands. That's your policy, not mine!"
  • Animation Bump: The scenes with Homer getting injured from the playset and Lisa throwing the Malibu Stacy out the window are better animated than the rest of the episode.
  • Anti-Climax: In-universe for Lisa. Upon taking the new Talking Malibu Stacy home with her, she roleplays a public speech for the doll, narrating, "A hush falls over the general assembly as Stacy approaches the podium to deliver what will no doubt be a stirring and memorable address". She then pulls the doll's string. Instead of something inspiring, however, Stacy gives the utterly vapid statement, "I wish they taught shopping in school!"
  • Attention Whore: Bart's suggestions for (unflattering) names for Lisa's doll made to compete against Malibu Stacy fall on deaf ears, leaving him desperately crying out for attention.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At first, it looks like Lisa Lionheart is about to be a massive success, as a torrent of girls (and Smithers) are racing for her display. Unfortunately, the Malibu Stacy company pulls out their secret weapon: releasing an old Stacy doll (complete with a new hat) on the same day. The tide instantly turns back to the status quo, despite an impassioned speech from Lisa.
    Smithers: But she's got a new hat!
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Homer's line about the family boycotting the FOX Network because they own chemical weapon plants in Syria.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More bitter than sweet, unfortunately: Lisa takes solace than a single girl purchased the Lisa Lionheart doll and will probably be enlightened by it, but Big Corporation won and Lovell mentions that she lost almost $46,000 in investments.
  • Bland-Name Product: Malibu Stacy is an obvious parody of the Barbie franchise (which is known as Malibu Barbie).
  • Boring, but Practical: An example in which it works against the heroes and the "boring" part is definitely supposed to be seen as awful: when the Malibu Stacy production team hears about Lisa Lionheart, they decide to pull an all-nighter to try to produce a competing Stacy doll. It is revealed one scene later that, in their utter lack of inspiration, all the corporation did was make more regular Stacy dolls but package them with a brand new hat. Even as Lisa tried to talk them out of it, the children of Springfield (and Smithers), with their die-hard obsession, performed as Big Corporation expected: by buying their doll and not Lisa's.
  • Bottled Cool: Parodied when Abe sees a Buzz Cola commercial where a group of old people take a drink of the soda and start acting young and hip, ending with the slogan, "There's a little boogie in every bottle." Abe falls for it and starts chugging a can of Buzz Cola that Homer happens to have... Only to start crying out for water.
    Abe: The bubbles are burning my tongue!
  • Bowdlerization: UK airings on Channel 4 shorten Smithers’ computer start up from "Hello. Smithers. You're. Quite. Good. At. Turning. Me. On." to just "Hello. Smithers."
  • Brick Joke:
    • Homer dancing on the giant keyboard at the toy store (and breaking it both times, though the difference between the first and the second time is that Homer butchers "Rock Around the Clock" the first time and perfectly plays The Simpsons theme the second time).
    • Homer tries to sway Maggie (who's spelling her name on an Etch-a-Sketch) into playing with a dangerous fort playset that shocks him, cuts him and launches a missile into his mouth. Later, in the car, we find out that Bart bought the toy (though we never see Bart with it after that point...)
    • Stacy Lovell, Malibu Stacy's creator, explains that she was forced out of her own company in 1974, and tells Lisa that the reason was because the board of directors felt that Miss Lovell's ideas weren't "cost-effective". Lisa expresses sympathy for her, believing it to be typical corporate doublespeak and the overall sexist nature of the male-dominated business world. When the new Lisa Lionheart doll is released, only one little girl chooses it. Lisa concludes that her efforts were worthwhile and Lovell mutters to herself "as long as that girl spends $46,000 on that doll".
    • Smithers is revealed to be an avid Malibu Stacy collector. At the end of the episode, he's present in the mob of little girls screaming for Lisa Lionheart.
    • Stacy states that she had five husbands, each based on famous male dolls and action figures. One of them, a black man known as Joe, shows up to try and take Stacy back.
  • Burger Fool: Grampa gets a job at Krusty Burger in order to regain his lost youth, only to learn that the good Lord has made people old so they can find fault with everything on Earth.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Homer does this to Abe:
    Homer: Dad, I love you, but... you're a weird, sore-headed old crank and nobody likes you!
  • Couch Gag: The family sits and is crushed by the Giant Foot of Stomping from the opening of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Creative Sterility: The absolute best the Malibu Stacy can think of for competing with Lisa Lionheart is adding a new hat to the same Malibu Stacy they have been selling for years. It still sells like hotcakes.
  • Crossdressing Voice: For some unfathomable reason, in the Italian dub, Stacy Lovell is actually dubbed by a male voice actor, doing an effeminate voice.
    • In-universe, Celeste's Malibu Stacy doll has a male voice that says, "My Spidey sense is tingling. Anybody call for a web-slinger?" and is voiced by Hank Azaria.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In the final scene, Homer plays the theme song on the giant toy piano.
  • Drive-Thru Antics: Grampa gets a job running the drive-thru at Krusty Burger, but he mistakes the order box for a World War II transmission radio and thus fails spectacularly at it.
    Grampa: Come in! Come in! Mayday! I'm losing your transmission!
    Customer: I SAID FRENCH FRIES!
    Grampa: What the? [to his supervisor] Do we sell...French...fries?
  • Early-Bird Cameo: One of Stacy's previous husbands she mentions to Lisa is a "Dr. Colossus". He would later show up in Part 2 of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" where he would help provide the Trope Namer for Cartoonish Supervillainy.
  • Elder Employee: Grampa Simpson decides to work at Krusty Burger to reclaim his youth and dignity. Being who he is, he not only confuses his wireless headset and the order box as a transmission radio like he did during the war, but he was also unsure if french fries were sold.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: During his job at Krusty Burger, Grampa tries to fool around by putting his dentures between a pair of hamburger buns and asking his indifferent teenage co-worker if he ever saw a sandwich that could take a bite out of him. The younger employee proceeds to carelessly wrap up the denture sandwich and give it to the customer, afterwards we hear a biting sound and the customer complaining "Damn sandwich took a bite out of me!"
  • Fan Boy: Waylon Smithers is revealed in this episode to be a huge fan of Malibu Stacy, to the point of having the world's biggest Malibu Stacy collection.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": Lisa tries to tell her friends that the talking Malibu Stacy dolls say sexist things. But they all laugh at her for saying a "dirty word", much to her annoyance. They probably didn't know what "sexist" means so they only reacted to the "sex" part and mistook it for something sexual.
  • Idiot Ball: After Grampa gives the Simpsons an early inheritance of several dozen 1918 silver dollars, in mint-condition, all four of the (talking) Simpsons collectively decide to go to the mall to spend them, instead of Marge and Lisa knowing and/or pointing out that they should instead sell the coins to collectors. note 
  • Instantly Proven Wrong:
    • When Lisa tells the Malibu Stacy tour guide that she believes the doll's voice is an airhead because the company executives are sexist, the guide denies it... and one second right after, a meeting room door opens and one executive asks the guide (a Sexy Secretary) to come into the room in a very sensual manner. The guide does, giggling like a ditz and giving a Supermodel Strut.
    • Marge wanted to reassure Lisa by saying she grew up with Malibu Stacy and turned out fine and offered strawberry ice cream. Lisa pulls the doll's string which repeats exactly what Marge just said verbatim.
  • Lady Drunk: Stacy Lovell, initially. She tosses her glass into her home's fireplace when she decides to help Lisa... and a massive fireball erupts from the fireplace as a result.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At one point, Lisa declares that she'd be horrified if someone put out a lousy product with the Simpson name on it, a pretty obvious nod to the heaps of low-quality merch of the era.
    • More subtly:
      Stacy: You all have hideous hair! ...I mean, from a design point of view.
  • My Little Panzer: One of the toys the Simpsons purchase is a playset base for a G.I. Joe Expy, which is outfitted with real barbed (and electrified) wire and exploding missiles.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Lisa once tossed red paint at the executives of the Keebler company. All we know is that Marge also knows about it and the executives were upset over...whatever they did to deserve that (if they did anything at all).
    • Lovell mentions off hand that one of the reasons she was fired from the company was for funneling funds to the Viet Cong.
    • Homer either invented or was involved with the invention of a snack called "Nuts and Gum: Together At Last!" The only clue we have about this is Homer saying that he's a whitenote  male, aged 18 to 49 and everyone listens to him, no matter how stupid his suggestions are.
  • Not So Above It All: Lisa at the toy store:
    Lisa: I'm warning you, Mom. I may get a little crazy.
    Marge: I understand, honey. When I was your age, there was a—
    Lisa: Hey, horse face! Get your ugly pie-hooks off that Summer Fun Set!
  • Periphery Demographic: An in-universe example: Smithers is shown to be an avid Malibu Stacy collector.
  • Poke the Poodle: The people behind Malibu Stacy, feeling threatened by Lisa Lionheart, call in a favour from a Senator, who vows to deal with the issue personally. The next scene has him drive by the Simpsons house, throw a brick at their door, and drive on.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Frustrated about the lines of the new talking Malibu Stacy, and Bart making a joke about it, Lisa rants about how potentially problematic it would have on the young girl demographic.
    Lisa: Millions of girls will grow up thinking that this is the right way to act, that they can never be anything more than vacuous ninnies, whose only goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband, and spend all day on the phone with their equally vacuous friends, talking about how damn terrific it is to look pretty and have a rich husband!
    Bart: Just what I was gonna say.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Abe starts one as the Simpsons drive to the mall that's still going when they get back to the house, at which point they ditch him as quickly as possible.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The premise was based on the controversy surrounding Mattel's 1992 "Teen Talk Barbie" doll, each unit of which contained a voice box programmed with 4 out of 270 possible phrases, one of which was "Math class is tough," which caused somewhat of a controversy as it was seen as reinforcing negative female gender stereotypes. The gag involving a Stacy doll who clearly has the voice box of a Spider-Man toy also can be read as a reference to the "Barbie Liberation Organization," a performance art group that claimed to have switched the voice boxes of 300 Teen Talk Barbie dolls with those of GI Joe action figures before replacing them on store shelves.
  • Serial Spouse: Stacy has been married and divorced five times. Her former husbands are Ken, Johnny, Joe, Dr. Colossus and Steve Austin. Joe makes an appearance in this episode to win her back, while Dr. Colossus appears in "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two".
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the talking Malibu Stacy dolls apparently has a voice box that was supposed to go inside a Spider-Man doll ("My Spidey sense is tingling. Anybody call for a webslinger?"). This is a reference to an underground group that switched the voice boxes to some talking Barbies and talking G.I. Joes to make a point about sexism in toys.
    • Homer on the giant keyboard refers to a famous scene from Big, only instead of Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia playing the floor keyboard together to show that adults and kids can get along and that there's nothing wrong with adults getting in touch with their inner child, it's Homer performing a Hollywood Tone-Deaf version of "Rock Around the Clock" (and, at the end of the episode, a flawless version of The Simpsons theme) and breaking the keyboard.
    • Stacy Lovell's ex-husbands are all (save Dr. Colossus) based on male dolls and action figures (and Steve Austin).
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lisa. Deconstructed when Lisa's campaign for the Lisa Lionheart doll goes bust (but reconstructed slightly when a girl [who looks like one of Lisa's nameless friends in the early episodes] buys her Lisa Lionheart doll and Lisa feels that it was all worth it to inspire at least one person... and zigzagged back when Lovell mutters that it was still a $46,000 loss of what may be her own money) and discussed when Marge points out that she's been protesting against social injustice an awful lot, from making her family march in a gay rights parade to boycotting FOX because the company owns chemical weapon plants in Syria to tossing red paint at the Keebler people for some unmentioned reason.
  • Special Guest: Kathleen Turner as Stacy Lovell.
  • Start My Own: Lisa decides that the solution to Malibu Stacy being a brainless beauty is to create a doll of her own with a character that fits her own tastes and sell it to other girls to hopefully enlighten them.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: After Abe has his epiphany at the end of the B-plot, he turns to his boss and says, "Mr. Peterson, you can take this job and...fill it!"
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Abe starts fearing death after seeing his idol Matlock in person, so he gives the rest of the family his inheritance so he can see them enjoy it. He gives Lisa his lifetime of personal correspondence, but his main gift for the family is a box of mint-condition 1918 liberty-head silver dollars, prompting an immediate shopping trip to the mall.
  • Versus Title: One of many for The Simpsons. Others include, but are not limited to, "Marge vs. the Monorail", "Bart vs. Australia" and "Homer vs. Patty and Selma".
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Kent Brockman closes his show with a report about the doll Lisa helped design (mostly because his daughter asked him to. After all, she was right about the Berlin Wall). As the closing music starts playing, Kent suddenly blurts out "Oh, and the President was arrested for murder but more on that tomorrow night... or you can turn to another channel. [Looks off to the side] Oh. Do not turn to another channel."