Original air date: 11/27/1994
Production code: 2F06
After stealing a rare gummi candy (one shaped like the Venus de Milo) from a confection convention, Homer loses it — and finds it on the butt of the babysitter he hired (a feminist university student) while driving her home, but his successful grab turns into a media circus and women's rights protest after Homer is accused of inappropriately grabbing the babysitter.
This episode contains examples of:
- Accidental Pervert: Deconstructed; the plot is kicked off when Ashley Grant mistakenly assumes Homer was groping her when he was pulling the gummi Venus de Milo off her rear end. Homer is then Convicted by Public Opinion, and nearly has his life ruined for it.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The cat that Homer tries to run over in the in-universe movie is purple.
- Amusingly Short List: As sales representative for wax lips does quite a bad job advertising his product:Sales rep: Hey, sir. Try our wax lips. It's the candy of 1000 uses.
Homer: Like what?
Sales rep: One, a humorous substitute for your own lips.
Homer: Keep going.
Sales rep: Two... I'm needed in the basement.
- Animation Bump: Homer's See You in Hell moment with its dramatic camera rotations◊.
- Artistic License – Chemistry: Mixing cola and Pop Rocks will not cause an explosion, but mixing cola with Mentos, famously, will (and even then, it's not like the can was full of napalm).
- As Himself: Dennis Franz (playing Homer in the FOX TV-movie Homer S.: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber).
- Awesome Underwater World: Homer imagines moving to one of these with his family in a sequence spoofing The Little Mermaid.
- Babysitter's Nightmare: Discussed near the beginning; Marge had such a difficult time finding a babysitter who would watch Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, that she ended up with only two choices; a feminist university student named Ashley Grant and a hobo. Bart hopes for the hobo, but to his dismay, it's Ashley. Ashley is able to tame Bart by letting him play Disembowler IV for five minutes if he does some housework, but she accuses Homer of sexual harassment when he grabs the gummi Venus de Milo from her butt during her ride home.
- Bears Are Bad News: One of the talk shows that exploits the scandal, Ben, is just a brown bear with a microphone attached to a construction hat strapped to his head. After ignoring the audience to raid the food table, a trainer tries to stop him, ending in him swatting the man away, being shot with tranquilizer guns and then falling on the audience.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Godfrey Jones offers to help Homer, then uses his own words against him. When called out on this, his apology is a rushed list that scrolls by too fast to be read.
- Blatant Lies: The Rock Bottom broadcast is incredibly poorly edited to make it seem like Homer confessed to harassment, the dialogue is choppy and the clock in the background keeps changing time (even though it didn't actually do that in the interview itself), and it ends with a frozen shot (with visible static) of Homer "attacking" Jones on the set, including a quick disclaimer about how it's a dramatization and might not have happened. Only a complete idiot would fall for it... unfortunately, Springfield is a city populated by complete idiots.
- Boring Broadcaster: Homer resorts to using public access TV to issue a rebuttal of his sexual harassment allegations without it being manipulated. The man in charge of the station immediately says that their lines were ringing more than ever... with just two calls. One is a wrong number and the other is a salesman, implying that very few people were watching. One of them was Groundskeeper Willie, who, luckily, had an alternate angle of the alleged incident that clarified what actually happened.
- Bowdlerization: When this episode aired in the UK, the scene of Groundskeeper Willie accidentally showing a video of Mayor Quimby making out with a woman (who's not his wife) in his mayoral limo was cut. At the time it aired in the UK, there were a string of murders that happened that involved cheating spouses having sex with their side pieces in cars.
- Broken Aesop: After Homer's name is cleared, Groundskeeper Willie becomes the next viral pervert. When Homer reacts to this, Marge points out that Willie was the one who saved Homer's reputation and that Homer should have learned from this experience not to believe everything he hears. However, Willie only had the video that cleared Homer of guilt because of his self-admitted habit of secretly taping couples in cars for sexual gratification. While Homer still comes off as an Ungrateful Bastard and it's clear that he only takes the story seriously because it was sensationalized on television, in this case it happens to be true.
- Cassandra Truth: Homer tries telling the feminist protesters Ashley summons that he was just removing a candy that'd gotten stuck to Ashley's butt. They refuse to believe him, one even claiming it's "the oldest trick in the book".
- Convicted by Public Opinion:
- Rock Bottom gets Springfield and all of America to condemn Homer based upon little more than hearsay and a blatantly-edited interview. Lisa and the family use public access TV to prove Homer's innocence, and Willie's amateur video is what saves the day.
- News Anchorman Kent Brockman had this announcement: "Now, here are some results from our phone-in poll: 95% of the people believe Homer Simpson is guilty. Of course, this is just a television poll which is not legally binding, unless Proposition 304 passes. And we all pray it will."
- Couch Gag: In a loose parody of Time Bandits, the family chase after the couch as it slides down an endless hallway.
- Demonization: Happens to Homer with the TV movie Homer S.: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber, starring Dennis Franz as Homer, which portrays Homer as a cackling, cat killing pervert. Ashley is portrayed as a young girl with pigtails instead of a college student, making Homer look like a pedophile as well.
- Department of Redundancy Department:Homer: What's that?
Conventioneer: That is the rarest gummi of them all, the gummi Venus de Milo. Carved by gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi.
Marge: Will you two stop saying "gummi" so much?
- Also Rock Bottom's other report for the day: "We go undercover at a Sex Farm for sex hookers".
- Disproportionate Restitution: For all the hell Homer is put through by the overhyped scandal, all he gets in restitution is an apology (albeit a sincere one) from Ashley and a very grudged, barely coherent confession from Rock Bottom.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Some of the protesters signs suggest this towards Homer, like "Touch a Butt, Go to Jail" and "You Pinch, We Lynch".
- Dumbass Has a Point: When Willie appears on Rock Bottom, Homer calls him sick; while he was mostly being swayed by the sinister music used on the show (falling for the same sensationalism he himself fell victim to), Willie's intentions of voyeuristic peeping were decidedly less innocent than Homer's, grabbing an unfortunately placed piece of candy he wanted.
- Easily Condemned: The only people who believe Homer didn't do it 100% throughout the whole episode are the kids — even Marge starts to believe it at one point that with the hefty bombardment of media around the incident (and she's embarrassed to admit that. Homer feels pretty devastated when he hears it).
- Easily Forgiven:
- Homer seems to hold no grudges for all the crap he's been through and quickly accepts Ashley's apology.
- He also seems to forgive Rock Bottom, despite what they did to him (and, unlike Ashley, their apology wasn't that sincere).
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When an angry mob shows up outside the Simpson house, Homer is afraid it's the candy vendors who have tracked them down for his theft of the gummi Venus and the destruction of the convention hall:Ashley: That's him! That's the man who sexually harassed me!
Homer: Whew! For a second there I thought I was in big trouble, but it's just a— D'OH!!
- Fictional Video Game: Bart gets to play Disembowler IV for five minutes after completing his homework.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus;
- When Rock Bottom shows the list of all their corrections you can read some pretty humorous stuff such as "Licking an electrical outlet will not turn you into a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.", "The Beatles haven't reunited to enter kickboxing competitions, "If you are reading this you have no life" and "The people writing this have no life".
- One frame as Homer falls out of the shower has him turning towards the camera with a smile on his face. Making it look like he's deliberately swinging on the shower curtain and having the time of his life.
- Girls Have Cooties:Bart: Why would anybody want to touch a girl's butt? That's where cooties come from!
- Hanlon's Razor: Homer wasn't trying to assault Ashley, Homer was... well, Homer.
- "Home Alone" Antics: A Discussed Trope (and giving a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer), yet averted. Homer wants to leave the kids alone to go to a candy convention, only for an understandably horrified Marge to say no and call the babysitting service - which sets up the rest of the episode's plot.
- Hope Spot: As the media converge on the Simpsons' house, Homer feels he hasn't got a friend in the world. Marge looks out the window and sees Moe, Barney, Doctor Hibbert, Lenny and Carl shoving through the crowd. Moe condemns them for judging Homer without talking to the people who know him... After all, they've got the real dirt on Homer. They immediately start bidding for an interview.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- After Willie is shamed by Rock Bottom for peeping, Homer begins to criticize Willie even though Willie's peeping saved Homer.
- Despite the ongoing defense of feminism within the scandal, the TV recreation portrays Ashley as a helpless ingenue who was savagely assaulted by Homer (again, this goes along with the entire brutal satire against the tabloidization of the media, and it is Truth in Television in a lot of sex scandals).
- Homer gets chewed out over supposedly groping Ashley by protestors... who subsequently spend the entire day literally pushing Homer around, even at his job at the Power Plant.
- Ignored Aesop: Homer is cleared of the allegations against him, particularly with the "Rock Bottom" corrections, yet when the same show accuses Willie of being a pervert, Homer is quick to condemn him:Homer: That man is sick!
Marge: Groundskeeper Willie saved you, Homer.
Homer: But listen to the music! He's evil!
Marge: Hasn't this experience taught you you can't believe everything you hear?
Homer: Marge, my friend... I haven't learned a thing.
[Marge and the rest of the family groan in frustration, and walk off]
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Homer is reluctant to go on public access TV as the shows look, in his words, dull and crummy. Marge's passionate suggestion is to dress it up to look more appealing by using a fern, a folding chair, and "the most decorative thing of all, the truth". She is met with blank stares from everyone else.
- Innocently Insensitive: The mistaken scandal begins by Homer being oblivious to seeing how peeling a candy off someone's butt could be taken the wrong way. He fails to even notice Ashley running out of the car terrified.
- Insane Troll Logic: "It's okay; your tears say more than real evidence ever could."
- Kafka Komedy: The family's attempts at trying to vindicate Homer by presenting clear evidence where the public has no choice but to declare him innocent all backfire — Homer's appearance on the TV tabloid show Rock Bottom, where the crisis worsens as the interview is edited into a confession — or are ignored (Homer giving his impassioned speech pleading for everyone to back off, which airs late at night on a little-viewed public-access channel).
- Karma Houdini:
- Zigzagged. Homer receives endless spite over the mistaken scandal, but never gets any specific punishment for stealing the Gummy Venus De Milo, or for apparently killing all those candy conventioneers. One has to wonder if the scandal actually was Homer's Laser-Guided Karma for blowing up the convention, since the Gummy Venus De Milo is what started the whole mess when Homer tried to pull it off Ashley's pants.
- Played straight with Rock Bottom who demonized Homer by Manipulative Editing his honest talk with them. All Rock Bottom does is a very grudgingly and obscure confession to many of their sham reports (but does not actually confess to their Manipulative Editing or any dishonesty regarding their coverage of people). They even continue to demonize in the end.
- Long List: Godfrey Jones announced that his newscast was apologizing for a list of recent errors. The errors scrolled quickly on the screen. When slowed down, they included "If you are reading this, you have no life."
- Made of Explodium: Homer MacGyvers up a combination of Buzz Cola and Pop Rocks to create a large fiery explosion to stop his pursuers.
- Manipulative Editing: Homer's interview on Rock Bottom is blatantly edited to make it seem like Homer admitted to grabbing the babysitter's butt and enjoying it, as the clock behind Homer is jumping to different times, and at one point, is clearly frozen in a VHS-style pause.
- Mistaken for Misogynist: Homer trying to grab the Venus de Milo gummi candy from Ashley's butt gets him labeled a sexual assaulter by feminist groups and the media.
- Not Helping Your Case:
- When confronting the protesters on the front lawn, Homer tries to deny the sexual harassment allegations, even saying "I'm a decent guy"...right before his robe flies open due to a gust of wind. Revealing he's wearing nothing underneath. They then start to throw things at him before he quickly retreats back inside.
- His job at the power plant also doesn't go unnoticed by the protestors who follow him, with one of them flat out stating that they aren't too cool about nuclear power either.
- When Homer is trying to assert his innocence on public access TV, he starts to talk about a time when he sabotages a race between "old-timey bikes with a big wheel in the front" (penny-farthings.) Though Marge quickly signals for him to stop talking, it later goes noticed by someone riding said bicycle, who kicks Homer in the face for it.
- Oh, Crap!: Invoked by Homer after watching the intro for his Rock Bottom segment, Babysitter and the Beast, which implies he's a pervert.
- Ordered Apology: After Homer is revealed innocent, a discredited Rock Bottom is left to admit they "make mistakes", leading them to screen a very long list of previous inaccuracies and lies they've made for phoney investigations, which pan up the screen in a blur like speed (amusingly, the Simpsons can still read them).
- Outrun the Fireball: The DVD commentary describes the manner of Homer's escape from the candy convention (using a can of Buzz Cola and some Pop Rocks), complete with a Pre-Mortem One-Liner ("See you in Hell, candy boys!"), as "A parody of every Bruce Willis movie ever made".
- Quote Mine: Homer is accused of sexual harassment and goes on Rock Bottom to give his side of the story. The interview that aired cut up his comments to make it sound like he was admitting guilt... then apparently starts taking his anger out on the host. It's done in an incredibly obvious and poor fashion as well, with really obvious jumps and things changing in the background — and people still buy it. Those things include a very prominent clock which jumps around between hours, despite the whole interview taking minutes, and the "taking his anger out on the host" is a freeze frame of Homer with a confused look on his face. Then at the end, when the show has to broadcast a correction, they show it so fast it was almost a Blipvert.What Homer actually said: Well, somebody had to take the babysitter home, then I noticed she was sitting on the Gummi Venus, so I grabbed it off her. Ohhhh... just thinking about that sweet, sweet candy, ahhh... I just wish I had another one right now!
What they broadcast: Well, somebody had to take the babysitter home, then I noticed she was sitting on—her—sweeet can—so I grabbed—her—sweeet can—ohhhh, just thinking about—her—can—I just wish I had—her—sweet, sweet—s-s-s-sweet can...
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Considering that the entire episode is a Take That! against the news media resorting to sensationalizing their news stories in real life and that reporters in real life aren't called out for their actions (unless they really did something wrong), the fact that the writers didn't have all the reporters punished actually works. Even Rock Bottom's very begrudged public admittance of all the lies they've told seems like a stretch in real life.
- Riddle for the Ages: Why does Grandpa hate Missouri?
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: While Homer was right for thinking Willie is a pervert, he believed it because of what he saw on TV rather than from Willie openly admitting it. He treats the dramatic use of music as proof, as he's as easily manipulated by media as the people who condemned him.
- Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: Homer is cleared of indecent assault by dint of Groundskeeper Willie capturing the real course of events on camera during his activities as a peeping tom. Willie is then dragged through the mud the same way Homer was.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Aside from the jokes about Hard Copy, one particular sequence has them extrapolate from a picture of Homer having fallen out of the shower and dragged the curtain on top of him to claim that Homer "sleeps nude in an oxygen tent, which he believes grants him sexual powers." This is pretty clearly based on claims that Michael Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which he believed would extend his life. (The truth is a bit more ambiguous.)
- Rule of Drama: As lampshaded by Lisa, the media and most of its audience doesn't care if Homer is innocent, the idea he's a pervert is an entertaining scandal. When Homer gives evidence that forces his vindication, Rock Bottom is left admitting they made phony footage based on this rule, for Homer and hundreds of other investigations.
- Rule of Funny: The writers have admitted that, since Homer's Rock Bottom interview took less than ninety seconds, the "jumping clock" gag in the background during the badly edited segment doesn't make any sense. However, it's so funny (and illustrates the terrible editing so much) that they kept it in and ignored logic for the sake of the joke.
- See You in Hell: "...Candy boys!"
- Homer has a Imagine Spot where he proposes to go in hiding under the sea, which is a parody of "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid where Homer eats all the singing and dancing fishes and crabs.
- The daytime talk show "Gentle Ben" is also the name of a series of novels and a television show about a boy and his pet grizzle bear.
- The title of the TV movie Homer S: Portrait of an Ass Grabber is a direct parody of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and 1970s TV movie Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenaged Alcoholic.
- When Rock Bottom does a news piece on Willie, they call him "Rowdy Roddy Peeper".
- Soda-Candy 'Splosion: Homer improvises a grenade out of a can of cola and a bag of Pop Rocks to cover his escape after he steals the Gummi Venus di Milo.
- Spoof Aesop:Marge: As long as everyone keeps filming one another, justice will be done.
- Starting a New Life: Homer's last-ditch plan to avoid the media. It could work if he didn't specifically want to do it under the sea.
- Squirrels in My Pants: When Homer and Marge come home from the Candy Convention; Bart, Lisa, and Maggie crawl around inside Marge's oversized coat to get to all the candy she has stuffed in it. Marge giggles a little while they do so until the coat finally bursts open with all the candy (and kids) flooding out onto the floor.
- Stop Saying That!: At the candy convention, Homer sees the stunning candy which will eventually get him in big trouble:Homer: [lustily] Ohh... [walks up] What's that?
Man: [with German accent] That is the rarest gummi of them all, the gummi Venus de Milo, carved by gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi.
Marge: Will you two stop saying "gummi" so much?
- Straw Feminist: Ashley Grant condescendingly says men are easily and deservedly manipulated, even children like Bart (although Bart specifically was being a chauvinist brat toward her). That said, she had every reason to think Homer was harassing her (Homer's actual reason being pretty ridiculously absurd), her views and character take a massive backseat to the ensuing media circus, and she does admit she was wrong when shown evidence to the contrary.
- Strawman News Media: The episode insulted sensationalist news media, overblown scandals, one-sided stories, and their ability to ruin people's lives. Homer is accused of grabbing a babysitter's butt and made out to be a sexual predator with mobs gathered outside his house and news cameras pointing through his window. On the DVD commentary for the episode, the writers argue that the episode is more relevant now than it was when it aired.
- Take That!:
- The whole episode is a scathing satire on what the writers called "the tabloidization of the media". "Rock Bottom" directly spoofs the investigative show Hard Copy, with many of the tactics shown onscreen, such as setting up camps outside people's homes, things Hard Copy would actually do. The Show Within a Show "Ben" is the embodiment of the writers' feeling that all it takes to host such a show is a microphone and an audience (and the fact that they used a live bear goes just as well as you think).
- The line listed under Insane Troll Logic serves as a good one to the sort of emotion-driven appeals that media talking heads typically resort to when the facts are either unavailable or not on their side.
- Tempting Fate: When Homer sees the Gummy de Milo, he wants Marge to distract everyone so he can steal it, but Marge refuses, stating she doesn't want to make a further spectacle of herself after being dragged about all over the candy convention. She immediately has no choice but to make a spectacle of herself when one of the overstuffed pockets of Homer's specially made coat bursts right open, spilling tons of candy all over the floor around her:Marge: How'd they get there? [chuckles bashfully as she starts picking up candy while everyone else is distracted helping her]
- Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: When Kent turns on the infrared camera, he mistakes a chicken cooking in the oven for Homer Simpson:Kent: Now, this technology is new to me, but I'm pretty sure that's Homer Simpson in the oven rotating slowly. His body temperature has risen to over 400 degrees. He's literally stewing in his own juices!
- TV Never Lies: The whole town is turned against Homer thanks to the sensationalist media. Even Homer begins to be swayed against himself.
- Ungrateful Bastard: After Groundskeeper Willie clears his name, Homer is quick to turn on him when the media does.
- Unintentionally Karmic: While Homer is endlessly hounded by the media for alleged sexual harassment after grabbing a piece of candy that was stuck to the babysitter's butt, it can also be seen as Laser-Guided Karma; the candy wouldn't have been stuck there in the first place if Homer hadn't stolen it.
- Unreadably Fast Text: The media's correction of their false accusations against Homer scrolls up the screen this way. Of course, this is at least partially because it was just one of many, many corrections they were making that day. They pretty much had to scroll them that fast or else they'd probably never finish. Subverted in that the Simpsons themselves can read the text:Bart: Wow! V8 juice isn't one-eighth gasoline!
- Vigilante Injustice: The plot of the episode is that Homer is mistaken for a pervert after absent-mindedly peeling off a gummi sweet of a babysitter's butt. Afterward, the babysitter rallies a mob and harasses him 24-7 and every time Homer tries to apologize or explain himself, it only over-emphasizes the idea of him being a pervert and the babysitter being a victim. It's only when Groundskeeper Willie shows footage of the incident that the babysitter apologizes for what happened.
- Visual Pun: Marge assures Homer that the incident will soon blow over, only for news helicopters and vans to approach their house. Homer then laments that nothing blows over for him, at which point one helicopter descends and produces a downwash that literally blows over Homer's car.
- Waving Signs Around: When a group of women protest at the Simpson house after Homer is accused of grabbing a woman's butt. Signs include "Homer Bad Man", "Homer Is A Pig", "Touch a Butt, Go to Jail," and "You Pinch, I Lynch".
- What Happened to the Mouse?: At the beginning, Homer blows up a candy convention, causing untold casualties. This is never mentioned once aside from Homer's comment about it.
- With Friends Like These...: Homer's friends, instead of helping shield him from public scrutiny, tell the press more of his dirty secrets.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: Scathingly satirized throughout the episode. Notably, Homer's destruction at the candy convention, an actual crime, gets overshadowed by the wrongful accusations of sexual assault.
- Your Answer to Everything: Homer's plan to escape being slandered by the media: start a new life Under the Sea.Marge: Homer, that's your solution to everything, to move under the sea. It's not gonna happen!
Homer: Not with that attitude!