"The Day the Violence Died" is the eighteenth episode (production code 3F16) from the seventh season of The Simpsons, first aired on March 17, 1996. In this episode, Bart takes home a vagrant who claims to have created "Itchy", one half of the popular Itchy and Scratchy. After proving his case, the man, Chester J. Lampwick, sues Roger Meyers, Jr. (whose father stole Lampwick's mouse) and succeeds, but this means that the famed cat-and-mouse duo will be no more.
Episode SummaryBart and Lisa go to the Itchy and Scratchy Diamond Anniversary paradenote , accompanied by Homer. While they arrive in the middle of the night (before going to see an X-rated film of the characters and a very old drawing at the comic book store), their view of the parade is blocked by a giant crowd. Bart decides to join in the parade instead, but it turns out the whole thing was planned quite poorly, crossing to the wrong side of the tracks. The parade speeds out from the place, but Bart cannot keep pace. He then finds a hobo throwing tomatoes at the float honoring creator Roger Meyers, Sr. and asks him to be more respectful to the man who created Itchy & Scratchy. The hobo then reveals to him that Meyers didn't create Itchy, but him, Chester J. Lampwick, and that before Itchy, all that cartoon characters did was play the ukulele.
Bart does not believe him at first, so Lampwick shows him a film can entitled "'Manhattan Madness', starring 'Itchy, the Lucky Mouse'", made back in 1919. Lampwick shows the cartoon to Bart and Milhouse at the school, but the nitrate film is suddenly destroyed. After an unsuccessful attempt to have Roger Meyers, Jr. give a financial compensation, Bart decides to hide Lampwick in the Simpson residence. While the rest of the family quickly notices, they have no issue with letting him stay for some time, until he has a fight with Grampa, who accuses Lampwick of not painting his kitchen in 1947.
Bart and Lampwick then hire Lionel Hutz to sue Itchy & Scratchy Studios for $800 million. While he claims Meyers, Sr. only created stick figures for characters and stole from others, he carries no evidence unlike the defense (he also has a fight with Krusty the Klown over an unpainted fence). Bart then notes the similarity between the mouse in the film and the one in the animation cel he saw at the comics store. Turns out said drawing also has a message dedicated from Lampwick to Meyers, Sr., dated September 3, 1919. After Lampwick proves his claim, Meyers, Jr. retorts that animation has always relied on plagiarism, but this only leads Lampick to win the case and the $800 million, a sum that ends up bankrupting the studio, meaning that there will be no more Itchy & Scratchy cartoons (replaced on Krusty's show by a radical right parody of Schoolhouse Rock).
With Meyers, Jr. unable to pay royalties (or to keep his father's brain frozen) and Lampwick preferring to live like a millionaire, Bart and Lisa look for any legal precedent that could give Meyers, Jr. his studio back. But when they find one, it turns out, another brother-and-sister duo, Lester and Eliza, have proven that Mr. Zip, the U.S. Postal Service mascot, was a plagiarism of the "Manic Mailman", one of Meyers, Sr.'s stick figure characters (at the same time, they also acquit Apu for an indecency charge and manage to reunite Krusty with a former wife). While they feel they deserved to be in the spotlight, the Simpson kids are happy to see their favorite characters back.
"The Day the Violence Died" features examples of:
- 555: The phone number to Lionel Hutz' law practice starts with 555. The rest isn't revealed to the viewers.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Apparently, Meyers, Sr. loved giving his characters an Alliterative Name.
- Anvil on Head: Chester J. Lampwick tells Bart and Lisa the story of how Roger Meyers, Sr. dropped an anvil on him after he requested royalties for his creation. Luckily, he says, he was carrying an umbrella at the time.
- As Herself: Suzanne Sommers as one of the news anchors.
- Aside Glance: A hilarious one at the end of an Itchy & Scratchy short when Itchy and the mouse god he prays to wink at the audience.◊
- When Krusty is put on the stand during the trial:Lawyer: Krusty, have you ever seen this so-called animation genius before?
Krusty: Yes I have.
Lawyer: [surprised] You have?!
Krusty: I gave him a couple of blintzes to paint my fence, but he never did it!
- Lionel Hutz does a literal one, changing his business card from "Works On Contingency — No Money Down" to "Works On Contingency? No, Money Down!"
- When Krusty is put on the stand during the trial:
- Blooper: The final shot is Bart looking out of his room window, which faces the rear of the house, to see Lester skateboarding slowly in front of the house, a perspective that should be impossible.
- Call-Back: The ending of the episode, where Lester rides by the Simpson household on his skateboard and gives Bart a menacing glare while sinister music plays, mirrors the scene of Bart doing the same to George Bush five episodes prior.
- Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: Chaplin is seen in the slums when Bart first meets Lampwick. A deleted scene had Homer asking Lampwick to eat a shoe for him, in reference to the Chaplin movie The Gold Rush.
- Celebrity Paradox: A strange one — Roger Meyers flat out acknowledges that Chief Wiggum is a fictional character, who's a plagiarism of Edward G. Robinson.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Early on, Bart sees an animation cel for sale in the Android's Dungeon. It ends up being the damning piece of evidence needed to prove that Roger Meyers, Sr. plagiarized Itchy from Chester.
- During the trial where Lampwick is suing Meyers, Lampwick mentions characters like "Manic Mailman" as the only ones Roger Meyers, Sr. might have really created. Roger Meyers, Jr. gets enough money to reopen his company when Lester and Eliza point out the U.S. Mail's Mr. ZIP was a plagiarism from Manic Mailman.
- Continuity Nod:
- The Android's Dungeon has some of the dolls from "Itchy & Scratchy Land". Later on, the Blue Haired Lawyer cites Disgruntled Goat as one of Roger Meyers Sr.'s creations.
- The Itchy & Scratchy parade passes through Bumtown (from "The Springfield Connection"). The abandoned 4-H Club from "The Boy Who Knew Too Little" can be seen as it enters.
- The Blue Haired Lawyer presents the cartoon "Steamboat Itchy" to the court, which originally appeared in "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie." The brief animation and audio that plays is the same as it appeared in that episode, though the credits shown afterwards are unique to this episode.
- When Marge is listing Bart and Lisa's accomplishments, she references the events of "Like Father, Like Clown", "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song", and "Homer's Triple Bypass", as well as the multiple incidents where they foiled Sideshow Bob's evil plans.
- The idea that Roger Meyers Senior wasn't especially talented was first hinted at in "The Itchy and Scratchy Movie", where we see his early effort (a short, plotless cartoon with no violence that did poorly).
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- The 1919 "Itchy" cartoon, where Itchy attacks an Irishman, in a parody of the older theatrical cartoons that have racist caricatures in them note
- The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody features the amendment-to-be threatening to say Ted Kennedy is gay.
- Deus ex Machina: Somewhat of a minor case, since Bart and Lisa likely could have saved the day in the end, but instead of their plan, two characters we have never seen before show up out of nowhere and save the day for not just Roger Meyers, but Apu and Krusty as well.
- Didn't Think This Through: Whoever decided the Itchy & Scratchy parade route shouldn't have included Bum Street.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Roger Meyers Jr. tries to justify his father stealing Itchy by claiming that the animation business is built on plagiarism. Needless to say, it doesn't help.
- The End... Or Is It?: After making clear that he feels unsettled about Eliza and Lester, Bart looks out the window of his room to see Lester is skateboarding past the Simpsons' house, looking straight at Bart, with sinister music playing in the background.
- Facepalm: The Blue-Haired Lawyer does this during Roger Myers Jr.'s "Animation is built on plagiarism" speech.
- Funny Background Event: When Meyers lists animated characters who are plagiarised, he includes Chief Wiggum in the list. Wiggum himself is sitting in the background and looks over in confusion.
- God Is Evil: In the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, Itchy prays to God, whom helps him killing off Scratchy and throws the cat off into the eternal pit of Hell fire. Seems very unethical for a Supreme Being. Then again, he appears to be a mouse.
- Historical Domain Character: Theodore Roosevelt appears in Itchy the Lucky Mouse in Manhattan Madness and gets decapitated in Itchy's gruesome tirade.
- Idea Bulb: Lampwick's movie features Itchy whacking an Irishman with one.
- Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Bart tells Chester he can sleep on the floor in the basement, "just remove the bed".
- Jerkass: Chester has a repeated habit of doing services in exchange for food, only to never finish them, claiming the food was "lousy".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Zigzagged by Chester. He refuses to do the chores Grampa Simpson and Krusty hired him for because he didn't like the food they paid him with, but when he finally gets the riches he deserves for creating Itchy, he pays the Simpsons the $1,750 they shelled out to hire Lionel Hutz and buy the evidence to prove his claim. Then he makes clear that he's perfectly okay with his settlement having shut down Meyers' company because it made him rich and refuses to help keep "Itchy and Scratchy" alive.
- Kick the Dog: Lampwick sent Roger Meyers a portrait of Itchy with a note telling him that his passion makes up for his lack of talent. Meyers proceeded to use the character as his own without crediting his friend.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: Roger Meyers, Jr. reacts like this when a bum he never saw before shows up claiming to be Itchy's real creator and expecting 800 million dollars for this in spite of not having any proof of his claim.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: Subverted in that now Bart and Lisa know what it's like to have two kids solving everyone's problems — and it isn't them.
- Mr. Alt Disney: Roger Meyers keeps his father's head inside a fridge, a reference to the urban legend that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Chester J. Lampwick.
- Mythology Gag: Lester and Eliza are based off the old designs for Bart and Lisa when there were on The Tracey Ullman Show.
- National Stereotypes: In reference to ethnic stereotyping in old cartoons, Itchy kills off a stereotypically clothed Irishman by sticking him between a trouser press.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: By helping Chester attain the money he was owed for creating Itchy, Bart causes Itchy and Scratchy Studios to go bankrupt and gets his favorite cartoon pulled off the air.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Why did Meyers Jr.'s lawyer Face Palm during his rant? Bart introduced evidence that hadn't been verified as authentic, and never went through judicial review. Basically, Roger incriminated himself unnecessarily.
- Noodle Incident:
- Subverted with Apu's legal trouble. At first, it seems the only explanation the viewers would get about him being in jail is Lisa reading codes and statutes about public nudity but, right after Roger Meyers, Jr. explains how Lester and Eliza saved Itchy & Scratchy, Apu shows up and gives a detailed account of what happened.
- The estrangement between Krusty and his wife is given no explanation other than the fact Lester and Eliza helped them.
- When Meyers is claiming his father created Itchy and a host of other characters, he says as a Weird Aside that Flatulent Fox was based on a true story.
- The Only One: Lampshaded when the problem of the week is solved, not by Bart and Lisa, but familiar looking Lester and Eliza.Bart: Well, I wasn't the one who solved the problem, and neither was Lisa. There's something unsettling about that.
- Parody Assistance: That was the real Jack Sheldon as the voice of the Amendment in the Schoolhouse Rock! parody, "I'm An Amendment to Be".
- Plagiarism in Fiction: Roger Meyers, Sr. plagiarized Itchy from Chester J. Lampwick; and Lester and Eliza shown that the U.S. Mail's Mr. ZIP was a plagiarism from a character created by Roger Meyers, Sr. Ironically, Roger Meyers, Jr. points out a number of characters are based on figures from other fiction, just changed to be their own character. Even then, that doesn't let his father off the hook for stealing a character that wasn't his.
- Reality Ensues: When Bart and Chester first go to Itchy & Scratchy to demand a check for Chester being Itchy's real creator in spite of having no proof, Roger Meyers, Jr. takes it as seriously as a real life businessman would do.
- Reluctant Gift: When Roger Meyers, Jr. presents the check, he refuses to let go for a few seconds and Lampwick struggles with him. When Lampwick finally wrests the check away, he bites it as if testing for a counterfeit coin.
- Retraux: We see the first appearance of Itchy in the black and white 1919 short "Itchy the Lucky Mouse".
- Riddle for the Ages:
- How did Bart and Lisa expect to save the cartoon company? Was it the same way Lester and Eliza did?
- When did Apu get busted for indecent exposure? And what about Krusty and his estranged wife?
- We learn who created Itchy in this episode, but who created Scratchy? Did Roger Meyers Sr. steal him from another cartoonist the way he did Itchy, or did he create Scratchy himself?
- Ripped from the Headlines: Aspects of this episode borrow from the disputes over the creation of Felix the Cat.
- Running Gag: Someone offers Chester food for a job, which he never does and complains the food was awful. Then they demand him to do the job he's hired to do, Chester says "Make me!", and a fight ensues.
- Self-Deprecation: Homer gives one thousand dollars so Chester can pay Lionel Hutz's fees and some extra hundreds for the item that proves that Chester is Itchy's real creator but draws the line at financing a cartoon series.note
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Chester sues the animation studio that stole it from him. Bart discovers the key piece of evidence that wins the trial and bankrupts the studio, which - the kids realize too late - means the end of Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Bart and Lisa desperately try to solve this new problem, and after nearly giving up (and starting on trying to get Apu out of jail), Lisa finally discovers something in a legal textbook, and the kids rush to the studio only to find everyone celebrating the return of Itchy and Scratchy, the release of Apu, and Krusty's reunion with his estranged wife, all thanks to Lester and Eliza, two kids who strongly resemble Tracey Ullman Show-era Bart and Lisa.Marge: You kids must be so happy, your cute little cartoon friends are back on the air!Lisa: Yes, well, technically everything worked out alright, but...Marge: But?Bart: Well, I wasn't the one who solved the problem, and neither was Lisa. There's something unsettling about that.
- Shocking Swerve: The existence of Lester and Eliza and them solving the problem of the episode (plus some others that were affecting other characters but were heretofore unknown). Bart's In-Universe reaction is to feel unsettled about the whole situation and the episode ends on a pretty sinister note as Lester appears to be stalking Bart.
- The title "The Day the Violence Died" is a reference to "The Day the Music Died", the nickname for the February 3, 1959 event when rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper all died in a plane crash. The nickname was thought up by Don McLean in his song "American Pie".
- Itchy & Scratchy Meet Fritz the Cat is a reference to Fritz the Cat, which was Ralph Bakshi's animated cult film that (at the time) was notorious for showing animated depictions of sex, nudity, and drug abuse (which went farther than anything The Simpsons did due to Fritz the Cat's roots as an underground comic).
- The very first Itchy cartoon is a stylistic parody of silent animated cartoons like Felix the Cat and Gertie the Dinosaur.
- Steamboat Itchy is a clear reference to Steamboat Willie.
- Bart and Lisa watch a rerun of Schoolhouse Rock! on TV.
- The final Itchy & Scratchy cartoon where Itchy chases Scratchy in a desert landscape over a road brings Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner to mind.
- Shown Their Work: Lisa peruses "Copyright Law, 1918-1923", because of the Copyright Act of 1923. Lampwick marking his film (c) 1919 would have made his claim legitimate as well, since then — as today — merely putting a lower-case "c" in between two parentheses would also be a valid way to copyright a work rather than filing it.
- Special Guest: Kirk Douglas voices Chester Lampwick.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Grampa Simpson and Krusty the Clown. Both of them offered Chester food as payment for chores he refuses to perform because the food was awful and fight Chester when he dares them to make him do the chores.
- Tempting Fate: After Bart watches the 1919 movie, he says Chester J. Lampwick will become rich and famous as soon as people watch it. The movie then catches fire.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Roger Meyers Jr. tries to justify his father's stealing Itchy by claiming that animation is built on plagarism and cites several examples to bolster his case. However, it's one thing to draw on earlier influences when creating an entirely new character...but it's quite another to outright steal the original character and pass them off as your own.
- The Un-Reveal: We'll never know what plan Bart and Lisa concocted to help save Itchy and Scratchy Studios, since two lookalikes beat them to it.
- Voice for the Voiceless: Lester speaks for his sister Eliza, who never says a word.
- Writing Around Trademarks: The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody is never identified as such (outside of Lisa calling it a "Campy 70s throwback that appeals to Generation Xers"), but it looks, feels, and sounds like one.