What’s up, my ninjas! I apologize for the lateness of this post, but I’ve spent the weekend at the Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos, where I was privy to the shocking attack on Tila Tequila that has been dominating the news cycle. It has been dominating the news cycle, has it not? It should, for it brings two ferocious cultural forces into direct conflict.
Yes, I was there as history was made, or at least a sad, tiny little trollop was pelted with various shit from enraged, drunken Juggalos on acid in the middle of the woods at four in the morning. I will recount the whole sorry incident in a blog post tomorrow so with no further ado let’s discuss this week’s classic Simpsons joint.
For the second time in as many weeks, The Simpsons addressed a threat to Homer and Marge’s perpetually embattled but fundamentally healthy marriage. Last week bowling-ball-slinging, bruch-loving lothario Jacques tempted Marge to consider breaking her marital vows. In “Homer’s Night Out” Homer is in the doghouse when a seemingly incriminating photograph of him with an exotic dancer becomes the talk of Springfield.
Let’s ponder that last statement for a minute. A good two decades have passed since The Simpsons went on the air, so many of the early episodes have an anachronistic quality. But the show has rarely felt more anachronistic than it does here.
“Homer’s Night Out” feels like a dispatch from a bygone era in myriad ways. There’s the old school show business nature of the stag party where Homer frolics with the stripper, with its boy's-night-out air of mild exoticism and the Dean Martin-like lounge singer who singles out Homer as a particularly swinging dude after he attempts to make amends by tracking down exotic dancer Princess Jasmine.
Considering how dramatically pornographic technology has advanced over the past twenty years, the very notion that a picture of a drunken married man dancing with a modestly attired exotic dancer would scandalize an entire community feels incredibly antediluvian. Today, anyone with a modem and dirty mind can access graphic depictions of the most fiendish perversions by clicking a mouse. Even back in 1990 the show’s plot was prehistoric, perhaps intentionally so.
“Homer’s Night Out”’s plot wouldn’t have felt out of place in an episode of Happy Days. True, it probably wouldn’t have name-checked Diane Arbus but Homer’s PG-13-rated quasi-transgression could be fodder for any number of sitcoms from the seventies or eighties.
Like “Life on the Fast Lane”, “Homer’s Night Out” is more character than gag-based. Like so many first season episodes, it concerns Homer’s attempts to make Bart proud of him and the lengths he’ll go to win his son’s love and approval. Homer encountered multiple threats to the family this week: Marge’s anger over his flirtation with a woman of low moral character, Bart’s disillusionment at seeing his father in such an unwholesome scenario and the community judging the entire Simpson clan by Homer’s oafish behavior.
In that respect the episode embodied many of the season’s dominant themes. It was big on moments of mild amusement if short on big laughs. Like The Gathering, it was all about family. The Simpsons didn’t get off to a slow start exactly in its first season but it hadn’t yet developed the blinding speed and breathtaking comic density of its oft-transcendent second and third season. But it was all on its way.
—“Why was I cursed with this weakness for snack treats?” It’s the exquisite redundancy of adding “treats” to “snacks” that makes it funny.
—“What is this, the Spanish imposition?”
—The father’s speech at the dinner was pitched at the exact right level of corniness.
—Remember when people took photographs, which were then developed in a dark room? Dude, what was that all about?