Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Simpsons: "Bart Vs. Thanksgiving"

First aired November 22, 1990

"I hope you're happy, Bart! You ruined Thanksgiving!"
-Marge Simpson

It's Thanksgiving in Springfield.  Marge (Julie Kavner) is prepping the Turkey. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) is watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.  Bart (Nancy Cartwright) is watching the parade too, he asks Homer who Underdog and Bullwinkle are and why they have balloons.

"If you build a balloon for every flash in the pan cartoon character, you'll turn the parade into a farce."
Lisa (Yeardley Smith) has made a Thanksgiving centerpiece that celebrates the contributions women (such as Georgia O'Keefe and Susan B. Anthony) have made to American society.

Homer picks up his father Abe (Castellaneta) at the Springfield Retirement Castle.  Marge's sisters Patty and Selma (both voiced by Kavner) arrive, they've angered Marge by bringing additional food (because some people say that Marge's turkey is dry and might enjoy an alternative).

Everyone has something to do except for Bart.  He pesters his mother, wanting to help her prepare the meal, but he just ends up getting in the way.

"Ah...Cranberry Sauce A La Bart."
Marge's mother Jacqueline (Kavner, yet again!) finally shows up, and the family is ready for the Thanksgiving feast.  Lisa brings out her centerpiece, which impresses the whole family.

A minute later, Bart brings out the turkey.  He has no place to put it, so he tells Lisa to "move it or lose it".
Bart tries to remove it from the table, Lisa tries to take it from him.

They have a tug of war over the centerpiece and it ends getting flung into the fireplace, burning to ashes in seconds.

Lisa attacks Bart, slamming him into the table, spilling food and drink on the tablecloth.  Lisa is heartbroken over the destruction of her centerpiece.  Homer sends Bart to his room with no food.  Marge is furious, telling her son "I hope you're happy Bart, you've ruined Thanksgiving!".

Marge attempts to console her daughter. Lisa wonders why things like this always happen to her.  Marge says Bart can come to dinner when he's ready to apologize.  He sees no need to apologize and refuses.  Bart then sneaks out of the house just as the family dog, Santa's Little Helper gets thrown out for stealing turkey.

They go on an adventure that takes them all over town, from Mr. Burns' (Harry Shearer) mansion to the local Rescue Mission on skid row.  Local news anchor Kent Brockman (Shearer again) is doing a story at the mission about the way society treats the homeless.  Brockman interviews Bart and his family sees him on television.  Homer, Marge and even Lisa are worried for Bart's safety.

J.A. Morris says:

A good Holiday episode from one of the Simpsons' best seasons.  Season 2 is an interesting Season to look back on.  Dan Castlenetta's voice for Homer is somewhere between his "Walter Matthau impression" and the one we know and love today.  The writers still gave us glimpses of Homer as a good father (like we see at the end of "Bart Vs. Thanksgiving") that we've rarely seen since.

Hello, operator! Give me the number for 911!
No matter how many times I see it, I still get a bit sad when I see Lisa's centerpiece go up in flames.  We all probably had a moment (or moments) like that when we were kids.  And the criticism Marge receives from her sisters and mother (Jacqueline tells Marge "You never do anything right") are parts of many Thanksgivings all over this country.

"  I have laryngitis. It hurts to talk. So I'll just say one thing... You never do anything right."

The scene at the end featuring Bart and Lisa is one of the best in Simpsons history.  When asked why he wrecked her centerpiece, he struggles to answer, saying he doesn't know why he did it or why he enjoyed it.  A lesser series would have simply had him apologize and roll the credits.  But in this case, Bart is forced to look into himself and think about why he was wrong.

"Alright!  Twelve bucks and free grub to boot! Viva skid row!"
The combination of family drama and culinary issues makes "Bart Vs. Thanksgiving" a holiday classic that I've watched every year since its premiere.

J.A. Morris' rating:
4 Pumpkin Pies.

RigbyMel says: 

I am in agreement with what J.A. Morris has to say above.  This is an extremely funny and well-written episode.  I remember watching it when it first aired twenty-two years ago (!!!!)  and it still makes me laugh.   It addresses Thanksgiving tropes like family squabbling, someone ruining the meal, the Macy's parade and even Thanksgiving football games (and accompanying halftime shows) with wit & aplomb.

"Oh, we have lots of names for these people. Bums, deadbeats, losers, scums of the earth, we'd like to sweep these people into the gutter, or if already in the gutter, to some other out of the way place. Oh we have our reasons. They're depressing, their ragged clothes, they're crazy, they smell bad. So every year on one conscience salving day, we toss these people, a bone. A turkey bone. And that's supposed to make it all better."
Bart's experiences on skid row are pointed and clever,  as are many of the lines delivered by other characters, like Grandpa Simpson's declaration that he has to be back at the nursing home by 9pm so the home won't declare him legally dead and collect his insurance. 

I also really love the fact that Lisa references Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" while writing in her journal about the incident. ("I saw the best meals of my generation destroyed by the madness of my brother. My soul carved in slices by spiky-haired demons.")   As the oldest of four children (and the only girl), I certainly can relate to how Lisa feels in this episode and remember similar arguments of a less extreme nature with my brothers.   

I also sympathize with Bart feeling like he has been unjustly picked on as well (that's an emotion that should be familiar to anyone who has ever been a kid).

This episode definitely captures some of what is important about family (and about Thanksgiving) without being saccharine about it. 

This is an episode I try to watch every year! 

RigbyMel's rating: 
4 pumpkin pies

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