How far we’ve come! Remember how a few short years ago, FOX’s The Simpsons made a big deal about outing one of their supporting characters as homosexual? There was a huge dramatic build up as people debated which beloved favorite was actually gay and had hidden it for all those years. Yet, this week, it seemed like half the town of Springfield was gay, and the outing of the other characters was done quietly and gradually over the past few seasons.
Like many episodes of The Simpsons, this one changed course about halfway through the half hour. At the start, the story was about Smithers (Harry Shearer) setting out to earn the respect of his boss, Mr. Burns (also Shearer), who left Smithers out of his will in favor of his pet turtle. Smithers decided that a good way to do that was to help Moe (Hank Azaria) turn his failing pub into a happening night spot for the less-desirable homosexuals. Then, suddenly in the second half, Moe was thought of as gay, the mother hen of the motley crew. He was even encouraged to run for office as the town’s first openly gay city councilman. That is, until Smithers outed him as being straight. Cruel irony.
But why should that have stopped the gays from supporting Moe? Yes, he lied. But so did many of them until he came out of the closet. He was yearning for acceptance, and they gave it to him. If anyone should be able to understand that feelings Moe was experiencing, it was the gay crowd. It makes me sad they didn’t stand behind him, merely dispersing as soon as Smithers revealed the truth. However, the episode was almost over, so a real Moe campaign would have required a second part and additional continuity changes in future episodes, something The Simpsons steadfastly avoids.
Changing the course of the A plot is a Simpsons trademark, and it seems to have worked for them just fine over the years, so I will stay out of criticizing that, though I do still wonder if Burns added Smithers to the will. However, no one bothered to ask Moe if he was gay, they all just assumed? A neighborhood staple who has been in their community for decades? Also, a man who has never really shown any signs of homosexuality up until now? Again, plot holes are something Simpsons fans just overlook, so perhaps I’m over analyzing. After all, there was plenty of great, trademark humor of the series in evidence, and I did enjoy the episode.
Even more confusing was the fight among the two shifts at Mr. Burns’s factory. It was the opening of the episode, but rather than explore that plot, which could easily have been a main arc, it was abandoned as soon as the camera focus moved to Mr. Burns. Was this a clever fake out? A red herring designed to throw viewers off track? If so, I’m a little disappointed. I hope they come back to the whole Day Shift vs. Night Shift battle in the future.
The B plot started late in the episode, but was also pretty funny. Principal Skinner (Shearer again) fell in love with the substitute music teacher, Ms. Juniper (guest star Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live). Skinner roped Bart Simpsons (Nancy Cartwright) into a double date with Juniper and her daughter, but when Bart later rejected the child, Juniper moved away. Skinner went with her, only to return three months later, dumped.
Part of me wants to jump all over the show for the major time skip, especially as Bart has not aged at all in twenty-two years, so where was that big chunk of his perpetual school year that Skinner was not involved in? Are we expected to believe that there have just been no Bart-in-school episodes during that time? It’s a cartoon, but just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean it can’t have continuity. Look at Futurama. And that’s by the same guy as this show.
But after this long, it would be silly to think The Simpsons would fix their mistakes now. And would I really want them to do it? Part of the charm and the humor is what is wrong or missing. “Flaming Moe”, this week’s episode, not to be confused with a previous story about Flaming Moe’s, was a nice example of a good episode.
What would be really neat is someday, during an extra long series finale, all of the residents of Springfield realized they were stuck in some sort of time warp, where no one got older, no one noticed, and situations frequently repeated themselves. Also, many of the town’s residents look and sound awfully similar. I think this tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment would be a perfect ending for the successful show, and do nothing to sully its memory.
The Simpsons airs at 8 p.m. Sunday nights on FOX.