536. The Kid is All Right

Original airdate: November 24, 2013

The premise:
Lisa befriends new student Isabel, but is horrified when she discovers that she’s a conservative. The two run against each other for 2nd grade representative, which the Springfield Republican Party tries to rig in Isabel’s favor.

The reaction: A big part of Lisa’s character degradation was when the writers seemed to forget she was a child. She became the show’s liberal mouthpiece, becoming the smug, self-satisfied voice of reason on a number of political and social issues that no eight year old should have any concern over. But over the last few seasons, I feel like her character has taken a different turn that feels just as aggravating to me: her desperation for attention. Lisa is now a sad, lonely nerd girl who craves recognition from her classmates, even if they’re on a superficial level. We’ve seen it a few times lately, particularly in the Facebook episode, of her bending over backwards to be included by bitchy girls like Sherri and Terri. Lisa was always a loner, but she was never pathetically yearning for any kind of interaction. At the start of the episode, she mournfully sings the Harry Nilsson song “One” to herself (forty whole seconds of it, without music), then she gets hit with a spitball, and coos, “Well, at least I’m getting some attention!” What’s that about? But anyway, this episode merges these two awful characterizations with Lisa pity party being broken thanks to her instant kinship with Isabel, a new student, but she quickly is disturbed to find out she is a Republican. There’s nothing more natural sounding than two eight-year-old girls discussing their political views, is there? But they don’t really even do that; when they do talk at all about their beliefs, it’s very vague and surface-level tropes of liberal and conservative mindsets. The episode is mostly focused on their election, with Springfield Republicans courting Isabel to indoctrinate minds with their platform. Seeing that castle headquarters, Dracula being used for gag after gag… everything just feels so much more blunt and less inventive. Or fun. This is another show where it seems like nothing really happens. In the end, Isabel wins (thought, as she’s a guest voice, she’ll never appear again), but Lisa still feels vindicated by her classmates’ feedback, rhetoric that sounds eerily familiar to our last election (“53% of people said they’d vote for a liberal. Just not you.”) A meaningless election with a meaningless new friendship featuring a meaningless one-off character. Next!

Three items of note:
– Lisa’s first meeting with Isabel is so bad (“That’s a reference to the Bronte sisters!” “You got my reference to the Bronte sisters?”) They agree to do their presentation on FDR together, where Lisa first comes to light about Isabel’s viewpoints. So, what, did they write two separate papers and neither of them talked about them at all? Terrible, terrible writing.
– This episode is seemingly political, but, like I said, it’s really not saying anything. We get two giant time-killing chunks indicative of this. First, Marge tries to placate her daughter by taking her to the attic and revealing, in the 80s, she went through a Republican phase as a Reagan supporter. But then it just becomes a minute of I Love the 80s, where Homer and Marge play around with their cassette and VHS tapes and old classic music. And whatever the Super Bowl Shuffle is. Second is later on with Lisa’s nightmare about Democratic losers featuring Bill Clinton and John Kerry. I’m not even sure why it’s there, story-wise. They predict Lisa will lose, and then she does. Just an excuse to trot out a Clinton impression again, I guess.
– The Republicans take Isabel to Phineas Q. Butterfat’s, a classic show location that hasn’t been seen in ages. Isabel is firm in her beliefs. “You couldn’t buy me with a wheelbarrow full of ice cream!” Pimply Faced Teen, wheeling said barrow in the background, immediately turns around and walks off. That was the Mt. Bellyache, of course, from “Lisa’s Pony.” I was wondering, does that count as fan service? What a stretch. But the scene ends with her leaving, and Teen returning with an entirely different ice cream concoction. He drives in on a little Zamboni, and it’s called the Yum-boni. You see? So what’s the joke here? The parlor is seemingly known for their elaborate and huge sundaes? It just felt like another example of not only scenes feeling disjointed, be it scene-to-scene, and in scenes themselves. It’s just throw whatever you want at the screen, regardless of what came before or after it. Gotta fill twenty minutes somehow.

One good line/moment: A two minute opening sequence paying homage to the classic Silly Symphonies Disney cartoons, featuring our Springfield cast as living instruments. I feel like David Silverman had a sizable hand in this one, and it’s a really nice piece isolated from the terrible episode.

8 thoughts on “536. The Kid is All Right

  1. What did you think of Mr. Bergstrom’s appearance in this episode?
    For me, it’s one of the show’s worst “jokes”.

  2. Marge was always a Democrat (She voted for Jimmy Carter twice!!), it’s pretty annoying how the writers just use these characters as props for crappy and forgettable stories.

  3. As a conservative (NOT Republican) it’s hilarious to me how insulated people who live in a liberal echo chamber react to a c-c-c-conservative!! (gasp!) Like psycho liberal ideology is such a given that anyone with different opinions is some kind of rare species lol.

    I live in an extremely blue state, I understand and interact will liberals all day, I just happen to hold different views. No biggee. But interacting with conservatives is so foreign to these Hollywood liberals they couldn’t even attempt to understand our POV on anything. So we’re always cartoonish supervilains made of pure evil who meet in dark spooky castles haha.

    I remember Curb your Enthusiasm was the same way. Larry would react to anyone not on board with liberal narratives like they were an alien. So much for diversity!

    1. As a fellow conservative, I just have to ask myself — Is it funny? Classic Simpsons’ portrayal of the Republican party as a bunch of rich men (and Dracula) meeting in secret in a spooky castle was funny. Not because “Republicans/conservatives are eevvvilll” but because it was poking fun at the stereotypes surrounding political discourse and taking them to the nth degree. It felt fair in its humor, not only making fun of stuffy old men playing politics but also the way the public sees political parties. Classic Simpsons lampooned the whole shebang, and it was funny.

      So yeah, this episode didn’t have any of that substance to it and it wasn’t funny (the ultimate sin for a comedy).

    2. Seems like it would have been a great chance for some other character, her parents or another properly-positioned adult, to teach Lisa that you can still be friends with someone even if they don’t think in total lockstep with you.
      Modern Lisa is by far my least favourite character (even beating out screaming psycopath Modern Homer), and I think she’s basically a stand-in for the writers themselves a lot of the time, which fits, as I’m not fond of them either.

  4. Frankly, I don’t see the big deal here. Maybe it’s because I have seen friendships destroyed due to different viewpoints, but I see why Lisa would be hesistant to want to be friends with someone else. Although, I still don’t even understand the difference between a liberal and conservative. I just know the internet passes those words around like an STD.

    What I can agree with though is why an 8 year old would even care about this. I could understand moreso with Bart, because he’s 10, and that is something that is starting to be talked about in schools during fifth grade (yes, I know he is stil in 4th), but not really Lisa. I’m starting to wonder if the inspiration for these plots come from the writers’ own families, who are clearly no longer kids.

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