Welcome to Welcome to Springfield, a OneOfUs column that re-examines The Simpsons series episode by episode to establish what made it a cultural icon, and to determine what went wrong. It’s a lofty goal, but Andrew is just the man to do it.
Title: “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”
Airdate: January 28th, 1990
Homer is ashamed of his family after their behaviour at a work picnic and starts to believe they are in serious trouble because they’re dysfunctional. Desperate to be like other families, he drags his to therapy in the hopes of getting help. Therapy doesn’t work, but the family finds happiness in their failure and their doubled refund.
The picnic is a mockery of corporate events. People are forced to give up their weekend, endure ridicule and inspection of them and their family by their bosses, all while being told to relax and be sociable.
Mr.Burns is characterized here as a shallow man. He gives raises and fires people based on their interactions with their children in public, celebrates winning the sack race despite the head start and no one actually trying to beat him, and even threatens anyone who doesn’t leave his house fast enough with a pack of hungry hounds. This is in line with his portrayal for most of the series; save for recent episodes, but that’s for another time.
Homer’s perspective is understandable. He feels that because his family is dysfunctional in public, something is wrong with them and that other families are perfect. But his family doesn’t feel that they have a problem, and it’s just Homer who sees it that way. But Homer’s actions turn him into a bad guy. He forces them to sell the TV and use the college fund in order to pay for therapy, he nearly gets them shot for looking into someone’s house, and when he forces them to eat dinner at the table, he starts whining about their flaws.
A gag that needs to be highlighted occurs when Marge and one of the party goers leave their children in the nursery and turn on the TV as a form of supervision. It’s a joke that becomes an observation on how television is such a strong influence and why that happens. What makes this gag ironic however is the reaction toward The Simpsons from a lot of critics, writers and even an ex-president who all blamed the show for causing family dysfunction.
Other gags of note include:
-The family walking out of therapy resembling the Simpsons, the dad even takes them out for frosty chocolate milkshakes (Homer’s catchphrase at the time). They represent Homer’s idealized version of his family and what he hopes the therapy session will bring them, which was pretty deep stuff at the time, especially for a cartoon.
-As the Simpsons leave the picnic, Homer is pitied by a dad that he believes has a much nicer family and imagines them as angelic, while his own family is demonic. Later at Dr.Marvin Monroe’s therapy office, that family is sitting waiting their turn.
This episode started to define The Simpsons as groundbreaking. The resolution doesn’t actually solve anything. They’re not changed, Homer has just come to accept the way his family is and by doing something together they’re closer. “The sad truth is all families are like us” Lisa accurately observes. No family is perfect, and people tend to forget that. There are a lot of sitcoms that revolve around families, but when the family has issues, those issues only exist until they are resolved by the end of the episode. Here there is no resolution to the problem, and they’re fine with it.
Final Score: 5.0/5.0
There’s five Hundred and forty eight left, I’m Andrew Semkow and you’ve been reading welcome to Springfield. Thank you