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.
The episode opens on Homer and Bart carrying the head of the statue of town founder, Jebediah Springfield. When the two are spotted by an angry mob, they run to the center of town and beg for the chance to explain themselves before the mob exacts its justice.
The story begins the previous Sunday morning. Bart, Lisa and Maggie are being inspected by their mom for church while Homer watches football and expresses his anger over his team losing, having bet $50 on the outcome of the game. At church, Homer is listening to the game on a personal stereo Bart tried to sneak inside. He ends up embarrassing himself and Marge when he hears his team winning.
In Sunday School, Bart and Lisa ask their teacher a barrage of questions that eventually break her down. Arriving at home, Bart asks Homer for five dollars so he can go see Space Mutants 4, Getting out of his church clothes and out of the house, Bart is off on his skateboard down the street. One of the local bullies, Jimbo, yells at Bart and he wipes out. After getting up and making Jimbo laugh, Bart is invited to join him and his friends as they sneak into Space Mutants 4.
In the theatre, the boys are loud and are quickly kicked out. At the Kwik-E-Mart, Bart buys Squishees while Jimbo and his friends steal from the store. While walking around, they come across the statue of Jebediah Springfield and throw rocks at it. When it’s Bart’s turn, he’s hesitant at first, pointing out some of Jebediah’s heroics. Eventually, he falls to peer pressure and throws one right between its eyes. Lying down on the grass, the boys start to notice clouds look like different things: a cherry bomb, a guy with a swithchblade in his back, and a bus full of kids on fire. Bart sees one that looks like the statue without its head, prompting the bullies to talk about cutting off the statue’s head. Bart gets defensive about the statue and they make fun of him and tell Bart to leave. As he’s walking past the statue, Bart replays the conversation in his head and gets an idea.
Back at home, Homer is looking through a bowling catalog when Bart asks how important it is to be popular. Homer tells him that its very important. Later that night, Bart sneaks out of the house to the statue and cuts off the head. He immediately regrets it. In the morning, Bart comes downstairs with the head in his bag. As the family has breakfast, the news informs listeners about the decapitation. The family is shocked but Bart tries to downplay the incident, saying it’s just a statue. Members of the family see it otherwise and around town people are saddened and outraged. Even Dolph, Jimbo and Kearny tell Bart they’d beat up they guy who did it and that despite yesterday’s cloud talk, they respect Jebediah.
After hearing this, Bart starts to hear the voice of Jebediah shaming him for what he’s done. At home, things get worse when his hero Krusty the Clown wants to find the culprit. With no other ideas Bart goes to the yard and starts digging a hole. As he does, the head talks to him and encourages him to admits his mistake. After rolling the head into the hole, he realizes it’s right.
As the family is watching TV, Bart comes in and shows them the head. Homer is angry at Bart until he realizes his words were what set Bart to do it. Marge realizes Homer is partially to blame and forces him to help fix the problem. As they walk down the street with the head, we come back to the beginning. Bart asks forgiveness and the crowd lets him put the head back on the statue. As people look on and admire the statue, Homer and Bart walk away, with Homer reminding him “lynch mobs aren’t usually this nice.”
This has to be one of my favorite episodes of the first season for many reasons. First, we get a better idea of who Bart really is. He’s not a bad kid, he’s just a boy being a boy. Dolph, Jimbo and Kearny are the bad kids. Thus, Bart becomes a bit more likeable in comparison. Second, this episode tried new things in terms of soundtrack and angles. I still love the fact that the scene of Bart going through downtown Springfield in ninja gear has its own theme and the shot of the hacksaw explains everything without a single word.
Third, we’ve all done something because of peer pressure and while maybe not as extreme of a case, this episode can be relatable to anyone who has ever given into peer pressure and regretted it. And fourth, Bart has always been cool to kids: he skateboards and does what he wants, but I think this episode set a new standard for him. I mean, who didn’t want a ninja suit growing up as a kid?
On a more serious note, Homer and Bart bonding near the end was great. Homer admits he’s done stupid things as a kid and when the mob wants blood he refuses to leave. It’s a wonderful reminder that while Homer may not be the smartest person, his heart is in the right place.
While it’s a great episode, one of its biggest flaws would have to be the time it was produced. Some of the references are a bit dated these days. One of the things that makes the bullies unlikable is their willingness to sneak into movies and steal things like adult magazines. Nowadays almost everyone steals movies or television and porn is available at your fingertips.
Final Score: 5.0/5.0