Compare & Contrast: Conventioneering

Homer Badman10

“Sorry kids, but this is the one event I want my darling wife by my side.” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, well thank you, Homer.  But take one of the kids.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, they can’t carry enough candy!  They have puny little muscles, not big ropey ones like you.” – Homer Simpson

Like last week, there are quite a few aspects of “The Food Wife” which were done better on actual episodes of The Simpsons.  There was the family trying out ethnic food, which made more sense and had more to do with the rest of the episode in “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish”.  There was Homer’s now advanced woodworking skills, which were probably intended as a callback of some kind but which only reminded me how little Zombie Simpsons is like its predecessor.  There was especially the way Marge becomes afraid that she’s no fun, which was infinitely funnier and more believable in “Bart’s Inner Child”.  For sheer simplicity though, nothing really beats the way “The Food Wife” and “Homer Badman” both open: with the family going to a convention.

The differences in the things Zombie Simpsons cares about and the things The Simpsons cared about are massively apparent right in the opening scenes.  As “The Food Wife” begins, Lisa and Bart have earned a reward of some kind and are going to get a “Saturday Surprise Dad Day”.  As soon as Marge announces that, the kids cheer and Homer lets us know that this is something that happens quite often.  In just this one scene we can see how much the family has degenerated into characterless, one dimensional nobodies.

Family Bliss

Nothing says “The Simpsons” like a prosperous family that loves spending time together!

Homer, the man who used to routinely avoid doing anything with his kids, is excited to take them somewhere on his precious Saturday.  Bart and Lisa are thrilled at the prospect of some of Homer’s half assed over-parenting (and Bart has somehow been behaving well).  And Marge, despite the jealousy that the audience will repeatedly see her go through for the rest of the episode, is just peachy keen on all of this.  Not only do none of these things fit with who these people are supposed to be, but since Homer rattles off two things he’s done before it means that it’s been going on like this for a while.  This is particularly jarring when it comes to Marge, since “cemetery paintball” and “go karts on real roads” don’t sound like activities she’d want her ten-year-old son or eight-year-old daughter doing.  The entire scene is pure Zombie Simpsons, apathetic towards the characters and generally nonsensical (and we haven’t even gotten to the convention yet).

Compare that with the opening scene from “Homer Badman”, which also takes place at the kitchen table.  This one opens with Bart picking the non-marshmallow pieces out of his cereal, Lisa calling him on it (revealing her own hatred of the non-marshmallow pieces in the process), and then Homer talking about the candy convention to which he’s gotten tickets.  But he doesn’t give his mouth watering description of the convention because he’s planning to take his kids, though they immediately beg him to do just that.  Instead, he wants to take Marge.  She’s flattered by this but doesn’t really want to go, and it’s only then that it comes out that he actually wants to take her because Bart or Lisa won’t be able to carry as much candy as she can.

Everyone in this scene is perfectly in character.  Bart and Lisa are acting like kids who just want sugar, with Lisa being the less lazy and more conscientious of the two.  Marge is acting like the responsible adult.  And Homer is at his best: unthinkingly disappointing his entire family (the kids because they can’t go with him, Marge because she’s being used as a pack mule), but only doing so because of his well established love of candy.  And, of course, every part of the setup is a joke, from Bart picking at the cereal to Homer’s reasons for wanting to bring Marge.  You’d need a transcript to include all the gags (and even that wouldn’t do it justice).  The Simpsons cares about its story and its characters, Zombie Simpsons just plunges ahead into nonsense.

You can see that directly once the respective kitchen scenes are over.  Zombie Simpsons jumps immediately to the video game convention, where Homer has somehow acquired VIP tickets.  How did that happen?  Well, they don’t say, but my immediate guess would be that the writers are so used to being VIPs that they’ve forgotten that Homer isn’t one.  By contrast, The Simpsons shows us Homer getting his regular tickets by taking advantage of Apu.

More than that, “Homer Badman” also shows us a second scene at the house that sets up the rest of the episode.  First we see Marge reluctantly getting sewn into the many pocketed trenchcoat that Homer’s going to use to smuggle candy out of the convention.  Then our main guest character, graduate student Ashley Grant, arrives to babysit.  She doesn’t just pop into the episode for no reason, she shows up because Marge can’t find anyone else to sit for her kids.

Even better, she immediately joins the joke parade while we find out who she is.  She’s smart, capable, and, crucial to the sexual harassment plot, believes that women don’t have to be second class citizens.  Bart objects (“How can you leave us with this maniac?”) and prepares to destroy yet another babysitter, but Grant is unfazed and instantly disarms him with “Disemboweler IV”.

Homer Badman9

“The game where condemned criminals dig at each other with rusty hooks.”

On Zombie Simpsons they don’t have anything like those scenes and just cut instantly to Homer and the kids breezing into the video game convention with their VIP badges:

Blissful VIPs

Come right in, Mr. Selman. 

There’s a superficially similar scene when Homer and Marge arrive at the candy convention but, like Zombie Simpsons and The Simpsons more broadly, the similarities are only cosmetic:

Homer Badman8

Homer?  Excited.  Marge?  Nervous.  Story?  Progressing.

In the scene from “The Food Wife”, Homer and the kids walk past a nice orderly line that looks like a pretty decent recreation of the entrance at something like E3.  It is neither funny nor creative, and they’re doing so with VIP badges that Homer got from nowhere.  Whereas in “Homer Badman”, we saw Homer get the tickets and the candy convention is so desirable that it hilariously requires a dozen police officers to guard its entrance.  It makes more sense in terms of the story, it’s a joke, and it takes only a second; the arrival in Zombie Simpsons is nothing more than a reenactment of how nice it must be to have private security kiss your ass, but includes lots of exposition in case the audience didn’t understand.  

Part of the reason Zombie Simpsons skips right into the video game convention is because, unlike the candy convention, the video game expo has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.  More than that, however, is the way the vast majority of “The Food Wife”’s attempts at humor are pop culture riffs, and they want to get to those quickly.  Even then most of them are references not jokes; “Guts of War” isn’t a parody of “God of War”, it’s just a wink and a nod to let you know that they’re hip and cool enough to know who Kratos is.  The same is true of “YBox”, “Electronic Crafts”, “Medal of Duty”, and “Gamestation 3”.

Free Advertising

It sure was nice of them to essentially repeat Apple’s slogan for them.

By contrast, the candy convention is filled not just with candy jokes, but with the kind of absurdist exaggerations that The Simpsons reveled in creating.  Instead of a bunch of signs that are misspelled versions of “Hershey” or “M&M”, we get a sour ball so sour that it must be contained in a magnetic field.  It’s not only funny, but it’s a hell of a lot more creative than replacing the word “Rock” with the word “Marching”.  We also get “The front desk is looking for Mr. Goodbar”, the wax lips guy, and the security guard who insists that Marge put some sugar on her celery or get out.  And, of course, there’s the precious gummy Venus de Milo, which is giddily insane, and which will soon drive the main plot forward and give us Homer’s Pop Rocks/Coke bomb.

At the video game convention, Homer goes into a lame first person shooter mode and beats up a bunch of people to get to another non-joke reference, the “Funtendo Zii”.  After that, the “Funtendo” crap just ends; there isn’t so much as a callback after Homer and the kids go hopping over the fence.  The Gummi de Milo, of course, is what gets Homer in trouble with Ashley Grant, what gets him looking like a drooling pervert on Rock Bottom, and what eventually exonerates him.  It’s not just absurdly funny as an idea, it’s the lynchpin of the plot. 

Zombie Simpsons puts its characters in a place they have no business being and likely wouldn’t want to be anyway if they were still even remotely themselves.  Once there, they decorate it with a few cute signs and a couple of semi-clever takes on real video games before dropping the whole thing.  The Simpsons keeps everyone in character, takes a few familiar notions and uses them to create a whole world of ludicrous candy inventions, and uses all of it to keep the plot moving and entertaining.  The yellow hue is misleading, these two shows have nothing in common except it. 

43 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Conventioneering”

  1. 1 Cyberen
    15 November 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to elaborate on why the newer episodes suck. It is no doubt an effective rebuttal against people who claim we’ve changed instead of the Simpsons.

    Underneath the yellow skin and pink house is a massive degradation in what made the Simpsons likeable. Sadly as modern culture has gotten more absurd and pathetic we could use another good satire but I suppose the Daily Show fills the old Simpsons shoes now. Nothing else in the era of HD comes close.

    • 2 Snaked
      15 November 2011 at 5:39 pm

      I dunno about that. Beavis & Butthead is still as awesome as ever since being un-cancelled, as well as South Park still kickin’ ass. Add to that, any & all of Seth MacFarlane’s programs are overall still quite enjoyable despite a dip in quality.

    • 16 November 2011 at 8:55 am

      If you just want a funny show, DELOCATED is worth checking out. It’s not animated but season 1 is absolutely hilarious/brilliant.

      And yeah the new Beavis and Butthead is surprisingly funny.

  2. 4 Cyberen
    15 November 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Excuse me for double-posting, but I wanted to give an example of how the old Simpsons did video game jokes. When Bart and his pals are in the arcade in “Boy-Scoutz n’ the Hood”, the parodies that a few seconds are spent lingering on are actually funny. “My Dinner with Andre” is an obscure reference to most (I didn’t understand it until I googled it) but it’s one of those jokes where the more you know about it the funnier it is. It’s an adaptation of a movie that’s exclusively dialogue and it shows Martin acting very in-character in that he’s the one playing it. The mere fact that in the Simpsons Universe this arcade game was probably shipped to thousands of stores to satisfy the kids is hilarious.

    Compare that to “Grand Theft Scratchy” or “Guts of War”. Everything you’d need to know (provided you paid attention to videogames for the past 5 years) is right there, and it’s a weak joke.

    To satirize something by calling it as you see it is one level, to mock the concept itself by inventing an absurdity that somehow follows the lines of the concept is another.

    Maybe if any ZS writer took the time and money to observe the goings-on at E3 with a critical eye the jokes would be much richer.

    • 5 Thrillho
      15 November 2011 at 10:34 pm

      The My Dinner with Andre game is one of my favorite references the show’s ever done. Even some of the more clever game ideas shown in the E4 opening could have benefitted from some kind of satire or added jokes. Take the Save Hitler’s Brain game shown in the background from the DHS contingency’s favorite episode (wink wink.) It’s a funny idea on its own, but knowing what it’s a reference to makes it even funnier.

    • 16 November 2011 at 12:12 am

      I’d also like to point out Bart beating the Not Gears of War game in 10 seconds. If they wanted true satire, BART should’ve been the one raging while the game programmer had that smug look on his face.

      You know, like this video about Homefront: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=864WK54tCLk

    • 16 November 2011 at 8:58 am

      Kinda off topic but I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but GRAND THEFT SCRATCHY is an older joke from The Simpsons Game, one that Rockstar got pissed about. I’m pretty sure on E4 they’re premiering GTS: ITCHY CITY STORIES. Which isn’t funny or clever but yeah.

      MY DINNER WITH ANDRE: THE GAME is one of my favorite things ever, ‘tell me more!’ I laugh about that every time, almost as much as when I see theater marquees showing ERNEST GOES SOMEWHERE CHEAP and ERNEST VS THE POPE. Oh and all the Sheriff Lobo references.

  3. 9 Mike Russo
    15 November 2011 at 6:09 pm

    And compare the faces in the two kitchen table screen shots. In The Simpsons, Marge looks confused as a dopey, eager Homer inspects her arm muscles. Hilarious drawings all around. Then look at Zombie Simpsons. Soulless, stock faces taken right from a model sheet. No edge, no life, nothing. These drawings could be plastered on merchandise packaging sold in a Burger King Kids Meal and no one would know the difference.

    • 10 Cyberen
      15 November 2011 at 6:43 pm

      I don’t think I’d be too off the mark in assuming the reason so many HD shows look so stiff and lifeless is that network execs think the higher resolution means mistakes are easier to find, and they don’t want any off-model silliness interrupting the promo-friendly footage. Completely missing the point of animation but whatever!

    • 16 November 2011 at 3:27 am

      Eh, at least with the BK Kids Meal there’d be some food to eat.

  4. 14 Mike Russo
    15 November 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I’d say that’s true, considering it happened to Family Guy, American Dad AND Futurama when all those shows went HD.

  5. 15 Disco stud
    15 November 2011 at 7:25 pm

    I’m a big fan of these Compare and Contrast posts. Keep ’em coming!

  6. 16 Patrick
    15 November 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I’m sorry but the sucksons has used real brands such as ‘X-Box’, ‘Wii’, Playstation and Apple before so I can’t understand why they couldn’t do it again :S and there was an episode before where a not-apple billboard appeared but the slogan was apple’s “think different” (no joke) and then bart graffitied to say “stink different” if i find the clip i’ll let you know

    • 17 Bea Simmons' rotting corpse
      16 November 2011 at 2:59 am

      This was posted on nohomers a couple of days ago:

      Selman, 2008:

      “Here’s a goofy thing that makes the internet want to commit suicide. In this show, we are completely inconsistent about using parody superheroes and real ones. This show mentions dozens of actual superheroes, like Superman and Wonder Woman, as well as creating paper-thin imitations, like the Thung (the Thing) and the Mulk (The Hulk). (Originally conceived, the Thung and Mulk were supposed to be blue and red, but somehow they ended up classic orange and green.) For some reason, it delights us to no end to make our parodies of things the laziest parodies in the world.”

      • 18 Patrick
        16 November 2011 at 3:19 am

        I never get why they can use some real names and trademarks but not the others :S and the ONLY reason TV shows, films, etc. even resort to changing letters, adding letters etc. is to evade copyright and product placement and have you ever watched a Dan Schnider show oh god they do that very excessively (but not as a joke)

      • 19 Thrillho
        16 November 2011 at 10:18 am

        The one thing I’ll never get is how the show frequently referenced Star Wars and George Lucas by name, until one day, they did an episode centering around “Cosmic Wars” and “Randall Curtis.” I guess you could say they had only done minor references and not had plots dealing with Star Wars, but what about Mayored to the Mob? The show’s become gutless in its parodies.

        • 18 November 2011 at 6:01 am

          Because of your reply I watched MAYORED TO THE MOB. I had completely forgotten that episode. I honestly think I had never seen it before, which shocked me, as I remember wearing seasons 1-10 out at one point (especially 2-7). Either way, most of it seemed new to me, and it was like being transported back in time. Sure, not all of it was funny, some of it was annoying and fell flat completely, but compared to today, it was a work of genius. And I laughed quite a few times. So, thank you for mentioning it and forcing me to check it out.

          USE THE FORK.

  7. 21 Stan
    15 November 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Don’t you guys think this is the best that happened to the show being still on air, the other way around we wouldn’t have had it at all?

  8. 22 monoceros4
    15 November 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Jokes about Apple’s silly “Think Different” slogan were funny…what, back in 1998 or something?

  9. 27 ethan
    15 November 2011 at 11:38 pm

    let me add to the praise for the compare & contrast posts, the best stuff on the whole site

  10. 16 November 2011 at 12:23 am

    Here’s a list of jokes I would’ve made if I wrote this segment:

    -Like I said above, Bart raging over beating the Not Gears of War game in 10 seconds while the game programmer looked on with a smug look on his face.

    -Various games getting cancelled the second they were announced/they passed by the booths for them.

    -Someone exploits a cheat in a game demo. Demo is immediately shut down.

    -A game gets announced, then announce that a better version gets released about a month later.

    -A sports game where the newest sequel number/year is lazily taped onto the old number.

    -A game that forces you to buy each level after the first as DLC.

    -Yeah, I’m one of those folks with a vendetta against Capcom.

    -Apple: Conform Differently.

    -…I’d keep Lisa with the Marching Band game. The boring level with the player riding the bus home HAD to be a shout-out to Penn & Teller’s Desert Bus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_%26_Teller%27s_Smoke_and_Mirrors) I loved that bit.

    • 29 Patrick
      16 November 2011 at 3:25 am

      For the show’s sake please become a writer that was epic and reminded me of the good old days :D

    • 16 November 2011 at 9:02 am

      Hahaha, yeah that Penn and Teller game is amazing. I played a bootleg of it once, it was kinda brilliant.

      “-Various games getting cancelled the second they were announced/they passed by the booths for them.” priceless.

      Also, yeah, Capcom is my favorite company ever but they’re fucking RIDICULOUS on re-releases/cash-ins. Though they have released some quality products that some might deem as cash-ins or shovelware (the Mega Man collections, Capcom Classics Collections, etc).

  11. 31 Chris
    16 November 2011 at 2:52 am

    YBox, Electronic Crafts, Medal of Duty, Gamestation 3, Mapple…these are HORRIBLE so-called parody titles (when of course there’s no parody at all). I mean honestly, that’s about as lame as you can get. “Let’s see, I have a Dell computer, how about…Dull computers! hahaha I changed one letter and made another word, I’m a piercing parodist.” Oakley and Weinstein need to take charge of this show immediately and put everyone back on 12 hour days. Judging by the material, I’d say they spend ten minutes on their jokes, if that. YBox is so incredibly lazy and unfunny that I can’t believe someone got paid to write it.

    I’m glad you guys mentioned My Dinner with Andre, because that was tremendously funny. The idea of an arcade game based on a movie that’s mostly dialogue is funny enough, but then there’s the controls. “Tell Me More” “Bon Mot” This is not stuff that just comes to you. The writers spent a long time coming up with that idea, and bravo for it.

    • 32 Patrick
      16 November 2011 at 3:26 am

      South Park (for some reason) called the X-Box O-box at one point but that was never intended to be a joke but there is a slight tic-tac-toe joke with that name change

      • 33 Patrick
        16 November 2011 at 3:28 am

        Also funny how you mention the Dell Dull thing because that reminded me of Frankie’s computer in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. (Also not done for a joke)

    • 16 November 2011 at 9:02 am

      Actually, your “Dull Computers” is more clever — and true — than any of the show’s parodies.

    • 35 Will
      18 November 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Sorny and Panaphonics are lazy, but they’re funny because they’re obviously cheap knockoffs you get at outlet malls in Ogdenville. Mapple is just lazy. If they were selling Mapple products at outlet malls in Ogdenville, I’d forgive them.

      YBox is slightly better than Zii.

  12. 36 Patrick
    16 November 2011 at 3:29 am

    The only reason I laugh at brand name change is how ridiculous they can be like WcDonalds for example.

  13. 16 November 2011 at 3:35 am

    These brand name changes don’t seem like intended jokes, they seem like the names given to actual products that an 80yr old Great-Grandfather would use when asking a Wal Mart associate about buying a birthday gift for his great-grandkids.

  14. 39 mmmfreegoo
    16 November 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Another absolutely outstanding Compare and Contrast.

    I just wish that we could trap the writers of ZS in a room and get them to force read all of these.

    I don’t see how there could be any comeback to the reasoned arguments which are brought up by these articles.

    This isn’t some internet fanboy bitching (which I’m sure ZS writers / fans view it as) but a thorough analysis of what a once amazing show has become.

    ZS, I will never watch your show, buy any of your products or brake if I see you crossing the street

  15. 40 Zigler
    21 July 2012 at 9:47 pm

    You know what would be funny? If it turned out that they were actually going to a convention of bootlegs.

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