Compare & Contrast: The Republican High Command

Sideshow Bob Roberts7

“Hail, brothers!  Coranon silaria, ozoo mahoke!” – C.M. Burns
“Mahoke!” – Republicans

There were so many nonsense plot twists in “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson” that some of the worst ones went by so quickly I almost didn’t notice that they had happened.  At one point though, they stopped briefly at the impenetrable fortress that is Republican Party Headquarters.  That imposing structure made its first appearance in “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, and while this isn’t the first time they’ve revisited it, this one was notably similar because the fiends and ghouls within its walls were doing the same thing they were doing back in Season 6: selecting a candidate.

In each case they weren’t selecting the candidate alone.  Both times they were making their choice with the help of a popular talk show host.  But that’s about where the similarities end.

In “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, those men (and their vampire friend) are exactly the kind of people you’d expect to see plotting strategy in the highest tower of a scary ass castle.  They begin their meeting with a ritualized and evil sounding greeting, and they’re there for the explicit purpose of placing one of their unquestioning henchman in the mayor’s office.  Even better, they’re so contemptuous of democracy and apathetic toward anything but their own interests that at first they actually think that the water cooler in the hallway is the candidate.  These guys are mean and powerful, but also kinda clueless.  In other words, they’re Republicans.

Sideshow Bob Roberts6

Note that everyone but Barlow is clapping.

Now consider what happens at the exact same meeting, in the exact same place, in “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson”.  It’s even mostly the same cast of characters, but none of them do anything except sit there in the background.  Burns is the only one who speaks, and all he does is ask Homer to pick from a set of actual candidates.  For starters, the Burns I know would never abdicate a decision to the likes of Homer.  More blatantly, these guys have become powerless feebs.  They’re supposed to be evil and just short of all powerful, and yet they sit silently while Homer picks their presidential candidate.  How the hell did these guys ever earn their way to the top of that castle?

Compounding what a bunch of slack jawed wimps they are, Ted Nugent strolls out of the darkness firing his little bow to the surprise of everyone:

Surprise Visitor

You’d think a castle like that would have better security.

Zombie Simpsons isn’t making any kind of political point here, they aren’t mocking the Republican Party or any part of our goofy, convoluted electoral process.  They’re thoughtlessly using the same party headquarters they’ve always used before getting to what they know best: getting everyone else out of the way so that Homer and Ted can act like crazy people.

The problem is that this situation isn’t funny and doesn’t work unless those guys at the table are at least a little frightening and/or competent.  The castle, the maps on the walls, the overall Bond villain motif, none of that matters if the supposedly boss Republicans are a bunch of silent, slack jawed nobodies who give power to Homer, don’t know that Ted Nugent is in the room, and act intimidated and scared instead of contemptuous and powerful.

It goes almost without saying that once things leave this room they continue on their wildly different paths.  When Sideshow Bob ran for mayor, he ran for mayor.  He stacked the debate in his favor, broadcast dishonest commercials, rigged the election, and immediately began an autocratic rule, convinced that he was above the law.  Nugent gutted an elk and then went away.

Like the castle meeting itself, Nugent’s non-candidacy was another woefully blown comedy idea.  Actually making Ted Nugent the Republican nominee isn’t a terrible concept.  It’s not exactly an act of insightful genius, but it’s not a complete dry hole either.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t try that at all.  Once Nugent meets Homer, he just sort of hangs out at the Simpsons house until the end of the episode.  Nobody runs for anything, nor is there any satire, of Nugent or anything else.  Nugent and Homer just do some goofy stuff and then it ends.

Watching Zombie Simpsons do things like go to Republican Party Headquarters is like watching a couple of kids sit in their parents car and pretend to go for a ride.  They can superficially mimic the scenes and actions, but they aren’t leaving the driveway.  There’s no substance, no movement, no thought or action.  And if you’re looking for something that’s funny, subversive or even just memorable, you’re completely out of luck, because that’s not what they do.

6 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: The Republican High Command”

  1. 1 Patrick
    12 January 2012 at 6:43 am

    Note how dark and dreary the room is in the old picture compared to the new picture and when was the last time burns asked smithers who homer is?

    • 2 dong
      12 January 2012 at 2:49 pm

      gone are the days of feculent motel 6 pillows, forever replaced by computerized gradients and fill tools

  2. 13 January 2012 at 2:06 am

    Just straight-up “remember when we were funny??” fanservice.

  3. 13 January 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve not been watching the new episodes, (and I imagine this might not have premiered here in Britain yet) but when modern Simpsons covers old ground, it’s a bit like a cargo cult – mimicking the old jokes, without any real understanding of what makes them funny.
    It’s like a Monty Python fan faithfully recreating long routines, but in a delivery that makes no sense, or missing out key words.

    I honestly struggle to understand how they manage to be so bad – if they’re going to look over classic routines, doesn’t it make sense to read a book on how to write comedy?

  4. 5 Sam
    21 November 2012 at 10:10 am

    One more thing I noticed about this: the vampire in ‘Sideshow Bob Roberts’ looks to be modeled after the film ‘Nosferatu’; whereas the vampire in this newer episode, whatever it was called, is clearly modeled after the Bela Lugosi portrayal (a much more well-known image of Dracula, thanks to Halloween costumes and what not). This reminds me of what went wrong with the movie; the writers are terrified that some of the audience might not get the joke, so they change it to make it more accessible to everybody. A large part of the Simpsons appeal was that it taught you things you never knew before, if you were willing to look into that joke you didn’t get, and we all became much more cultured people. If you watch enough cartoons, you’ll never actually have to watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’; you will have pretty much seen the entire movie through other sources.

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