Compare & Contrast: Homer’s Imaginary Friends

The Last Temptation of Homer6

“Colonel Klink!  Why have you forsaken me?” – Homer Simpson

The hallucinatory Stradivarius Cain in “The Spy Who Learned Me” isn’t quite as bad an idea as a tiny green space alien that only Homer can see, but it’s not far off.  Even if we set aside some of the more glaring incongruities about Homer’s imaginary friend (what’s with the other imaginary characters interacting with him? were there any reasons besides killing time and cross promotional masturbation for him to pop out of FOX’s stupid football robot?), we’re still left with a number of problems that illustrate not only how bad an idea this was, but how poorly they executed it as well.

First, consider why Cain is in the episode.  He appears when Homer is sitting in Moe’s watching television, bluntly declares that he’s the result of the concussion Homer has suffered, and that he’s there to help Homer get back into Marge’s good graces.  Right here at the start, strange things are happening even if we set aside the oddity that apparently some part of Homer’s brain knows how to be suave, confident and charming. 

By the time he appears, Homer’s concussion is pretty far in the past.  Thanks to Zombie Simpsons’ relentless insistence on terrible pacing, the concussion happens just before the five minute mark but Cain doesn’t show up for six more minutes after that, past the halfway point.  On its own this wouldn’t be too terrible, except that at the end, after Homer gets clonked on the head with that guy’s gun, the other characters and Cain show up instantly as Homer pounds on his own skull with a rock.

Summoning Rock

I didn’t know that rock could do that.  

Even more than the usual problems that arise from plot holes and weird leaps of logic, this kind of inconsistency is extremely shitty storytelling.  Cain showed up at Moe’s long after the initial injury with only his say so linking his presence to Homer’s getting hit in the head (and even that was done in passing).  Then when the unnamed guy bashes Homer with the gun, there’s no indication whatsoever that the blow made Cain disappear, so having Homer start hitting himself to get Cain back is doubly strange.  I know I usually complain that Zombie Simpsons over-explains things, but in this case they did the opposite.

Compare that undercooked justification to the simple efficiency of Homer’s guardian angel in “The Last Temptation of Homer”.  Homer’s in a panic because his home life is a mess, he thinks teevee is telling him to cheat on his wife, and the marriage counselor to whom he just confessed his secret desires ended up being Ned Flanders.  When Flanders tries to get Marge on the line, Homer freaks, hits his head on the side of the phone booth, and poof, Sir Isaac Newton.

Guardian Entrance

See, Zombie Simpsons?  This isn’t that hard.

There’s no doubt in the audience’s mind as to who this semi-transparent guy is or why he’s there.  He doesn’t need to say, “Homer, I’m here because you hit your head on the side of the phone booth” because we just saw that happen.  In turn, that means he can introduce himself quickly and the episode can move immediately to his transformation into Colonel Klink (with Werner Klemperer doing the voice) and his unintentionally disastrous attempts to show Homer what his life would be like if he’d married Mindy instead of Marge (“Madam President, your approval rating is soaring”).

On top of that, The Simpsons had the good sense to keep the character only Homer can see well in the background.  Klink doesn’t alter the plot, he’s there in support of things that are happening in the real world.  He’s the opposite of those weird digressions Zombie Simpsons likes to take because his presence and his actions as Homer’s supernatural protector make sense for who he is and reinforce what’s already going on in the story.  Cain, on the other hand, is basically Ozmodiar.  Only Homer can see him, and pretty much all of Homer’s actions are based on Cain’s advice. 

In total, we have Zombie Simpsons taking a weak idea and botching it, where The Simpsons took a similar idea and used it well while not asking it to do too much.  The kind of show that has even Homer’s guardian angle become frustrated with him knew enough not to make his imaginary friend the center of the plot. 

6 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Homer’s Imaginary Friends”

  1. 1 Mr. Incognito
    9 May 2012 at 4:22 pm

    We’re not really The Simpsons, we’re just assuming their form.

  2. 2 Mr. Incognito
    9 May 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Actually…not really. Oops

  3. 3 Jack Zigler
    9 May 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Yeah, you gotta watch out for them guardian angles. Some of them are pointy.

  4. 4 Stan
    9 May 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Good point, cept for one small detail: in Temptation, whatever adventure Homer has stays solely in his head (same thing for the coyote soul guide from another episode). Whereas in Spy, he’s actually getting his IRL actions influenced by that Cain persona. It’s weird because not only did they not introduce us to Homer’s hallucination (let’s call it that way) per se, but we get to see him squirt a cardboard lime into a cardboard guy’s face, and no one, not a single character, gets to say at least the famous “Who are you talking to?” line. None! It is very diarrheic storytelling indeed.

  5. 5 Josh
    11 May 2012 at 1:44 am

    Some random gripes from this episode. Are Bart and Nelson friends or not? Nelsons been the bully character since the shows beginning but then became friends in that season 18 episode and in that parody of the Departed Bart calls Nelson his ‘Other best friend’. Now I guess it was convenient not to be friends again.

    Also a lot, and I do mean a lot, of visual gags that didn’t work; Bart shaking his butt during his x-ray, Homer skiing as he flies through the air, homers bloody eyes, the plastic bag coming out Barneys orifices, and especially the disappearing Lou, what was that?

    The fact that all the kids have smartphones. Dead right when you said Springfield is becoming a trendy los angeles type town with lots of trendy restaurants and everyone drives two hybrids.

    Last thing (I swear), Poor Julie Kavner, her voice is sounding more strained by the day!

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