Posts Tagged ‘Flaming Moe


That Is So 1991

“Please alter my pants as fashion dictates.” – Jasper (as read by Homer Simpson)

Last month, when I was taking all those frame grabs of the seated Cerberus that was the three housewives from “Moms I’d Like to Forget”, I was struck by how modern and colorful their outfits were compared to Marge’s.  The next week I noticed something similar in “Flaming Moe”.  Characters who’ve been around a long time, like Smithers and Patty, look really out of place next to the one-and-done guests.  The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that this happens in almost every episode.  They come up with some one off character or just have a celebrity on, and s/he looks wildly different than the long time characters in the same shot. 

This is another example of how you can’t keep the show from aging, even if you nominally keep the characters from aging.  Characters that were originally designed to catch the eye in low definition at a time when televisions were a lot smaller don’t scale up well to HD resolutions.  The basic character models (Marge’s green dress, Homer’s white shirt, etcetera) are big on solid colors and low on minute detail.  But new characters, who are supposed to be twenty-first century Americans, can’t be drawn the way the Simpsons are, it would look terrible.  Instead they animate new characters as realistically as possible and just ignore the clashing styles. 

Patty's Out of Style

Look at Patty’s clothes compared to the gay dudes.  Her dress is flat and monochromatic, their clothes are colorful and detailed.  Look at the shoulders, buttons and belt of the guy in white.  Look at the knotted sweatshirt; look at the precise lines of the pockets on the green pants.  The three of them are massively more detailed than she is. 


Here we can see the same thing with Marge and the Anitas.  They gave Marge as many different dresses as they could (examples), but when they use her standard outfit they’re stuck with these radically clashing styles.  The clothing is obvious enough, but it extends even to the accessories.  Two of the Anitas are wearing necklaces that look kind of like the necklaces real women wear everyday.  Next to those, Marge’s necklace is painfully cartoony.  There’s nothing wrong with cartoony in and of itself, but it looks more than a little out of place next to the more realistic drawings.

This sort of thing happens all the time on Zombie Simpsons, and it’s only gotten worse since the changeover to HD.  Unfortunately for us, there’s nothing they can do about it even if they wanted to.  The audience accepts Marge in that uniform green dress, but if you drew other characters with the same simplicity it would look childishly primitive.  And it’s not like they can change the way the main characters look, doing so would risk a New Coke level disaster. 

They compensate by putting old characters in different clothes far more often than they did back in the before time, in the long long ago.  Just this season we’ve seen Homer wear a sweater for most of an episode as well as go undercover for the bulk of another.  Lisa’s spent significant time in school and baseball uniforms.  But those sorts of temporary dodges can’t change the basic character models.  They’re stuck with the fact that the default costumes for all of the main characters, and most of the secondary ones, aren’t designed for modern animation, and clash badly with newer characters that are. 


Crazy Noises: Flaming Moe

Krusty Gets Kancelled8

“I’ve got to fire that agent.” – Elizabeth Taylor

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on  “addiction”).

Most of the discussion around here about “Flaming Moe”, including the one below, focuses on just how lame the A-plot was, and that’s entirely proper because it made up most of the episode and was, indeed, astonishingly lame. But the B-plot deserves to have some scorn heaped on it at well, if for no other reason than spending a hundred words or so criticizing it would give it more attention than its writers did, literally. Here’s the entirety of the dialogue for “Melody” (voiced by Alyson Hannigan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “How I Met Your Mother” fame):

I can’t believe I’m playing video games with Bart Simpson.

I’ve sketched you so many times in my dream journal.

Can I do a hand stand against you?

You’re breaking up with me? Upside down? Raggedy Ann was so right about you.

That’s forty-two words in four lines. That’s not a guest part, that’s borderline insulting. (Granted, it’s more than Katy Perry got, but still.) Even minor, one off guest voices usually get a little more to do than show up, fawn over Bart Simpson, and then exit stage right never to be heard from again.

Back in the land of the A-plot, I’d like to point out an example of the kind of humor a smarter show than Zombie Simpsons might do when it comes time for a “gay” episode: Steakhouse or Gay Bar. It’s a very simple website, you are presented with the name of an establishment that is either a gay bar or a steakhouse, you then guess which kind of joint it is based on the name alone.

What’s so wonderful about “Steakhouse or Gay Bar?” is that in addition to being really funny, the results are very often a tossup. When you answer a question it tells you not only whether you were right or wrong, but what percentage of other people guessed the same way. So when I guess that the Grey Fox Pub is a steakhouse, I get a message that says:

Grey Fox Pub is a gay bar in Saint Louis, Missouri.

47.78% got that wrong, too.

Or when I guess that Tad’s is a gay bar I see:

Tad’s is a steak house in San Francisco, California.

53.38% got that wrong, too.

Most of the percentages you see aren’t too far from 50% one way or the other, which means that people really can’t tell from the name whether or not it’s a steakhouse or a gay bar. The gag is that the same veneer of macho masculinity can apply to radically different purposes (unless it’s a gay bar that happens to serve steaks), and it’s a much better joke than anything that was in “Flaming Moe”. It’s current, it’s subversive, it’s not a rehash of things that stopped being clever a decade ago. I don’t think you could construct an entire episode around the concept (and please, Zombie Simpsons, don’t try), but it’s not as if gay humor is frozen in time the way “Flaming Moe” seems to think it is.

[Note: We did have Dave this week, but he was forced to bail almost instantly.]


Charlie Sweatpants: Then let us begin.

  Any initial thoughts other than “I wanted this to end eighteen minutes before it did?”

Dave: Gay bashing and stereotypes are so 2009.

  That’s basically all I have to say about whatever the hell it was I watched.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget the hippie girl subplot.

  That also happened.

Mad Jon: Well, I think you covered it in your post with the help of some external comments, but I miss the gay-episodes that had something behind them. There wasn’t much of a statement other than “Pretending to be Gay for profit is a bad thing”

Also there were two guest voices, I only know who one of them were, and I couldn’t tell you what either of them were pitching.

Dave: Gents, I apologize

  I’m out again

Mad Jon: Bye Dave

Charlie Sweatpants: Bye Dave.

I think there were three, one of the guys from Kids in the Hall was there too.

Mad Jon: Oh man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anyway, this is one of the rare instances where the guest voices weren’t playing themselves, but basically still had no character.

Mad Jon: Yeah, they were both excellent script readers, but not a whole lot of acting going on there.

Charlie Sweatpants: Willow from Buffy and that chick from SNL aren’t the world’s biggest stars, but they certainly deserved better than the six lines each of them got.

The third grade girl especially was hardly in the episode. Did that really require a guest voice?

Mad Jon: Well, Willow is now one of the major characters on “How I Met Your Mother” which I am ashamed to say I enjoy. If for nothing more than NPH.

Charlie Sweatpants: Doesn’t that reinforce my point? She deserved better.

Mad Jon: Yes, yes it does reinforce your point.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s also worth noting that the whole “square from the school falls in love with free spirited hippie” was done – as a b-plot and far better – back in Season 2 of South Park.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, when Mr. Mackay starting taking acid.

  Was that Season 2? Man that was a long time ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was, but it also worked way better than this.

Mad Jon: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Skinner just gets off the bus, and it’s like, “Oh, you’re back”. The whole thing was rushed to the point of incoherence. And that includes that montage.

Mad Jon: On a quick note, I liked how when Smithers went into Burns’ safe, there was a heart in a jar for a quick second.

Charlie Sweatpants: I noticed that too, it wasn’t bad.

What I didn’t like was the way Burns was senile.

Mad Jon: Which montage, the free spirited one or the one with the bar pictures that made it so I didn’t have to try to remember how many times Moe has changed the bar?

Charlie Sweatpants: The free spirit one.

Mad Jon: Ah yes.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was b-plot time that could’ve been used far better.

Mad Jon: It was a bit of time before I realized that was the b-plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem with Burns in this episode is that they can’t decide what they want him to be. Is he fantastically cruel and evil? Or is he an incompetent buffoon? Just fucking pick one already, at least within a single scene is it too much to ask that he stay in character?

Mad Jon: That is a good point, Burns was always in a linear character, but that haven’t been able to properly use him in forever. But name a character with which that isn’t the case.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sad but true.

Mad Jon: Burns is evil, Burns wants to connect with the common man, whatever.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah. Also, is Smithers out to Burns now? There are a lot of Zombie Simpsons I haven’t seen, but it sure seemed like he didn’t care if Burns knew he was gay.

Mad Jon: I don’t know. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE else knows he is gay, and there have been like a hundred scenes where something really awkward happens, but it has never been directly addressed.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was a lot of those kind of grindingly unfunny improbabilities here. So we’re supposed to believe that this collection of the gayest gay men this side of the Castro can’t tell that Moe is straight?

Mad Jon: Also, hasn’t there always been a different gay bar across the street?

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess.

I kept waiting for them to mention the other gay bar again, but instead, fifteen minutes into the episode, they made up some crap about a parade and had Moe run for office.

  Did not see that one coming.

Mad Jon: I can’t believe Springfield is large enough to need a city council

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t believe Patty was standing there the whole time Moe was pretending to be gay and didn’t say shit.

Mad Jon: Or that any of the unbelievably large amount of woman Moe has harassed didn’t say anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: The list goes on.

I think someone left “Milk” on when they fell asleep and just filled in all the parts they missed with random minor characters.

Mad Jon: Except no one killed Moe in the end…

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, like I said, they fell asleep.

  Anything you liked here?

Mad Jon: The couch gag spoke to my memories of old, nice and simple and not over the top.

That was about the only thing that didn’t make me dislike the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I liked Moe’s line about a “horrible addiction compels you”.

Mad Jon: Also pretty good.

  There were a couple of lines, but they were so crowded by crap and boredom that they are hard to remember in correct context.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bingo. The dizzying array of plot twists made the whole thing seem even messier than it already was.

  Oh, and right on the heels of Fit Tony there was Comic Book Gay.

Mad Jon: Yeah, who likes comic books of a different kind.

  I swear to god I hate that Comic Book Guy for what he has done to Comic Book Guy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh. I’m just nervous that Sideshow Mel is going to have a cousin named Sideshow Sell who does infomercials.

Mad Jon: He has not so subtly gone down the road Homer did so long ago. Doesn’t really have a job anymore, unless it is pivotal for the ‘plot’. Is part of every major Springfield/Simpson family event, and he went from one line zingers that filled the space brilliantly to a conversationalist who still tries to use those one liners, only a lot lot more often.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s all true, but like my comment about Burns, what character can’t that be said about?

Mad Jon: Very true sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Chalmers keeps showing up for no reason, I think you’re right, he sleeps at the school now.

Mad Jon: It just gets me that all of the sudden everyone is on this CBG bandwagon, like he is the new ‘it’ character, except he has been doing this for years.

Well at least this time Chalmers, who apparently has a first name now, was at least outside of Skinner’s office.

Charlie Sweatpants: But he is just there whenever they need him to be. I’m reminded of that episode last year when Hoover showed up on the playground to give Lisa her paper back, and then vanished.

  They’re replacing the school music teacher, there’s actually a reason for Chalmers to be there, but they don’t even bother.

Mad Jon: Maybe someone’s voice contract requires a certain amount of Chalmers time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, I think it’s just apathy.

Mad Jon: Also I would imagine introducing a new student to the class is the job of a principal.

But once again…

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? Between the half formed romantic comedy b-plot and the strange twists and turns of the a-plot I think we’ve covered everything.

Mad Jon: No, I think we have devoted enough of our free time to this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s good. I don’t think I could take much more discussion of “Queer Eye for Springfield”.

Oh crap, that’ll be an episode title in about two seasons once no one remembers what “Queer Eye” originally was.

Mad Jon: That would be about right . . . Damn you Sweatpants!


Compare & Contrast: Gay Bars

“We work hard.  We play hard.” – Roscoe

In everything but similarity of title, “Homer’s Phobia” is the obvious choice for a comparison episode to “Flaming Moe”.  But rather than stacking up the plot structures, characters, and jokes and marveling at how greatly Season 8 towers over Season 22, I want to focus on one small aspect of these two episodes that I think goes a long way toward illustrating the point I was trying to make yesterday.  Specifically, it’s easy to see how much more tame and thoughtless Zombie Simpsons is when you compare their gay club, “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen”, to “The Anvil” from The Simpsons.  The two clubs/bars/whatever are relatively small parts of their respective episodes, but in them we can see a much larger reflection of the comedy sensibilities behind The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

In “Flaming Moe”, the only thing about “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen” that’s even trying to be funny is the name of the place.  Other than that it’s just a yellow approximation of a trendy gay club.  The bouncer’s keen on tall, statuesque guys who wear revealing clothes and look like they do a lot of sit-ups.  Homely, ill clad Smithers is unwelcome.  Later, we get a quick peek inside and see another tall sit-up enthusiast, this time dressed as a shirtless fireman.  There’s nothing at all creative about any of this, it’s the standard Hollywood version of what a gay club looks like.  You could see the exact same thing in an episode of Sex in the City or Entourage or just about any movie where straight characters accidentally stumble into a gay bar.

Generic Gay Bar LineEven with Safe Mode on, you’d see more creativity by searching Google Images for “Gay Bars”. 

Of course, “The Anvil” is also filled with tight clothes and big muscles, but it’s not some forgettable, anonymous club.  Nor is it just another bar with a line out front and a selective bouncer.  It, the entire thing, is the joke, because “The Anvil” is built into a working steel mill that is staffed entirely with flaming, hunky gay guys.  The mere existence of the bar is a gag, and its hard working, hard playing clientele are the icing on the cake.

Homer's Phobia3 Nothing like this has ever existed . . . but it should.  Do you think they’d make you work a shift to get in?

Both bars traffic in well known stereotypes, the difference is in how they use them.  “Flaming Moe” expects the audience to guffaw upon recognizing the stereotype: ‘That is so what gay bars are really like, I saw one on How I Met Your Mother!’.  “Homer’s Phobia”, on the other hand, takes the stereotype of the gay club and puts it in the last place the audience would ever expect it to be.  It’s the kind of deep seated silliness that The Simpsons was always really good at, like making the head of the Kwik-E-Mart a mountain dwelling swami or having the highly sophisticated machine that scores the Career Aptitude Normalizing Test be operated by a rocking chair bound hayseed who calls it “Emma” and hits it with a broom.

Zombie Simpsons has a gay bar that’s exactly like every gay bar you’ve ever seen on television, just with a cute name.  The Simpsons has a gay bar that’s nothing like anything anyone’s ever done before or since.  One is reductive, the other is creative, and it’s just another way Zombie Simpsons falls hopelessly short of the real thing. 


A Flapping Dickey of Outdated Gay Jokes

Principal Charming3

It goes almost without saying that American culture has changed in a lot of ways since the Simpsons family came on stage in the late 80s.  In addition to the usual twists and turns of taste in everything from music and clothing to movies and cars you would expect over any two decade stretch, the last twenty plus years have also seen an enormous expansion in the civic space afforded to gay and lesbian Americans.  People who were seen as so culturally toxic that even referring to them on television was all but forbidden in 1989 have become commonplace in 2011.  That remarkable transformation hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but it has inarguably altered the way certain topics are presented and discussed in the genteel world of network television.  Too bad nobody told Zombie Simpsons.

And it is here that I will quote Harvey Fierstein, Springfield Hero, who was referring to an episode that aired eight seasons ago when he said:

Jim Brooks and Matt Groening and those writers have always added that extra something beneath the surface, and it just wasn’t there.  Basically, Homer just had a lot of fun hanging out with gay men, and drinking in bars, and dancing at discos, and all that, and there was nothing – there was no commentary there.  Every restaurant had a silly gay name.  They gym had a silly gay name.  They were all double entendres, obviously.  And I said, “Anybody could do this.  You’re the fucking Simpsons.  Do something we have never seen before.”

Basic plot elements aside, everything Fierstein said applies to “Flaming Moe”.  The episode is little more than a series of non-sequiturs used to parade tired, shop worn cliches across the screen.  None of them are insightful or contain any kind of layered meaning, they’re just there for the cheapest possible laugh requiring the least possible thought.  Making all of this even more pathetic than it otherwise would be, this was a show that was, once upon time those two decades ago, really ahead of the curve on this kind of humor.  They hinted at Smithers being gay way back in Season 1, when television’s idea of homosexual began and ended with guys like Paul Lynde and Liberace.  Zombie Simpsons was out of date eight years ago, circa Season 22 things have only gotten worse. 

The numbers are in and, as expected, they are bad.  With no football lead in to protect it, last night’s recitation from Random House’s 1999 classic “Queers for Dummies” was scoffed at by a mere 6.47 million viewers.  That is the lowest number of the season so far, and hopefully presages further bottom feeding for the rest of the year. 


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