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Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

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"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 9
Directed byJim Reardon
Written byJohn Swartzwelder
Production code7F09
Original air dateDecember 20, 1990 (1990-12-20)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode features
Chalkboard gag"I will not pledge allegiance to Bart".[1]
Couch gagThe couch is missing and the family all look around puzzled.[2]
CommentaryMatt Groening
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Jim Reardon
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Bart the Daredevil"
Next →
"Bart Gets Hit by a Car"
The Simpsons (season 2)
List of The Simpsons episodes

"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" is the ninth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 20, 1990.[3] In the episode, which is a satire of censorship issues, Maggie attacks Homer with a mallet and Marge blames The Itchy & Scratchy Show for Maggie's actions. It was written by John Swartzwelder and was the first episode to be directed by Jim Reardon.[2] Alex Rocco makes his first of three guest appearances as Roger Meyers, Jr.[3]

Plot[edit]

As Homer clumsily attempts to build a spice rack for Marge, Maggie suddenly hits him on the head with a mallet. Puzzled why Maggie would attack Homer, Marge notices that she imitates the violence depicted on The Itchy & Scratchy Show. She blames the show's producers for inspiring senseless violence and forbids Bart and Lisa to watch it. Marge writes a letter asking the cartoon studio to tone down the show's violence, but chairman Roger Meyers, Jr. writes a dismissive reply which goads Marge into forming a protest group.

Marge organizes Springfieldians for Nonviolence, Understanding, and Helping (SNUH), and forces her family to picket outside the studio. SNUH gains momentum and residents start to picket The Krusty the Clown Show, which airs Itchy & Scratchy cartoons. After Marge appears on the panel discussion show Smartline, concerned parents send thousands of angry letters to Meyers. He agrees to eliminate violence from Itchy & Scratchy and solicits story ideas from Marge. The children dislike the format change and abandon the cartoons to play outside instead.

A traveling exhibition of Michelangelo's sculpture David schedules a stop in Springfield. Other SNUH members urge Marge to protest the exhibition due to its nudity, but Marge considers David a masterpiece. During another Smartline appearance, Marge concedes it is hypocrital to censor Itchy & Scratchy and not David; she realizes that SNUH protests have done more harm than good. SNUH quickly disbands, Itchy & Scratchy returns to its old format, and the town's kids resume watching it. While Marge and Homer view David at an art museum, Marge bemoans that children would rather watch violent cartoons than see a work of great art. Homer cheers her up by revealing that the school is forcing students to see the sculpture on a field trip to the museum.[1][2][3]

Production[edit]

This was the first episode in which Alex Rocco guest starred as Roger Meyers, Jr.

"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" is an acclaimed episode that dealt with censorship issues and allowed the writers to insert several Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, which many fans had been clamoring for.[4] The episode was written by John Swartzwelder, who loved Itchy & Scratchy and wrote several episodes that have them at the center.[5] The episode was partially inspired by Terry Rakolta, who protested the Fox network over the show Married... with Children.[4] For the episode, which handles a large issue, the writers tried not to have a point of view and looked at both sides, despite what the writers personally felt.[5] During the original airing of the episode, the Fox satellite blew out and the entire West coast of the United States missed the first act of the episode.[6]

This was the first episode directed by Jim Reardon, who had previously made a student film called "Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown" which was very violent and the experience served him well for this episode.[6] There are several characters who work at I&S studios who are caricatures of real people: the animator who draws the Marge/Squirrel is based on Eddie Fitzgerald, who worked at Filmation and the three people with Meyers when he is asking Marge for suggestions are caricatures of Rich Moore, David Silverman and Wes Archer.[6]

Alex Rocco makes his first of three appearances as Roger Meyers. Many people behind The Simpsons were huge fans of The Godfather and Jim Reardon looked for a way to shoot him in the eye as a reference to Rocco's character, Moe Greene.[6]

The long montage of the Kids of Springfield playing was directed by Bob Anderson[6] and is making a satirical point by saying the opposite of what the writers believed.[7] The segment was written by John Swartzwelder and the idea of using Beethoven's 6th Symphony was in the original script. James L. Brooks had wanted the episode to end with the montage, but the writers disagreed.[5] Roger Meyers, Jr. makes his first appearance in this episode, as does Sideshow Mel, although he does not have any lines until the later episode "Black Widower".[2]

Cultural references[edit]

An extended parody of the shower scene from the movie Psycho

The scene where Maggie hits Homer over the head with a mallet is an extensive parody of the shower scene from Psycho, in which the music and camera angles are almost identical.[4] The music heard while the children play outside is the first movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, and is similar to a segment of the Disney film Fantasia.[2]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" was watched by 22.2 million viewers,[8] finishing 34th in ratings for the week of December 17–23, 1990 with a Nielsen rating of 12.9. It was the highest-rated show on Fox that week.[9]

Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide praised the episode, saying that "Homer's doomed attempt to build a spice rack is only the start of another great episode, which works as a superb debate about television violence and politically inspired censorship [and that] the ending is especially poignant, as the pedagogues of Springfield swoop on Michelangelo's David as an example of filth and degradation".[2]

Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club praised the episode for its satire. He wrote, "[The episode] contains one of my favorite sequences not just in The Simpsons but in television as a whole. In it, a censorship-happy Marge has neutered Itchy & Scratchy to the point where the children of Springfield are moved to do the unthinkable: stop watching television. [...] A dystopia instantly becomes a small-town paradise, a happy realm of frolicking children and sunny innocence as kids wake up from a TV fog and embrace life's rich pageantry. It's a lovely, lyrical, even beautiful sequence even if it's light on gags. It presents, then ruthlessly yanks back, an alternate universe Springfield ruled by dewy innocence rather than greed and mob mentality." He also felt the episode "got to make a relevant point in line with writer John Swartzwelder's libertarianism without sacrificing the momentum of the episode or losing track of the characters and turning them into mere sounding boards for their creator's beliefs".[10]

Empire named the Psycho parody as the second best film parody in the show. "The best throwaway gags blindside the unsuspecting viewer in episodes that are nominally about something else [...] Hitchcock is ripped off more than any other director but this is the most lovingly rendered reference."[11] The Psycho parody was named the 22nd greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". BBC. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
  3. ^ a b c "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  4. ^ a b c Jean, Al (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b c Reiss, Mike (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ a b c d e Reardon, Jim (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ Groening, Matt (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  8. ^ Brian Donlon (December 28, 1990). "NIELSENS; Special help in ABC win". USA Today. p. 03.D.
  9. ^ Hastings, Deborah (December 29, 1990). "Dolly Parton special gives ABC a Christmas gift". St. Petersburg Times. p. 5D.
  10. ^ Rabin, Nathan (2010-11-07). "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  11. ^ Colin Kennedy. "The Ten Best Movie Gags In The Simpsons", Empire, September 2004, p. 76
  12. ^ Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.

External links[edit]