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Review about 3F01 Home-Sweet-Homediddly
Hereīs another classic episode review by me. I think it fits (in a certain way) pretty well into the discussion about religion in the "Homer The Heretic" thread. Thatīll be my last review post for a couple of days, I donīt want to overdo it. I hope it hasnīt been posted here before.
This time Iīve chosen an episode from season 7 for a detailled review, namely the first 3F episode 3F01 "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily". Itīs a complex episode, so the following interpretation is again pretty long.
All mistakes in English grammar and spelling are as usual my fault.
There is an interesting break of style between 2F17 "Radioactive Man" and 3F01 "Homediddly" - the break between fun-oriented season 6 and darker and more character-oriented season 7. 2F17 tried to be some kind of movie industry/Hollywood satire but it was IMO mostly a row of jokes and visual gags without much point and thus it fell surprisingly flat and was to me pretty uninteresting (but still good and amusing). 3F01 on the other hand defined the underlying plot pattern for the entire 3F P-code and is a much more radical and complex episode with use of subtle elements and symbolism and thought-provoking content behind the surface.
3F01 is again an episode about the problems of conformity and conformized society (I say that about many episodes but itīs indeed a recurring element and often the base for hidden concepts. A message about the difference between conformists and non-conformists is essential for good satire, true satire has to consider life and society from a non-conformistic point of view to be sucessful <= one of the abilities the show had IMO lost in the Scully era. 3F01 also is an episode with some genuinely disturbing moments like Margeīs emotional outburst when sheīs seperated from her kids, the emotionless behaviour of the welfare agents and Maggieīs growing "adaption" to Flanders behaviour.
All this is shown in a much darker atmosphere with a couple of good (but mostly silent) jokes and with a lot of respect for the characters and their emotions. Itīs IMO a clear break to the often (too?) light-hearted style of seasons 5 and 6, maybe the most noticeable break between two production codes and a suitable start for the season that brought us other masterpieces like "Bart Sells His Soul" which is quite similar to 3F01 in certain aspects (read my 3F02 review.)
Letīs have a closer look on 3F01 and its concepts.
The episode is pretty radical in certain moments and religious people certainly felt offended by some lines and jokes (like Ned describing the beast from the Book of Revelation and Bart guessing it may be Jesus.) However, like every good OFF episode about religion it doesnīt mock faith and belief in God but satirizes aspects of the institution religion, this time religion as "tool" of social conformity, so Iīd say itīs not so much an episode about religion but more about (educational) freedom and tolerance.
At the beginning, Margeīs role in the family is defined in an excellent way. She needs the family more than anything else and the family needs her more than anything else, clearly reminiscent of episodes like 8F14. She would do almost everything for her kids, especially for her "big child" Homer, who is afraid of a spider on the wall. Thereīs some sort of "chaos" on the surface (which the child welfare agents misinterpret and simplify as bad parenting) but thereīs a lot of deep relation and emotion behind the surface, a lot of things the welfare agents canīt understand.
The Simpsons are often called a "dysfunctional" family in the media, but I donīt agree with that. The family is sometimes more functional than the society around them (the family used to be a functional point in a dysfunctional and satirically exaggerated world). Iīd say they are functional but in a most different way. 3F01 is an episode with a very different message, where at the end the "bad" family is actually good and the "good" family is actually bad on a certain level.
Dysfunctionality on the surface can mean deeper relation while functionality on the surface can mean conformity. Thatīs IMO the subversive core of the episode and the main hidden concept.
The Simpson family was a family of non-conformists and an element opposed to society (thus they were so good in satirizing society) and 3F01 confronts the family with a society that tries to make them "fit". The emotionless child welfare and the overly protective Flanders family are both manifestations of the very same concept and the Simpsons are confronted with two of the most powerful "tools" of social conformity - State and law (the child welfare) and overdone religion (the Flanders) and both manifestations work against Homer and Marge and try to seperate them from their kids. Here again the subversive situation "non-conformists vs conformists" (the basic formula of the episode.)
The Flanders are a caring and loving family (and on first sight so much better as parents than Homer and Marge) but their life is also very sterile and emotionally flat and the "tool" of conformity in their case is religion and the overestimation of religion in life. The facade is that of a loving family but behind that facade itīs almost cold on a certain level, maybe reflected in Nedīs house with its clean and strangely lifeless memorabilia style and the difference to the chaotic but "living" Simpson household. Lisa said it best "It seems like our house, but everythingīs got a creepy Pat Boone-ish quality to it."
Ned and Maude care for Bart and Lisa, but not because they love them in a true way (the way Marge loves her kids) but because their overestimation of religious values demands it. They try to transform the Simpson kids into good Christians, they also try to conformize them and make them parts of their kind of society. Itīs clearly noticeable when they sing the song for Maggie and when Maggie starts to adapt to them (the most disturbing element of the episode.)
Thereīs a very important scene that shows us the true "quality" of Ned and Maude as parents and the very bad results of their over-protective lifestyle. When Bart and Lisa watch the violent I&S cartoon, they react in their usual innocent (or blunt) way with laughter, while Rod and Todd are truly shocked ("Daddy, what's the red stuff coming out of kitty's ears?" "Dad, should I poke Rod with a sharp thing like the mouse did?") when they are confronted with something that doesnīt fit into their extremely over-protected childhood. Toddīs line clearly implies that he immediately wants to repeat what he has seen on TV, a satirical exaggeration of the old topic that TV violence increases real violence.
Bart and Lisa are able to cope with such scenes (their character is stable enough) but Rod and Todd are not. Toddīs overdone "wish" to copy TV behaviour clearly shows that. The Flanders kids always have the tendency to copy other behaviour - take Homerīs swearing in 8F16 or the "freakinī ears" in 3F02 and many other scenes - and Ned and Maude do nothing to explain such stuff to them, over-protection and their "conformized" way of religious life is the only thing they do and it doesnīt work.
Rod and Todd are mentally unstable (and the problem is much complex than the stupid "Rod & Todd are gay" joke in season 11) and thatīs the fault of their parents and maybe a reason of sterile and "happy" life in Nedīs house. Bart and Lisa are non-conformists and the kids of maybe "bad" parents but their character is stable and they are much more able to live a real life. Thatīs the actual message => Homer and Marge are better for "living beings" like Bart, Lisa and Maggie while Nedīs and Maudeīs way of education turned Rod and Todd into...well...what they are.
The ending is very important and very well-done, it brings the concepts of surrealism and symbolism back into the show. Bart and Lisa are reunited with Homer but Maggie is still uncertain to where she belongs. That is wonderfully reflected and illustrated in the river scene, when we see the scene from Maggieīs point of view - her own (loving) family in the middle of the river with a bleak and barren landscape behind them and the Flanders on the bank with a colorful (and overdone) garden of Eden behind them. Itīs so brilliantly unclear, the scene points in a completely different direction than what the plot implied.
Finally, Maggie sees her mother Marge and at the very same moment she knows that she belongs to her (a wonderful scene and excellently animated with a dynamic camera) so the final solution is love, which is the deeper relation neither the child welfare agents nor the Flanders could see. The episode is here pretty similar to 3F02 "Bart Sells His Soul" where - above all religious and philosophical impliciations - sibiling love was the final solution.
At the end of 3F01, OFF are re-united in their own special way and thus theyīll continue their non-conformistic way of life (which is clearly shown in the following episodes, like 3F02 and also 3F03 where Lisa causes "independent-thought"-alarm twice.)
Some 52 seconds are cut in syndication, including some pretty good lines (like the one about "county dentures" for Lisa or the agents complaining about "dogs mating on the dinner table") and the end of the I&S cartoon. I strongly recommend a full-length version.
Iīd say 3F01 "Homediddly" is a dark and character-driven episode, itīs pretty radical in certain scenes and it has truly disturbing and subversive moments and hidden concepts and behind-surface-complexity, yet it is able to have a positive and uplifting ending where the characters are larger than the story. Grade A.
Last edited by Chris P.; 11-30-2003 at 01:57 AM.
Re: Review about 3F01 Home-Sweet-Homediddly
I don't believe this review has been posted here, but it does deserve its own thread. Great, as always.
You've covered the contrast of the Simpsons and Flanders living styles perfectly. You didn't talk much about the subplot (to use the term loosely) with Homer and Marge in the Family Skills course. But here, the family has to be "rehabilitated" before coming back together again. The class itself, or what is shown to us, is more concerned about more superficial elements of as to what make a good home ("And put your garbage in a garbage can"). The only thing that even comes to close to the class' purpose of communication is the Cletus/Homer scenario. For a "typical house-hold problem", the solution ("I love you pa" "I love you Cletus") becomes increasingly exponential and surreal as to be inapplicable. To the agents, they aren't so much concerned with the true dynamics of what make a loving family, but superficial little things to mirror a perfect family. To them, hearing the words "I love you" to a complete stranger in a fictional scenario as good enough.
The welfare agents also, as you've touched upon, are a great satirical exaggeration of the heartless bureaucrats more concerned with finishing a job (here separating the Simpson family because they don't match the ideal perfect family) than actually caring about it. The male one in particular, with his overemphasized "yes, they 'should' be here", almost as if he's looking for any arbitrary reason to separate them.
The Flanders are the perfect family, in the eyes of a heartless bureaucratic organization. And you are right, the Flanders' way of life isn't in the least bit effective for a truly loving atmosphere, and in fact their Christian love is often subverted as mind warping as opposed to productive, even if endorsed by society. Maggie becoming possessed a la "The Exorcist" as well as Homer being burned like acid and turning into a monster when he takes Bart's Baptismal are truly surreal examples of the warping of the Flanders influence. I love the family bonds at the end too, through digging up the dirt on the Flanders family. Interesting is that despite the kids essentially being subject to brainwash while in the Flanders household, they are unable to find any dirt on the family.
Actually though, I do think this is quite possibly the best episode in the entire series. It fits the series as a satirically exaggerated world perfectly, and makes near-prefect use of the whole entire family. It's also one of the funniest too, the contrast between the Simpsons and the Flanders families, as well as their way of life and the outside world (mixed with some healthy surrealism) makes for some great comedy.
Last edited by Channel Surfer; 11-30-2003 at 01:20 PM.
I hope nobody minds the double post, but the thread didn't get moved to the top with my previous post, nor even incremented my post afterwards. So I guess this is my way of saying...
I'll play your game, Surfer, and move this thread to the top. This is indeed one of the best episodes ever. I don't think there's any way I can disagree with what you 2 guys said about this episode. Satire, humor, heart, plot, it was all here. All the satire was well-done (the welfare agents' portrayal, the religious aspects), and the way the Simpsons and Flanderses were all portrayed was perfect. Also, it had some funny moments, especially from Homer: "Kids, we're good parents now...get your asses out here", and "I'm a big stupid lame-o and I wear the same stupid sweater every day... The Springfield River!" Also, I don't want to leave out how funny the Family Skills course was.
This episode was a perfect example of The Simpsons at its finest: great satire with a great plot and subtle humor. It's a perfect 10/10.
This episode really does have some of the strongest emotional reality and character depth. Chris and CS pretty much covered anything (excellent review, Chris) and anything I can say will probably only be a loose paraphrase, but here goes.
There is something self-referential here, though not directly, and probably not even intentionally so. The Simpsons cast as a dysfunctional family in the mainstream media as their schtick or something- but missing the point (like the Flandereses and the Child Welfare) of the basic chemistry that makes the family what it is, that is a loving and actually quite functional. The Simpson family exists as a cohesive unit not in the white-collar Christian mainstream sense but through individual understandings and basic love. The methods are unorthodox, but the bonds are sound and have survived much strain because of it. This is something that reflects what I have seen in real life- families that are perfect to the eye but are shattered nonetheless. Not to mention families that and homes that seem to be a mess, but holds together in spite or because of it.
Healthy foods, dust on the TV remote, early to bed. All these straight from the idealized conceptions of how a family should function perfectly. If families are machines, then yes. But this episode brings into center stage what was almost a passive, pervasive piece of commentary presented by the series through the dynamic and character interaction of the family. Absolutely amazing, and a rock solid top 5 spot.
EDIT: Also worth mentioning is the nod to another family, Skinner and Agnes, whose relationship is just downright creepy in many ways(also the comic absurdity of the State taking away a 40-something year old man).
Last edited by Tibor; 11-30-2003 at 10:44 PM.
He's undeniably real
I can't add very much more to your reviews, so I'll just briefly say why I liked this episode.
It had laugh-out-loud humor, it had subtle humor. It had parodies. It had references. It started off well. It finished well. It had emotion that was not forced. It had characters for whom the viewer could care for. It was consistently funny with no dull moments or no jokes that failed to hit the mark. It was well written, and ably directed. The voice actors put a lot of effort into this episode. I loved the contrasts between the Simpsons and the Flanders' - the little subtle differences in their houses, the way the family behaves...Even though the Flanders epitomise the perfect family, the viewer would much rather be living with The Simpsons.
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