The Simpsons are on a roll and without jinxing it are producing the best season we’ve had in a long time.
In Werking Mom, Marge tries her hand at being a ‘Tubberware’ sales person but has no luck. After her hairdresser Julio takes some pity on her he decides to help her out and host one of her Tubberware events but he also glams her up in the process. That his friends all assume the heavily made-up Marge is a crossdresser, Julio goes with it, without telling Marge that her unintentional double entendres (“Let’s put tops on bottoms!”) are being heralded as peerless camp. Marge is told by Julio afterward about this and while Marge is initially shocked she uses her new found confidence to be a better salesperson.
Eventually the bubble is burst when Homer finds out and outs Marge at one of her events. He feels bad afterwards and tries to win her back in typical goofy fashion. Marge is understandably hurt but when she sees Homer, himself in drag trying to explain himself, her new found confidence allows her to see past Homer’s mistake and his misguided efforts. The two dance the night away.
This episode follows in the tradition of ‘Homer’s Phobia’ from season 8. It’s since become one of the high water marks for, not just dealing with gay themes but, deft storytelling in general. Homer’s Phobia won numerous awards and was quite groundbreaking at the time. Werking Mom isn’t exactly the latter but it faithfully tells a heartfelt ‘Simpsons’ story while also being quite funny.
The episode also doesn’t shy away from the underlying problematic implications of Marge’s ruse. She is essentially a tourist. Inadvertent at first, but immediately all-in on taking everything she needs from her new friends’ identities in order to shore up her own. When the party-goers file out grumbling following Homer’s revelation, it’s not due to some stereotypical gender disgruntlement, but a genuine anger that a cis woman has been masquerading as a member of their community to take advantage of them, and their identity. They accuse Marge of “appropriating everything,” and they are, of course, right. The show makes the point, convincingly I might add, that Springfield’s LGBTQ+ community is not just a prop in Marge’s story.
Alongside all this heavy lifting the episode is also quite funny. Julio’s enthusiasm for Marge’s well-being is genuine, even as he clearly doesn’t care much about the details. (“Now go out there and sell some thingies!”) Marge even imagines her Tubberware cheering her on, with the designated snack storage tub explaining that just because that’s the label he was assigned, it doesn’t mean people don’t almost exclusively use him to store their weed! In the B Story (which we’ll get to in a moment) there’s a narrator, who at one point, hops over to Marge’s story midway through the episode, simply because, as he explains, “Drawn by the farcical premise, I started narrating her story, too.” The narrator explains the drag club’s bathrooms as refreshingly but confusingly open to all, as the shot shows them labeled with pictures of a wedge of cheese and a wristwatch, respectively.
RuPaul makes a great guest star and has some quality lines. There’s even a rousing musical number that reinforces Marge’s empowerment with boisterously booster-ific lines about being “stronger than you know,” and how “women can have it all—even penises.”
In the B Story, we see Lisa trying to do acts of good in the stlye of Amelie. She helps Jasper reconnect with his past, Gil with his morale, Kirk and Louanne with their relationship and Skinner and his mother with theirs. She initially succeeds but is outed by Agnes when she figures out that Lisa’s forged, mom-praising diary is a phony since semicolons make Skinner queasy. Lisa is distraught as she realizes she tried to play God. But, all’s well that ends well though when Lisa is invited to the school roof for a congratulatory lunch for being “the only person in this town who thinks of someone other than herself.”
The funniest part of the B Story comes from when Lisa ruminates on how to sneak her fake diary into Skinner’s house, only for Bart to sleepily pull out a key and floor plan to his nemesis’ lair. Oh, and a can of tuna, because, as he explains, his latest prank is to make Skinner’s cat very, very fat. (We see it later. It’s, indeed, very, contentedly fat.)
So, another good episode in the books and I say let the good times roll. This was once again one of those funny but very thoughtful episodes that reminds us how good this show can be and how indispensable it is when making commentary.
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