This week we go back into the well for a Christmas themed episode only The Simpsons can deliver. Season 11’s Grift of the Magi has the benefit of being both hilarious but also conscious of the story that its trying to tell.
In Grift, Bart has to wear a butt cast after falling off the bed. Springfield elementary is not wheelchair accessible so Fat Tony steps in and basically does the work before Skinner can properly object. Unfortunately, all the ramps were made with bread sticks and the whole things falls apart. With the school in massive debt Skinner shuts it down but almost a day later its re-opened by Kid First Industries. They engage the kids by figuring out their likes and dislikes when it comes to their toys. Lisa eventually discovers this but not before the new toy, Funzo, is released to massive success.
While Funzo is a hit, it’s also been programmed to eliminate the competition by destroying other nearby toys. Disturbed by this, and Kid First’s indifference, Lisa enlists Bart and Homer to steal all the Funzo’s in town. To do this the kids pose as carolers going door to door to distract the people while Homer breaks in and steals the toy. The trio are successful in burning the toys but not before Gary Coleman, the Kid First security, shows up to investigate. The four hash out their differences overnight and in the morning return home to a nice Christmas dinner.
So many good things about this episode. What really stands out for me though is the way they dealt with the whole capitalist side of Christmas. At the time, toys like Furby and Tickle Me Elmo were all the rage and The Simpsons really did a good job of capturing that frenzy. A great scene is when Lenny yells to the waiting mob outside the mall “Hey, I’m not waiting till the store opens” as he breaks the glass with a giant candy cane. This is immediately followed by the Kid First corporate exec’s in a jacuzzi wacthing the madness unfold. One of them says “I’d still sleep easier if I saw some trampling,” and then the video cuts to Moe being stomped and yelling “who wears cleats to the store.”
I particularly enjoyed how the plot was ‘resolved’ at the end by the Simpsons and Gary Coleman having a long discussion about the corporate hijacking of Christmas. The following morning Lisa summarizes their sound conclusion when she says, “let’s just agree that the commercialization of Christmas is at best a mixed blessing.”
Aside from that there were quite a few gems. Bart’s butt cast is pretty silly, but I do like the family laughing at hearing Dr. Hibbet say ‘coccyx’ (even Marge), and the medical interns vigorously taking notes staring at Bart’s ass. Also great is how the name that Lisa gives off the top of her head ultimately becomes the name of the toy. Shows just how little thought the company is willing to put into these things. There’s even a role reversal of Lisa having to write on the chalkboard as punishment for doing math in class. Bart eats it up: “Lisa’s in trouble. The ironing is delicious.” “The word is ‘irony’.” “Huh?”
Even Krusty gets in on the action with a quote that deserves to be read in its entirety: “Well, folks, that’s the end of Krusty’s Nondenominational Holiday Funfest. I want to thank my guests: Tea Leoni, Beck, the Dixie Chicks, … and Patrick Ewing as the genie. So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-yop Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from my god: our sponsor.”
Love the ridiculous accessories you can get for Funzo: Funzo’s dream fortress, Funzo’s lower back pain chair, Funzo’s European Voltage converter. The aggressive marketing campaign was also to the point: “Funzo! Funzo! Funzo! If you don’t have Funzo, you’re nothin’!”
So a solid episode from season 11 that was both funny and kind of thought provoking. Make sure to not go crazy like the mob at Springfield Mall and have yourselves a wonderful Christmas season!