Diana read and enjoyed the book Gone Girl, and we planned to watch the movie without recasting it for Flim Springfield, but when the credits started to roll, we couldn’t help ourselves. We were split on our opinion of the movie – Diana enjoys entertainment based around awful things happening, but Jay found Gone Girl a riveting yet unpleasant viewing experience. Nevertheless, this thing practically recast itself.
One thing The Simpsons hasn’t done much with, or maybe can’t do, is real cruelty. I’m not talking about the kind of banal meanness served up by Patty & Selma, Homer’s thoughtlessness, or Krusty’s ego, even as greedy as Mr. Burns is he’s shown slivers of humanity. No one in The Simpson Universe is a sociopath, let alone clever or focused enough to concoct an elaborate plan designed to destroy someone’s life.
Well, that’s not exactly true . . . In BLACK WIDOWER, his second appearance, Sideshow Bob did map out a pretty wicked scheme to hurt the Simpsons by murdering Selma. If everything had gone his way Bob would’ve walked away sated and free to wallow in his own crapulence*. He doesn’t get away, though, because The Simpsons exist in a universe ruled by God’s Law—the law of a five fingered God! The Simpsons is a moral universe where the bad are punished and the good … well, the good aren’t exactly rewarded, but they do at least skate by, avoiding the worst the world has to dish out.
Stark, abject, black as the pits of hell nasty just can’t survive in that environment. Over time, Sideshow Bob has mellowed, Mr. Burns is kept in check by Smithers, Selma has shown occasional sympathy for Homer. Homer, unfortunately, has only gotten worse, but continues to walk a fine line on the positive side thanks to his redeeming love for Marge.
One-off characters: Frank Grimes, Hank Scorpio, and Mindy have the best chance to exhibit real extremes of personality, be they good, evil, or both. The Simpsons writers are so adept at modulating characteristics that depending on how you look at the special guest antagonists a lot of those characters could be good or bad depending on your point of view. Jessica Lovejoy, though, is possibly the most irredeemable character they’ve ever created—outside of Poochie or Gil—someone you just hate and can’t wait for justice to be served to. Except in her case, like Amy Dunne in GONE GIRL, comeuppance never comes. It’s maddening and brilliant.
*Special note about the episode BLACK WIDOWER. This has bothered me for a long time. You know the plot of this episode: Bob’s first comeback appearance, he’s “reformed” but actually gaslighting Selma into marrying him. Selma and Bob go away on their honeymoon (where Bob has planned to murder his bride). Selma videotapes their arrival and even her invitation for Bob to (a-hem)… perform the wedding rites. Marge comments how sweet that is and there’s a jump cut to Bob scrubbing himself off post-coital. At the Simpson home, at some point after this (the same time?), Bart realizes Bob’s plan by watching that same videotape Selma made and sent to them. He rallies the family, the police, and saves his aunt.
Can it be explained how this tape arrives at the Simpson home in time for the family to watch it, and get to the hotel in time to save Selma? By the way these scenes are designed, it’s obvious that the plan is to kill Selma on the same night they arrive at the resort. It would be possible if this were happening over Skype, which sadly was still 10 years away from being invented. There’s no time for the tape to have been packaged and sent, let alone arrived.
This doesn’t take away from the mystery or fun of the episode to me, and if it was an intentional gaffe, it was still a really subtle and well done one. But I have been wondering for ages if Chasten, Simon, and Vitti knew what they were doing and were trying to sneak one by the audience.
Whew!, I’ve been wanting to get this into Simpson-Fandom consciousness for ages.
Thank you for reading.