The Simpsons: Lisa on Ice
(S06E08) Me fail English? That's unpossible! -Ralph Wiggum
I have a friend who hates what he calls "Lisa episodes" of The Simpsons. It's a good-natured disagreement he and I have had for a long time, because I absolutely love "Lisa episodes." Almost every story ever written has a character that most reflects the writer's own personality, and I think Lisa is, to many of The Simpsons writers, exactly that character. She's the quiet, beleaguered outcast cursed to live in a completely illogical world; the only one who can clearly see the jive bullsh*t that is the guiding ethos of those around her.
A school assembly is held at the beginning of the episode, and Lisa learns she's failing gym. Her teacher says she won't fail Lisa as long as Lisa takes up a sport outside of school. After failed attempts at basketball and volleyball, she joins a rival hockey team opposite Bart's team when it's revealed she has a natural talent as a goalie. Milhouse, on the other hand, does not, even after being tied to the goal.
Let me rewind a moment here to talk about the opening segment of the episode, a funny satire on local news as "entertainment" rather than "news." This kind of hack journalism has annoyed me for years, and watching Kent Brockman talk about an EXPLOSION (in the price of lumber) and a death toll (which is zero) from a blizzard that hasn't even hit yet (and never does) was very funny, and also kind of depressing since that's still the preferred approach of most news stations and networks.
Okay, back to the episode, which was, ultimately, a skewering of parents who become too involved in their kids' sports and turn what should be a lesson in teamwork, trying your hardest, and losing gracefully into a kind of Roman Coliseum where grown adults live out violent fantasies and their own failed ambitions through their children. Homer is an absolute jerk in this episode, taunting his kids when they lose and praising them when they win and humiliate their sibling. This only fuels the rivalry between Bart and Lisa, but as usually, they learn something about being human while Homer, well, doesn't.
But it's not just Homer. Marge, characteristically so, tries to remain diplomatic, but even she starts screaming for blood when Bart is tripped by an opposing player. Lisa also becomes an animal, at one point screaming for someone to hack Ralph Wiggum's bone after he loses his shin guard. Having Bart and Lisa skate off arm in arm while the crowd of parents go ballistic and tear the place apart was the perfect ending to an episode that quite accurately touched on all the problems that can arise when parents forget what it was like to play just for the sake of having fun.
Some other moments I liked:
- Lisa's daydream about being sent to Monster Island rather than being elected President because she failed gym
- Marge hoarding Milhouse's teeth for reasons known only to her
- A montage in which Bart answers every question in class, but answers them wrong