Four Great Women and a Manicure
"Four Great Women and a Manicure" is the twentieth episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons. First broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on May 10, 2009, it was the second Simpsons episode (after "Simpsons Bible Stories") to have four acts instead of the usual three. The episode tells four tales of famous women featuring Simpsons characters in various roles: Selma as Queen Elizabeth I, Lisa as Snow White, Marge as Lady Macbeth and Maggie as Howard Roark from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.
Jodie Foster performs the voice of Maggie Simpson. The title is a reference to the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral. The episode was the lowest-rated episode in terms of viewers in the show's history at the time, though it has since been surpassed. It is the only episode in the history of the show in which Bart Simpson is not seen or mentioned (not counting the opening credits). It is also the second episode (after "Mona Leaves-a") to first air on Mother's Day and deal with women or mothers.
Queen Elizabeth I
Various royal suitors wish to win the hand of Queen Elizabeth, including a flamboyant King Julio of Spain. The Queen rejects his advances and King Julio vows revenge on England, summoning the Spanish Armada. Meanwhile, Walter Raleigh, played by Homer, falls for Queen Elizabeth's Lady in Waiting, played by Marge.
When Elizabeth catches the two making out, she sentences them to execution. They are saved at the last minute when Moe dashes in, reporting the arrival of the Spanish Armada. Homer leads an English naval offense against the Armada, defeating them by accidentally setting the lone English warship on fire, which then spreads to the entire Spanish fleet. Queen Elizabeth knights him and then proclaims, "I don't need a man, for I have England" (with Moe sarcastically quipping, "Yeah, you keep telling yourself that").
In the second tale, Lisa tells the story of Snow White, with herself in the title role.
Her version features the dwarves Crabby (Moe), Drunky (Barney), Hungry (Homer), Greedy (Mr. Burns), Lenny (Lenny), Kearney (Kearney) and Doc (...tor Hibbert), following the appearance of the Blue-Haired Lawyer who tells Lisa that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been copyrighted by the Walt Disney Corporation, prompting Lisa to change the characters to avoid being sued. When the wicked queen learns from her magic HD television that Snow White is fairer than she is, she dispatches her huntsman (Groundskeeper Willie) to murder the young maiden. However, Willie the huntsman cannot bring himself to cut out her heart (or to cut out a pig's heart or to cut a heart out of construction paper) and Snow White runs away to the forest, seeking shelter in the dwarves' cottage. She keeps house for them while they work in the mines but the wicked queen, disguised as an old woman, physically forces Snow White to eat a poisoned apple. She escapes the dwarves, only to be brutally lynched by an angry group of woodland animals. In Lisa's version, Snow White doesn't need a man to wake her but is brought back to life by a female doctor.
In the third tale, Marge relates a story of ruthless ambition, embodied by Lady Macbeth.
Marge (parodying Lady Macbeth) is frustrated with everything. Not only does she have to clean the costumes worn by the other actors, but also Homer does not have the title role in a Springfield production of Macbeth and instead plays a tree. She convinces him to murder the lead actor, Sideshow Mel. Homer follows her command and then assumes the role of Macbeth. However, his performance receives unfavorable reviews, even compared with other actors with no lines. Furious, Marge orders Homer to continue his killing spree until he is the only actor left.
While scrubbing the blood from the costumes, Marge is visited by the angry spirits of the actors she has had murdered. She tries to put the blame on Homer, but they refuse to believe her. The spirits are well aware that he was a mere puppet in Marge's plans and level their anger at her. Finally, they kill Marge by causing a fright-induced heart attack in revenge. In her memory (or rather, by her spirit force, since she apparently has not learned her lesson or anything from the experience), Homer performs a stirring soliloquy in the empty theater. Marge's ghost appears in the audience and raves that he has finally given a great performance. She is overjoyed and urges him to appear in more Shakespearean plays by tossing scripts in front of him. However much to her chagrin, Homer decides to kill himself so he doesn't have to audition any more. In his ghost form, a pleased Homer tells her off that auditioning for those plays would be a real tragedy for him and is free to be lazy. A frustrated Marge is forced to learn her lesson the hard way when she realizes that she has to spend the rest of eternity with him.
Maggie's architectural brilliance is squashed by an oppressive pre-school teacher (Ellsworth Toohey) who encourages only conformity. She builds several famous landmarks (such as The Taj Mahal in India and The Bird's Nest in Beijing, China) out of blocks and other toys, all of which are destroyed by Toohey (to the strains of Beethoven's 9th symphony, 2nd movement), who disapproves of the superiority of her creations over those of the other children. During a Parents' Day at Mediocri-Tots Day Care Center, Maggie dazzles everyone with her rendition of the Empire State Building and ends up on trial for expressing herself. During the trial, Maggie (voiced by Jodie Foster) defends herself by stating that the creative people of her time have never compromised their talent for the sake of others and neither will she. Years later, Maggie is shown as a successful architect who opens a daycare center dedicated to letting babies express themselves freely.
This episode was watched by 5.16 million viewers, making it not only the least watched episode of the twentieth season but also the third least watched in the series' history (after "The Great Simpsina" and "Million Dollar Maybe"). It was, however, the second most watched show of the night on Fox after Family Guy.
Steve Heisler of The A.V. Club graded the episode a "C-", stating "[...] tonight's classically themed outing didn't fare very well, starting with the story of one of the Bouvier sisters as Queen Elizabeth—an episode segment that clocked in at just over four minutes, far too short a time to do anything lasting... or funny. The longest stretch came near the end, in the form of an extended riff on MacBeth involving Homer killing a ton of people. But aside from the occasional random line or two, it was pretty much a boring retelling of the tale, with Simpsons characters subbing in for Shakespearean ones. So I guess the question is: How much pleasure is there to milk from seeing familiar yellow people reenact parts of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead? Given the show's shaky streak lately, not nearly enough."
- "May is Massive on Fox". FoxFlash. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
- Ratings: Four Great Women and Another All Time Low![dead link]
- Leo, Alex (6/11/09). "Maggie Speaks! The Littlest Simpson Says Her First Sentence While Acting Out "The Fountainhead" (VIDEO)". Huffington Post.
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- Heisler, Steve (2009-05-11). ""Back In Time"/"Four Great Women And A Manicure"/"Manger Baby Einstein"/"Three Kings"/"Daddy Queerest"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-01-24.