Homer vs. Dignity
"Homer vs. Dignity" is the fifth episode of the The Simpsons’ twelfth season, first broadcast by Fox on November 26, 2000. In the episode, Mr. Burns hires a cash-strapped Homer as his "prank monkey", paying him to play pranks on others and humiliate himself in public.
The episode was written by Rob LaZebnik in his last writing credit for over eight years, until season 20's "Father Knows Worst". The episode features cultural references to The Magic Christian and The Birds. This episode has met with harsh reviews and is often rated high on lists of "Worst Simpsons Episodes Ever" due to its recycling of plotlines and the scene of a disguised Homer getting sexually assaulted by a panda at the zoo. It was rated PG in the UK.
The family take Bart to dinner at the Singing Sirloin restaurant (as seen in "Life on the Fast Lane") for getting his first "A" in an astronomy quiz. When asked how he achieved this rarity, Bart explains that he was in Mrs. Krabappel's class trying to force a hamster and a lizard to mate, but was forced to hide in the coat closet when he saw Krabappel and Principal Skinner making out, and needing to get his mind off this, he studied a chart of the Solar System on the closet wall. The family's feeling of pride does not last, though, as a waiter tells Homer that the credit card he has attempted to use for paying the meal has been rejected. The family responds by trying to run away, but are stopped and made to sing and entertain the other customers in the restaurant to work off their debt. At the end of the night, as the family are driving home, Bart and Lisa notice that the back seats and floor of the car are missing, and Homer explains that he had to sell them for gas money (which he spent on a novelty car horn). He and Marge subsequently learn from a visit to financial planner Lindsay Naegle that the Simpsons are having severe money woes.
In the hope of sorting out these problems, Homer decides to ask his boss, Mr. Burns, for a raise. Burns, meanwhile, has decided to spend a week looking for things to amuse himself while his assistant, Smithers, is in New Mexico performing in a Malibu Stacy musical that he wrote. When Burns tries unsuccessfully to use the salad bar at the cafeteria, Homer shows him how, then sums up his courage to ask for a raise. Burns is unimpressed and, wanting a "larf", orders Homer to throw a pudding at Lenny with the promise of four dollars. Homer does so, amusing Burns so much that he decides to make Homer his "Executive in Charge of Recreation" or, in his words, his "prank monkey".
Subsequently, Burns takes Homer around the streets of Springfield, making him perform embarrassing or cruel tasks such as eating a rare Spider-Man comic in front of Comic Book Guy and pretending to be a baby in a public toilet, and paying him for each of these tasks. Then, Burns takes him to the Springfield Zoo, where he makes him put on a panda suit and masquerade as a new female panda named "Sim-Sim" in the hope of shocking onlookers when they discover the disguise. It goes wrong for Homer, though, when first he is zapped by two animal handlers, before the zoo's male panda, Ping-Ping, becomes romantically interested with "Sim-Sim" and drags "her" into his cave. Finally, when Homer tries to escape, he ends up in the skunk exhibit and gets sprayed. It is then that Lisa discovers him.
Lisa convinces Homer to stop being a "prank monkey" as his dignity is more important than money. This he does, though Burns still gives him his payment for the panda task. When Homer asks Lisa what he should do with all the money he has earned, Lisa suggests donating it to needy children, so he spends it all on toys at Costington's Department Store. Mr. Costington is so impressed by this show of generosity that he suggests that Homer dress up as Santa Claus for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day parade, distributing the toys to the kids. During the parade, however, Burns shows up and tries to convince Homer, in his Santa costume, to pull a prank on the whole town. Homer flatly refuses, only to be tempted by Burns' promise of one million dollars. Santa is then seen throwing bucketfuls of fish guts into the crowd, which results in an attack by seagulls. A disappointed Lisa watches on, remarking, "Oh, dad, you sold your soul," when Homer, back in his normal clothes, appears alongside her; it turns out that Burns is now wearing the Santa costume. Homer thanks Lisa for giving him "the gift of dignity", and the family embrace before Burns throws fish guts at them.
The episode was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Neil Affleck, the last episode that he directed. It is Rob's first full written script with the first script being "G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad" from "Treehouse of Horror XI" and is based on The Magic Christian. There was originally a sub-plot with Smithers' musical. Rob brought some friends and his wife to the table read and during the third act was repeatedly ended and went badly making Larry Doyle laugh hysterically. There was another prank where Mr. Burns put a lottery ticket into a grave and everybody went digging for the lottery ticket. The episode includes a character named Rusty the Clown, a reference to Rusty Nails, the inspiration for Krusty the Clown.
There was originally going to be a running gag where Lenny keeps getting hit with random objects. There were many endings to the original script. One ending was Homer throwing pig's blood into the crowd and 50 years later showing Homer telling a group of children that this was the reason why Thanksgiving was renamed Bloodsfest. There was also another ending with gravy, but then changed to fish guts. They were also going to be hit by blood and laugh. The full version of the song "Sold Separately" was later released on The Simpsons ' soundtrack album, The Simpsons: Testify. "Homer vs. Dignity" was included on The Simpsons Christmas 2 DVD along with "Dude, Where's My Ranch?", "Skinner's Sense of Snow", and "'Tis the 15th Season".
The episode has received negative reviews from critics. Cindy White of IGN said that while the episode is universally panned (mostly due to the scene where Homer is (implicitly) raped by a panda at the zoo and the intentional recycling of other Simpsons episode premises, such as The Simpsons having financial trouble, Mr. Burns hiring Homer to be his assistant while Smithers is on vacation, Homer dressing up as Santa Claus, and Lisa worrying over someone selling their soul), it has funny throwaway jokes and sight gags to make up for it. Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide gave the episode a negative review saying "Bad sign number one: when a series plagiarizes itself. That occurs here when Mr. Burns states “There’s a new Mexico?”, a line that was a lot funnier...back in season five. Bad sign number two: a scene in which Homer gets raped by a panda. A couple of the pranks provide minor amusement, but overall, this is a weak episode. Judge Mac McEntire of the DVD Verdict said the episode's best moment was with Homer and the panda. Mike Scully claims that the episode was critically panned because not many people had seen The Magic Christian. In 2012, Johnny Dee of The Guardian wrote that many fans regard the panda rape scene as "a low in the show's history" and suggested the phrase "raped by a panda" should replace "jumped the shark" to imply that a popular series has declined in quality and is beyond recovery.
- LaZebnik, Rob (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. Dignity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Selman, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. Dignity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. Dignity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. Dignity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Simpsons: Testify". Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- White, Cindy (2009-08-18). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season DVD Review". tv,ign.com. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Jacobsson, Colin (2009-09-02). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (2000)". Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Mcentire, Mac (2009-09-09). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season". Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Dee, Johnny (2012-01-13). "The Simpsons at 500: what are your favourite episodes?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
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