My Sister, My Sitter
"My Sister, My Sitter" is the seventeenth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 2, 1997. In the episode, Marge and Homer go to a party and leave Lisa to babysit Bart. Being unhappy with this, Bart does everything he can to annoy Lisa. Eventually, Bart becomes injured and Lisa has to find a way to get him medical attention without losing her reputation as a good babysitter.
The episode was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Jim Reardon. The script was written to focus on the relationship between Bart and Lisa and the episode has further been used to discuss the difficulties in letting children babysit themselves. The episode received mostly positive reviews.
Inspired by "The Babysitter Twins" books, Lisa decides to become a babysitter. However, because of her age, no one takes her seriously. One day, Ned states that Maude has been taken hostage in Lebanon and he must leave to get her released and he agrees to let Lisa babysit Rod and Todd. After a relatively uneventful night, Ned puts out the good word for Lisa, who experiences a business boom.
Meanwhile, the Springfield Squidport re-opens and throws a gala. Marge and Homer decide to go and they leave Lisa to babysit Bart and Maggie. Bart is insulted by the fact that his younger sister is going to be babysitting him. To make things difficult, Bart torments her by, among other things, ordering a giant sub, hiring Krusty for a bachelor party, dialling 9-1-1, asking them to perform a "sisterectomy", and feeding Maggie coffee ice cream for dinner. Eventually, Lisa angrily jumps at Bart, but misses, triggering him to fall backwards down the stairs, dislocating his arm, and forming a large bump on his head. Bart then realizes that if Lisa does not take him to the hospital she will not be able to babysit anymore. To make his condition worse, Bart locks himself in his room and hits his head on the wall "to make the lump bigger", then falls unconscious.
Lisa tries to call Dr. Hibbert, but thinks better of it when she realizes that her reputation as a good babysitter will be ruined. She then tries to take an unconscious Bart and hyperactive Maggie to Dr. Nick Riviera's clinic. There is a long line in the waiting room, and Lisa fails to get an appointment. She finally decides to take Bart and Maggie on foot instead of in an ambulance to the hospital. After a while, Bart falls down a cliff and into a muddy river right in front of the crowded Squidport. Everyone assumes that Lisa murdered Bart and that she is on drugs, and is about to drown Maggie. The next day, Bart gets treatment and apologizes to Lisa for jerking her up and ruining her babysitting business. She forgives him, but is still distraught that her reputation as a babysitter is now ruined, although she receives a few requests from Flanders and Dr. Hibbert (who now understands the incident) later on due to lack of time to spend with their children which Lisa is delighted.
Production and themes
The episode was directed by Jim Reardon and written by Dan Greaney. Like several earlier episodes, "My Sister, My Sitter" deals with the relationship between Bart and Lisa. Greaney specializes in writing Bart and Lisa episodes from the perspective of a kid. Elaine E Sutherland, who is a member of the Law Society of Scotland's Family Law Sub-Committee and Professor of Child and Family Law at the Law School, Stirling University, used the episode to describe the potential problems of letting one of your kids babysit the rest. While one child may be mature enough to babysit, it is not certain that the other kids accept the babysitters authority. According to Alan S. Brown and Chris Logan, the writers of the book The Psychology of the Simpsons: D’oh!, the episode is an example of how feminine anger rarely solves the problem on The Simpsons. “Here, Lisa’s rage and ongoing frustration contribute to her difficulty in making good decisions about what to do with her emotion,” they write. Keeping with the babysitter theme, there are cultural references to The Baby-Sitters Club: Lisa reads book #14 - The Formula Formula, while Janey is on book #20 - The President's Baby Is Missing.
The idea of revamping the waterfront came from cities like Baltimore, who were always trying to fix formerly horrible places. Chris Turner, the author of the book Planet Simpson, writes about the scene at the Squidport: ”The “satirical” setting seems almost documentary”. The Squidport is a local revitalization project, which recast a historic industrial area as a pedestrian mall. He calls this an example of how “hyper-consumer culture of Springfield moves front and center” On the waterfront, Rainier Wolfcastle opens a restaurant called "Planet Hype". This is a parody of the international theme restaurant franchise Planet Hollywood. Wolfcastle is a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who launched Planet Hollywood along with Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in 1991. According to Matt Groening, the show had written an entire episode around Planet Hollywood, which featured the voices of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis as The Three Stooges type of characters. The episode was never animated, because it turned out that it was only the publicist of Planet Hollywood's idea and the actors did not want to participate.
In its original broadcast, "My Sister, My Sitter" finished 47th in ratings in a tie with Melrose Place for the week of February 24 - March 2, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 9.0, equivalent to approximately 8.7 million viewing households. It was the fifth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "a clever episode, if a little disjointed — the two stories don't gel as well as normal." Tim Raynor of DVDTown.com said that the episode "is full of the usual, fun antics that you would expect from Bart or any of the other dumb Simpsons." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson said that "the segments in which Lisa babysits the various kids in town are a delight" and that the episode "mixes wacky moments with reality as it places Lisa in a logical position. Her conflict with Bart creates realism and also brings out the comedy."
- "My Sister, My Sitter". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "My Sister, My Sitter". BBC. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). Commentary for "My Sister, My Sitter". The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Sutherland, Elaine (August 11, 2011). "Elaine Sutherland: A parent's guide to choosing who looks after baby". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Brown, Alan; Chris Logan (2006). The Psychology of The Simpsons. pp. 114–115. ISBN 1-932100-70-9.
- Turner 2004, p. 106.
- Turner 2004, p. 385.
- Gross, Daniel (August 11, 2003). "Arnold's Bad Business". Slate. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Groening, Matt (2006). Commentary for "My Sister, My Sitter". The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Prime-time ratings". The Orange County Register. March 5, 1997. p. F02.
- Raynor, Tim (August 21, 2006). "Simpsons, The: The Complete 8th Season (DVD)". DVDTown.com. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
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