The Springfield Connection
"The Springfield Connection" is the 23rd episode of the sixth season of The Simpsons, and originally aired May 7, 1995. After watching Snake Jailbird cheat Homer out of US$20 in a Three-card Monte con game, Marge successfully chases Snake and knocks him out with the lid of a garbage can. The experience of foiling a crime exhilarates her, and she decides to join the Springfield Police. Marge completes her police training and joins a beat as a police officer. She becomes disillusioned with her work after witnessing her friends committing crimes and being exposed to police corruption and resigns from the force.
The episode was written by Jonathan Collier with input from David Mirkin, and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode's story was inspired by executive producer Mike Reiss' wife, who had debated becoming a police officer. "The Springfield Connection" drew on influences from the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues and the 1971 film The French Connection, and includes references to McGruff the Crime Dog and the theme music to Star Wars.
Reviews in The Sydney Morning Herald and DVD Movie Guide were favorable, and the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide cited Marge's police training as the highlight of the episode. Contributors to compilation works analyzing The Simpsons from philosophical and cultural perspectives have cited and discussed the episode. Marge's experiences in the episode are compared to the character Rita from the stage comedy Educating Rita by Willy Russell in a literary analysis of the play.
Homer and Marge, on the way back from an orchestra performance, pass through a seedy part of town. Marge cautions Homer, but gets enticed by Snake's Three-card Monte game. Snake cheats Homer out of $20, and when Marge exposes the con, Snake takes off. Marge and Homer chase after him, but Homer is too out of shape to keep up. Marge manages to knock Snake unconscious using a garbage can lid. The incident gives her a sense of exhilaration, and she finds that her everyday routine is dull and boring. She decides to spice up her life by joining the Springfield Police Force. Homer is less than enthused about his wife becoming a cop, but she assures him that he will remain "man of the house". Marge reports for police recruit training and performs well in the various tests, eventually becoming part of the force.
On her first day, Chief Wiggum assigns Marge to Junkyville and Bumtown. On her beat, after encountering Lionel Hutz rummaging in a dumpster, she visits the Kwik-E-Mart, where Apu tries to bribe her. On her day off, she orders Bart to wear safety gear when skateboarding, which gets him beaten up by the bullies. Lisa tries to encourage her mom to "attack the roots of social problems" but Marge changes the subject with a McGriff the Crime Dog hand puppet. That night, Homer and his friends (Lenny, Carl, Moe, Barney, and Herman) are playing poker. Marge comes in and tells them gambling is illegal, and Homer's friends beat a hasty retreat.
Marge becomes unenthusiastic about her job, as everyone seems to be breaking the law - especially Homer, who has parked illegally and is buying liquor for the underage bullies. Marge writes Homer a ticket, and when he teases Marge, she arrests him. When Homer gets home, he finds his friend Herman running a jean-counterfeiting operation in the Simpson's garage (referred to throughout the episode as a "car hole"). As Herman and his cronies are about to beat him up, Marge bursts in. As she is cuffing the rest of the crooks, Herman takes Homer hostage and runs to Bart's tree house, with Marge in hot pursuit. Herman tries to escape using a pair of knock-off jeans as a rope, but they rip and he falls to the ground. Wiggum informs Marge that they can't hold Herman due to lack of evidence, claiming the jeans "mysteriously disappeared" (in fact, the cops are wearing them). Marge gets mad about the obvious corruption on the force and quits. After a hearty laugh, Wiggum accepts her resignation.
"The Springfield Connection" was written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Mark Kirkland. According to Collier, the inspiration for the episode was former Simpsons executive producer Mike Reiss' wife. At one point, she had seriously decided that she wanted to become a police officer but it did not happen. The joke where the police officers laugh at Marge for a long time was pitched by David Mirkin and features a "crazy twist" at the end where Wiggum says "welcome aboard." Mirkin liked the joke so much that he repeated it again at the end of the episode. Marge uses a "McGriff the crime dog" hand puppet who says "Help me bite crime". The hand puppet is a homage to McGruff the Crime Dog – the producers had wanted to use the real McGruff, but could not get permission to use the character. The idea to have a counterfeit jeans ring was pitched because at the time there had been an explosion in the jeans market, and David Mirkin thought it was right to satirize it.
When the Korean animators were animating the sequence with Marge in the gun training course, they did not know how to correctly animate the "shell com[ing] out of the gun" because guns were illegal in Korea. They had to consult with the American animators, who advised them to watch movies so they could properly animate the guns. The original design for Marge's police uniform had Marge's hair standing up (as it normally is) with the hat on top. Director Mark Kirkland found that it made for awkward staging in scenes, so they altered the design to have her hair pulled down. David Mirkin later stated that if the design had been used, he would have asked for it to be changed because they were trying to depict Marge as a serious cop.
The title, as well as Herman's illegal activities, are references to the 1971 film The French Connection. The couch gag, a parody of the gun barrel sequence in the James Bond films shows some similarities to that of Sean Connery's own gunbarrel sequences. Several references are made to the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues: the briefing scene at the police station is similar and the background and end credits music, are parodies of the show's theme. Marge appears on an episode of COPS, and McGriff the dog is a reference to McGruff the Crime Dog, a US police public relations figure. Additionally, Marge's training sequences features homages to Police Academy (1984) and Speed (1994). The Springfield Pops play the theme to the Star Wars films at an outdoor venue attended by Homer and Marge, and Homer mistakenly believes that the theme's composer John Williams is dead, complaining: "Laser effects, mirrored balls—John Williams must be rolling around in his grave!".
Kurt M. Koenigsberger analyzes Homer's comments about the Springfield Pops rendition of the Star Wars theme in Koenigsberger's piece: "Commodity Culture and Its Discontents: Mr. Bennett, Bart Simpson, and the Rhetoric of Modernism" published in the compilation work Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture edited by John Alberti. Koenigsberger comments: "The joke in this opening scene involves a confusion of high and popular artistic production: Marge treats the Springfield Pops as 'culture' and expects that the usually boorish Homer will need to be drawn into the spectacle." However, Koenigsberger notes that Homer actually regards Star Wars as a "classic", implying that a "classic" work must have a musical composer that is deceased, and be devoid of light-shows or glitter balls. Koenigsberger uses this example to discuss Homer's application of "a strategy characteristic of literary modernism".
In their book Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Rebecca Mahon and Nick Chedra cite Marge's desire to "enter the world" as an example of their topic called "Into the World". Mahon and Chedra note: "Comedy and parody are frequently used in the episode in order to convey the frustrations Marge is forced to deal with — whether these are based around the corruption of her colleagues, the music used on occasion which parodies former police shows, or even the scene where Marge is forced to arrest her husband." The authors compare Marge's experiences to those of the character Rita from the stage comedy Educating Rita by Willy Russell, commenting that both women later regret the decision to "move into the world".
In the compilation book The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer edited by William Irwin, Mark T. Conard and Aeon J. Skoble, contributors Gerald J. Erion and Joseph A. Zeccardi cite the episode as an example in their piece titled: "Marge's Moral Motivation". Erion and Zeccardi assert that Marge has "virtuous personality traits" which they compare to Aristotle, commenting: "Whether breaking up a counterfeit jeans ring run out of her garage in "The Springfield Connection," escaping a cult commune in "The Joy of Sect," or standing up to a Poe-ssessed "Treehouse of Horror," Marge is rarely short on courage." They also note that "..Marge's crime-stopping vigilantism in "The Springfield Connection" and her dangerous escape from the Movementarian commune in "The Joy of Sect" demonstrate that she is genuinely brave, but not foolhardy."
In its original broadcast, "The Springfield Connection" finished 58th in ratings for the week of May 1–7, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 7.9. It was the 4th highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Beverly Hills, 90210, The X-Files and Melrose Place.
Robin Oliver rates the episode "thumbs up" in a review in The Sydney Morning Herald, where she says of The Simpsons series: "this encouragingly funny show knows how to tug at the heartstrings". Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood comment on the episode in their book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide: "..the highlight of this episode has to be Marge's training, especially her sharpshooting on the firing range." In a review of the sixth season of The Simpsons, Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide writes that the episode surpasses the quality of the previous "'Round Springfield": "After the dull '’Round', Season Six rebounds with the pretty good 'Connection'. I can’t quite figure out how Marge stays in such good shape, but her escapades as a cop are funny, and the episode works best when she arrests Homer. I especially like his refusal to remain silent."
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 174.
- Martyn & Wood 2000
- Mirkin, David. (2005). Commentary for "The Springfield Connection", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Collier, Jonathan. (2005). Commentary for "The Springfield Connection", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Choron, Sandra (2005). Planet Dog: A Doglopedia. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 57. ISBN 0-618-51752-9.
- Kirkland, Mark. (2005). Commentary for "The Springfield Connection", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Alberti 2004, pp. 29–30
- Mahon & Chedra 2003, pp. 109–111
- Irwin, Skoble & Conrad 2001, pp. 48–49
- "How they rate". St. Petersburg Times. May 12, 1995. p. 15.
- Oliver, Robin (September 25, 1995). "Thumbs". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). p. 18, Section: The Guide.
- Jacobson, Colin (August 15, 2005). "The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season (1994)". DVD Movie Guide (www.dvdmg.com). Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- Alberti, John (2004). Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Wayne State University Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 0-8143-2849-0.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Irwin, William; Skoble, Aeon J.; Conrad, Mark T. (2001). The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. Open Court Publishing. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0-8126-9433-3.
- Mahon, Rebecca; Chedra, Nick (2003). Educating Rita by Willy Russell: HSC Standard English. Module C: Texts and Society. Elective: Into the World. Pascal Press. pp. 109–111. ISBN 1-74125-036-6.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0495-2.
- Henry, Matthew (March 7, 2007). ""Don't Ask me, I'm Just a Girl": Feminism, Female Identity, and The Simpsons". The Journal of Popular Culture (Blackwell Publishing) 40 (2): 272–303. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00379.x.
- Woodcock, Pete (June 2008). "Gender, Politicians and Public Health: Using The Simpsons to Teach Politics". European Political Science (Palgrave Macmillan) 7 (2): 153–164. doi:10.1057/eps.2008.5.
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