Itchy & Scratchy & Marge
"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" is the ninth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 20, 1990. In the episode, which is a satire of censorship issues, Maggie attacks Homer with a mallet and Marge blames The Itchy & Scratchy Show for Maggie's actions. It was written by John Swartzwelder and was the first episode to be directed by Jim Reardon. Alex Rocco makes his first of three guest appearances as Roger Meyers, Jr.
Homer clumsily attempts to build Marge a spice rack. While he is doing so, Maggie sneaks up behind Homer and hits him on the head with a mallet, similar to the famed stabbing scene in the movie Psycho. Marge is initially clueless as to what would motivate Maggie to do such a deed, but then notices that, when Maggie sees an episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show, a cartoon which is known for its violence, she mimics its content. As a result, Marge immediately blames the makers of the show for Maggie's actions and bans Bart and Lisa from watching the show, but the two still manage to watch Itchy & Scratchy at their friends' houses. Marge writes a letter to the producers of the show asking them to tone down their violence, but in response, Roger Meyers, Jr.—the chairman of Itchy & Scratchy International—writes a letter to Marge, telling her one-person can not make a difference and calls her a "screwball". In response, Marge decides to "show what one screwball can do".
Marge forms "Springfieldians for Nonviolence, Understanding, and Helping" (SNUH as acronym), and forces the family to picket outside the Itchy & Scratchy Studios. Marge's protest gains momentum and soon more people join the group and even start to picket The Krusty the Clown Show, on which Itchy & Scratchy is shown. Marge appears on Kent Brockman's show, Smartline where she confronts Roger Meyers over the violence and suggests that concerned parents send letters to Meyers. Many angry letters are sent to the Studio and Roger Meyers concedes defeat, and agrees to eliminate violence in Itchy & Scratchy. Eventually, a new short in which Itchy & Scratchy sit on a porch drinking lemonade airs, but Bart, Lisa, and other kids across Springfield reject the cleaned-up show. A lengthy montage follows, in which the children of Springfield go outside and engage in various wholesome activities and that night Bart and Lisa brag about their various outdoor activities while Marge listens happily.
Meanwhile, Michelangelo's David goes on a coast-to-coast tour of the United States, and Springfield is one of its scheduled destinations. The members of SNUH try to urge Marge to protest the sculpture, insisting that it is offensive and unsuitable. However, Marge, being an artist herself, reveals that she believes that the sculpture is a masterpiece. While appearing on Smartline, Marge admits that it is wrong to censor one form of art but not another, and sadly concludes that while one person can make a difference, at the end of the day they probably should not. Freed from public protest, Itchy & Scratchy immediately returns to its old form and Springfield's children abandon their wholesome activities and return to spending every day indoors watching the violent Itchy & Scratchy cartoons. Homer and Marge go to see David and Marge expresses her disappointment that the kids are at home watching "a cat and mouse disembowel each other" rather than seeing the sculpture. She cheers up when Homer tells her that the school will be forcing them to see the sculpture on a school trip.
"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" is an acclaimed episode which dealt with censorship issues and allowed the writers to have a lot of Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, which many fans had been clamoring for. The episode was written by John Swartzwelder, who loved Itchy & Scratchy and wrote several episodes that have them at the center. The episode was partially inspired by Terry Rakolta, who protested the Fox network over the show Married... with Children. For the episode, which handles a large issue, the writers tried not to have a point of view and looked at both sides, despite what the writers personally felt. During the original airing of the episode, the Fox satellite blew out and the entire West coast of the United States missed the first act of the episode.
This was the first episode directed by Jim Reardon, who had previously made a student film called "Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown" which was very violent and the experience served him well for this episode. There are several characters who work at I&S studios who are caricatures of real people: the cartoonist who draws the Marge/Squirrel is based on Eddie Fitzgerald, who worked at Filmation and the three people with Meyers when he is asking Marge for suggestions are caricatures of Rich Moore, David Silverman and Wes Archer.
Alex Rocco makes his first of three appearances as Roger Meyers. Many people behind The Simpsons were huge fans of The Godfather and Jim Reardon looked for a way to shoot him in the eye as a reference to Rocco's character, Moe Greene.
The long montage of the Kids of Springfield playing was directed by Bob Anderson and is making a satirical point by saying the opposite of what the writers believed. The segment was written by John Swartzwelder and the idea of using Beethoven's 6th Symphony was in the original script. James L. Brooks had wanted the episode to end with the montage, but the writers disagreed. Roger Meyers, Jr. makes his first appearance in this episode, as does Sideshow Mel, although he does not have any lines until the later episode "Black Widower".
The scene where Maggie hits Homer over the head with a mallet is an extensive parody of the shower scene from Psycho, in which the music and camera angles are almost identical. The music heard while the children play outside is the first movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, and is similar to a segment of the Disney film Fantasia.
In its original broadcast, "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" was watched by 22.2 million viewers, finishing 34th in ratings for the week of December 17–23, 1990 with a Nielsen rating of 12.9. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, beating Married... with Children. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide praised the episode, stating that "Homer's doomed attempt to build a spice rack is only the start of another great episode, which works as a superb debate about television violence and politically inspired censorship." As well as noting that "the ending is especially poignant, as the pedagogues of Springfield swoop on Michelangelo's David as an example of filth and degradation". Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club praised the episode for its satire. He wrote, "[The episode] contains one of my favorite sequences not just in The Simpsons but in television as a whole. In it, a censorship-happy Marge has neutered Itchy & Scratchy to the point where the children of Springfield are moved to do the unthinkable: stop watching television. [...] A dystopia instantly becomes a small-town paradise, a happy realm of frolicking children and sunny innocence as kids wake up from a TV fog and embrace life's rich pageantry. It’s a lovely, lyrical, even beautiful sequence even if it’s light on gags. It presents, then ruthlessly yanks back, an alternate universe Springfield ruled by dewy innocence rather than greed and mob mentality." He also felt that the episode "got to make a relevant point in line with writer John Swartzwelder’s libertarianism without sacrificing the momentum of the episode or losing track of the characters and turning them into mere sounding boards for their creator’s beliefs."
Empire named the Psycho parody as the second best film parody in the show. "The best throwaway gags blindside the unsuspecting viewer in episodes that are nominally about something else [...] Hitchcock is ripped off more than any other director but this is the most lovingly rendered reference." The Psycho parody was named the 22nd greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". BBC. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
- Jean, Al (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reardon, Jim (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Brian Donlon (December 28, 1990). "NIELSENS; Special help in ABC win". USA Today. p. 03.D.
- Hastings, Deborah (December 29, 1990). "Dolly Parton special gives ABC a Christmas gift". St. Petersburg Times. p. 5D.
- Rabin, Nathan (2010-11-07). "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- Colin Kennedy. "The Ten Best Movie Gags In The Simpsons", Empire, September 2004, p. 76
- Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
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