The President Wore Pearls
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|"The President Wore Pearls"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Directed by||Mike B. Anderson|
|Written by||Dana Gould|
|Original air date||November 16, 2003|
|Couch gag||The shutter click of a camera can be heard as an undeveloped Polaroid photo floats to the couch and develops into the Simpsons family.|
|Commentary||James L. Brooks
Mike B. Anderson
Michael Moore as himself
"The President Wore Pearls" is the third episode of The Simpsons' fifteenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 16, 2003. The episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Music (by Alf Clausen) And Lyrics (by Dana Gould).
Springfield Elementary holds a casino night as a fundraiser, the brainchild of student body president Martin Prince (elected such in "Lisa's Substitute"). Homer wins big, but when Martin points out that his winnings can only be redeemed for cafeteria scrip and not real money, the angry casino patrons riot. After the chaos has cleared, Principal Skinner tells Martin he must resign as president. An election for a new president is announced, and Lisa signs up. However, initially popular Nelson Muntz is favored to win. During a debate in the school auditorium, she sings a song ("Vote For a Winner", a parody of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina") about how she will fight for student rights, winning them over.
Lisa easily wins the election. Worried by her determination and popularity, the faculty discusses how to control her. Following Mrs. Krabappel's suggestion that a woman's weakness is vanity, the school faculty tells Lisa that as president, she deserves a more glamorous look. Another song is sung ("I Am Their Queen", a spoof of "Rainbow High") as the teachers give Lisa a makeover into a fashionable Eva Perón lookalike. She is initially resistant, but gives in since she reasons she will still be able to fight for the kids. The students love the new Lisa more than ever, but the faculty use her as a scapegoat for dropping music, gym, and art from the curriculum to save on the budget ("Skinner's Evil Plan"). Facing an outraged student body, Lisa realizes that she has been used by the teaching staff and had been seduced by glamor and power ("A Tango Takes Two"). After resigning as president, Lisa goes back to her old red dress and spiky hair, and leads the students in a strike.
The students leave school in protest and Michael Moore (voicing himself) shows up to take their side, stating that children who do not receive music, gym and art are more likely to become unemployed and end up in one of his movies. The police arrive at the school to handle the students with child-size batons, but Lisa soon convinces the police to take their side too. Several other labor unions, including goat milkers, newsroom cue card holders and theme park zombies join the strike. Even Groundskeeper Willie refuses Skinner's order to turn his hose on the students. Realizing there is no other way out of the crippling strike other than disposing of Lisa, Skinner has her transferred to a school for the "Academically Gifted and Troublesome". As her bus departs, her classmates and the rest of Springfield - including Moe, who is holding a picture of her - are filled with sorrow, but she reassures them by telling them that "[they] can still reach [her] via email ("Smart Girl Six Three", another parody of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina").
Just as Lisa arrives at her new school, Homer pulls up and refuses to allow her to attend, complaining that he will not drive 45 minutes each day to take her to school. He suggests she take up an activity like ice skating instead, but when she eagerly asks to do that, he refuses once again, complaining that he does not want get up early each morning.
At the end of the episode, subtitles state that Springfield Elementary was eventually able to restore music, art and gym by cancelling flu shots and selling loose cigarettes. The subtitle then states that the producers of the show, "based on the advice of [their] lawyers, swear [they] have never heard of a musical based on the life of Eva Perón".
The idea for the episode was devised by Al Jean, who was motivated by his love of theater. He regarded Evita as a great political musical, and stated that "[he] just always thought that it was one of the most brilliant things ever, and to have Lisa do that was the genesis of this episode." Although Yeardly Smith, the voice of Lisa, had originally assumed that the central conceit of the episode was intended as a political satire, Al Jean clarified in the commentary track that he had no political motivation and just wanted to "get Lisa singing".
Jean also credits himself with the idea of inviting Michael Moore to make a guest appearance. He cites his love of Roger & Me (which he says "really captured the whole way [he] felt growing up [in Detroit]") as a contributing factor, but ultimately the deciding factor was hearing Moore's acceptance speech for Best Documentary Feature during the 75th Academy Awards, during which he publicly denounced George W. Bush. Jean notes that “the staff is full of fans”, so the idea was met with near-unanimous enthusiasm.
Moore quickly accepted the offer without even knowing what his role in the episode was going to be, stating that not only had he been watching The Simpsons since its conception as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, he had been a fan of Matt Groening's work since the early 80s, and used to run Groening's Life in Hell comic strips in an alternative newspaper that he operated from Flint, Michigan. He appreciated that the episode focused on the elimination of art programs in public schools, and enjoyed being called a "professional buttinski" by Kent Brockman.
The musical numbers were composed by Alf Clausen, the show's primary composer from 1990 until 2017, and although episode writer Dana Gould is credited as the sole lyricist, Al Jean clarified in the commentary track that the lyrics were a collaborative effort between several Simpsons writers. Some time prior to the episode's conception, Jean suggested that, due to a “significant royalty [for] having songs in an episode”, any lyrics written by the writing staff for use in a Simpsons episode should be credited to whoever originally wrote the episode in order to prevent potential arguments over who should be credited and who should receive the royalties. Although the songs originally pitched were more faithful to the melodies of the Evita songs they were based on, the show was forced to modify the melodies for legal reasons. A medley of the songs features in the episode was included in the 2007 compilation album The Simpsons: Testify.
In 2007, Vanity Fair called "The President Wore Pearls" the tenth best episode of The Simpsons, the most recent episode on the list. John Orvted said, "It may seem ludicrous to include anything later than Season 8 in this list, but this one is brilliant. The musical numbers are astoundingly good, and Lisa's comeuppance is so well constructed it harkens back to the golden years of the show (Seasons 3 through 8)."
Alf Clausen and Dana Gould were nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the first song in the episode, "Vote for a Winner", but lost to "Because You Are Beautiful" from Until the Violence Stops.
- "Nominees/Winners". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Smith, Yeardly and Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 5:05.
- Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 18:32.
- Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 0:30.
- Moore, Michael (2017-02-23). "Michael Moore: Why I Gave That Infamous Anti-Bush Oscars Speech (Guest Column)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Moore, Michael. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 19:30.
- Moore, Michael. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 21:33.
- Moore, Michael. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 18:12.
- Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 6:34.
- "'The Simpsons' Dismisses Longtime Composer Alf Clausen". Entertainment Weekly. 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
- Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 7:06.
- Jean, Al. (2012). Commentary for "The President Wore Pearls", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Event occurs at 5:50.
- "Dozens Of 'Simpsons' Songs Bundled For 'Testify'". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- Orvted, John (2007-07-05). "Springfield's Best". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
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