"Whacking Day" is the twentieth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season, and originally aired April 29, 1993. It concerns the fictional holiday "Whacking Day", celebrated annually May 10, in which the citizens of Springfield drive snakes into the town square, then club them to death. The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jeffrey Lynch; Barry White, who had expressed a wish to appear in the show, guest stars as himself. It was pitched by George Meyer, who wanted to create an episode against the mistreatment of snakes (the episode ended up winning a Genesis Award). The episode includes the first appearance of Superintendent Chalmers, and it features an Itchy & Scratchy parody of Oliver Stone's JFK.
During an inspection by Superintendent Chalmers, Principal Skinner lures Bart, Jimbo, Kearney, Dolph and Nelson into a utility basement with the promise of free mountain bikes and locks the door. Bart escapes through a ventilation shaft and takes Groundskeeper Willie's tractor for a joyride, crashing into Chalmers. Having lost any chance of a promotion, rather than giving detention, Skinner instead expels Bart. After he is quickly expelled from a new private Christian school, Marge decides to homeschool Bart; a running gag in the episode is Homer coming home in his car, forgetting about Marge homeschooling Bart in the garage, and only barely managing to stop the car inches away from Bart, exclaiming "D'oh!" when this happens a second time (implying that he meant to run him over that time or because he forgot once again).
Meanwhile, Kent Brockman announces that Springfield's annual "Whacking Day" is approaching. Each year on May 10, the people of Springfield drive snakes to the center of town and beat them to death. The tradition appalls Lisa, who finds no support from any of the adults of the town, including Reverent Lovejoy who lies about Whacking Day being supported by the Bible. Barry White arrives to begin the festivities, but is disgusted and quickly leaves when he discovers what the holiday is about. After Marge takes Bart on a fieldtrip to Fort Springfield, Bart discovers that the origins of Whacking Day, which supposedly involved Jebediah Springfield, is a lie because it conflicts with a major Revolutionary War battle he took part in, and suggests to Lisa that they lure the snakes to safety by playing music with a lot of bass and putting the stereo speakers to the ground. White, who just happens to have been walking by, agrees to help by singing "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe", attracting hundreds of snakes into the house.
The pursuing crowd arrives, but they are soon turned around on the subject of Whacking Day by Bart's newfound knowledge. It turns out that the day was actually invented in 1924 as an excuse to beat up the Irish. Mayor Quimby, not knowing the city has had a change of heart, shows up with pre-whacked snakes and is booed. Skinner is impressed with Bart's efforts and welcomes him back to the school, but then realizes in horror that the bullies are still in the utility basement. While the bullies are spending the time talking about their feelings, Skinner and Willie race to the school with the mountain bikes to avoid a potential lawsuit. Skinner tells Willie if the bullies are dead, they make for Mexico and Willie agrees, but privately mutters that he will turn Skinner in at the first tollbooth.
Writer George Meyer, who was very "animal conscious", was interested in writing an episode related to an annual ritual held in a Texan town, where the townspeople would beat rattlesnakes with sticks. Meyer did not have time to pen the episode himself, so the idea was given to John Swartzwelder. The subject matter of "beating snakes" worried the staff who thought that many would deem it cruel, even though the episode's message is against the mistreatment of snakes. The episode's first act was one of the shortest the staff had ever written at that time, roughly ten pages in length, but with no ideas to expand, they left it as it was. Due to this, the main plot does not start until the beginning of the second act, as the writers could not come up with much material for it. In order to speed up animation, director Jeffrey Lynch "begged" storyboard artists Kevin O'Brien and Steve Markowski to help him with the episode. The three spent months on the episode. Barry White wanted to guest star on the show, so he was written into the plot. He sang "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" specially for the episode, rather than using a recorded version.
The song Grampa was supposed to sing in his flashback, showing how he posed as a German cabaret singer in World War II, was "Lili Marlene" by Marlene Dietrich. The staff could not get the rights to it because, according to the people who own the song, "everybody makes fun of it". Much of the flashback was pitched by Conan O'Brien. The episode marks the first appearance of Superintendent Chalmers. The staff wanted to introduce a boss for Skinner, and Wallace Wolodarsky pitched his name. Much of the dialogue and interactions between Skinner and Chalmers were ad-libbed by Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria.
The untitled Itchy & Scratchy short, with "guest director" Oliver Stone, is a parody of the scene where Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald in Stone's film JFK: someone is heard to shout, "He's got a gun!" as the screenplay draws to a close. The song "O Whacking Day" uses the same tune as the Christmas carol "O Tannenbaum", known in English as "O Christmas Tree". Additionally, Bob Woodward is shown to be the author of the book The Truth About Whacking Day. In one scene, Marge encourages Bart to read Johnny Tremain, a novel which won the Newbery Medal in 1943.
For "consciousness-raising on behalf of animal issues", the episode was awarded the Genesis Award for "Best Television Prime Time Animated Series" in 1994. In its original American broadcast, "Whacking Day" finished tied for 25th in the weekly ratings for the week of April 26 – May 2, 1993 with a Nielsen rating of 12.2. It was the highest rated show from the Fox Network that week. Jeffrey Lee Puckett of The Courier-Journal cited "Whacking Day" as "the series' richest episode". He wrote: "In 22 remarkable minutes, 'Whacking Day' skewers the quality of America's educational system, self-aggrandizing politicians, greed, the mob mentality, sexuality in the age of political correctness and the whole notion of political correctness, and makes a hero of Barry White." Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News noted the episode was one of the fourth season's best episodes in his review of the DVD. The show's creator Matt Groening considers Homer's "I am evil Homer" fantasy to be one of the greatest moments in the show's history. Andrew Martin of Prefix Mag named Barry White his fifth favorite musical guest on The Simpsons out of a list of ten.
A 2003 article in the The Journal News reported that records show genuine "Whacking Days" having taken place in Eastchester, New York from 1665 onwards: "That one day every spring be chosen for the destroying of rattle snakes." The article quoted show runner Al Jean as saying: "I agree with the premise of the episode: leave the snakes alone. They didn't hurt anybody." In North Queensland, Australia since 2009, citizens have held an annual "Toad Day Out", where thousands of cane toads (which, unlike rattlesnakes, are an invasive and highly-destructive species not native to Australia) are collected up and humanely destroyed. The event was inspired by the episode.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "'Whacking Day'". BBC. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Whacking Day" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Lynch, Jeffrey (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Whacking Day" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Whacking Day" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Lycan, Gary (June 20, 1994). "Using Awards to Fight Cruelty to Animals – Preview: Show Cites Media and Entertainment Contributions to Cause of Humane Treatment". The Orange County Register. p. F-10.
- "Free Willy, Simpsons Win Genesis Awards". Rocky Mountain News. January 30, 1994. p. 56A.
- "Nielsen Ratings/April 26 – May 2". Press-Telegram. May 5, 1993. p. C-6.
- Puckett, Jeffrey Lee (March 27, 1999). "Toons for Our Times". The Courier-Journal. p. 12S.
- Vognar, Chris (June 18, 2004). "A Fine Song and Dance: Simpsons' Musical Spoofs are Worthy of an Encore". The Dallas Morning News. p. 16-H.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Whacking Day" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martin, Andrew (October 7, 2011). "Top 10 Best Musical Guests On 'The Simpsons'". Prefix Mag. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
- Serico, Chris (July 31, 2003). "Move Over, Homer! Eastchester Had Its Own 'Whacking Day'". The Journal News. p. 9-A.
- Kym Agius and Evan Schwarten (April 4, 2011). "Thousands killed in "Toad Day Out"". Sydney Morning Herald.
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- "Whacking Day" at The Simpsons.com
- "Whacking Day" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Whacking Day" at TV.com
- Whacking Day at the Internet Movie Database