S2, E4: “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”

“Lisa, you’re learning many lessons tonight, and one of them is to always give your mother the benefit of the doubt.” – Marge.


Written by: John Swartzwelder, Sam Simon.

Matt Groening, of course, made his bones with “Life in Hell,” an alt-weekly cartoon that was deeply political and would still discussed and beloved had The Simpsons never existed.

So when The Simpsons finally delved hardcore into politics with the brilliant “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” it was no surprise to anyone who had read Groening’s strip where the show stood: proudly to the Left. It’s a simplification, but true: long before The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, we had The Simpsons going hard at all of the right targets.

In this case, the target was rich political dilettantes who run for office for no other reason than to change the laws to be more favorable to them, all the while spouting populist generalities against easy targets like “bureaucrats” and “taxes.”

What spurred Mr. Burns to run for Governor of  [REDACTED] was a combination of bad publicity surrounding the discovery by Bart of a mutant three-eyed fish – Blinky! – and the estimated $56,000,000 it would cost to bring his nuclear power plant up to code.

So he runs, starting with a paid political ad featuring a Charles Darwin impersonator (which is funny on several levels) explaining that Blinky’s mutation is actually an improvement and he has “a taste that can’t be beat.”

As Burns gains popularity with all of the Joe The Plumbers and Holly the Housewives he is exalting in public and deriding in private, his cynical campaign manager tells him that the final stunt to put him over the top as a regular guy is to have a home-cooked dinner at the house of one of his employees. And they choose Homer, of course.

Enter Marge Simpson.

Now I know that they often wrote Marge as a moralizing scold, especially when sex was involved, she was pitch-perfect here. As a supporter of Burns’ opponent, Mary Bailey, she wants nothing to do with the stunt, but when Homer mansplains that one of the ways she can express herself is with her cooking, it resonates.

The climax, when the home-cooked dinner Marge serves Burns is three-eyed fish (“All right!!” exclaims Bart, “three-eyed fish!!”) and he is forced to eat and then spit out his words, is an absolute masterpiece of comeuppance. 

His hopes of ever running for political office dashed forever, Burns presumably turns to doing what the rest of his billionaire friends do these days: donating to PACs.

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