Culture of Pop

The PCS Staff Poll: What’s Your Favorite ‘Simpsons’ Episode? ‘Bart the Genius’

“Kwyjibo: a big, dumb, balding, North American ape with no chin.” – Bart Simpson

Before I go any further I should explain that this isn’t my favorite Simpsons episode of all time (I’ll reveal my favorite in a separate post). However, the Scrabble scene that this line comes from is one of the funniest minor moments in the series that has stuck in my mind for, oh, 20 years.

You can head on over to Hulu to watch the short clip of this scene. It’s cool, I’ll wait.

“Bart the Genius” originally aired in 1990 and was the second episode of Season 1 of The Simpsons. And before you think “Oh, you’re just trying to sound impressive by talking about such an early episode” just hear me out (especially when I get to point number two, below). In the episode, Bart cheats on an aptitude test and is soon mistaken as a boy genius. He’s placed in a school for gifted kids and, even though you’d imagine he’d hate such a place, he actually kinda loves it because the administration really stresses a hands-off type of teaching, where the students set their own pace for learning. Cowabunga, dude, that means it’s slacker-city for Bart! But the pressure gets to be too much for him, and his fellow classmates quickly realize that he’s nowhere near their level of intelligence, and ultimately Bart admits to his deceit.

Two interesting things (at least to me) to note about this episode:

1. This episode contains the first time Bart utters one of his infamous catchphrases, “Eat my shorts.”

2. According to creator Matt Groening, the Scrabble scene that I love so dearly pays homage to The Big Snit, a short animated film that I used to watch on cable (I think on HBO) in the 1980s when the channel was trying to fill time in between movies. The Big Snit is an absurd Canadian animated short about a married couple who get into a fight over a friendly game of Scrabble. In my adult life, I honestly thought I would never be able to figure out the name of this cartoon. I would describe it to friends and be met with blank faces. It seemed like no one else ever saw it but me. I would even do weird Google searches for such terms as “Scrabble, man uses saw on arm of his chair, apocalypse,” so … yeah, I’m sure that the NSA probably has me on some sort of watch list at this point.

In any event, unlike the majority of Simpsons episodes, The Big Snit is available to watch on Youtube, so I’m able to include it for you here. Watching it will be 10 well-spent minutes out of your day. Watch out for those saws! And for the apocalypse! Also of note, the film was nominated for an Oscar in 1985.


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