We’re counting down the days to Thanksgiving by looking at a variety of Thanksgiving-themed TV episodes. Thanksgiving episodes are all different, but they have lots of tropes in common. Today we’re looking at the Simpsons episode “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.”
Directed by: David Silverman
Written by: George Meyer
Episode Number: Season 2, Episode 7
Where to Watch It: iTunes
This episode focuses on actual family and manages to write a lowstakes conflict with a rare, brutal emotional resonance.
Bart accidentally throws Lisa’s centerpiece in the fireplace. It’s not the fact that it happened that upsets her as much as his blasé reaction. She shouts, “You don’t even care! You don’t even care!” And it’s true that at the time he doesn’t appreciate the impact of it. When the family turns on him and even says he ruined Thanksgiving, he gets defensive. He’s solely focused on how upsetting it was to be yelled at for most of the episode.
There’s heart wrenching moments on both sides. Bart is too afraid to re-enter his house because he thinks his family will never forgive him. Lisa asks herself if the whole thing is her fault for not taking Bart’s abuse with good humor.
The scene when Lisa and Bart talk things out doesn’t hold back. Their exchange feels so different from anything you normally see on sitcoms. She asks him, “Why did you do it? Is it because you hate me or because you’re bad?” This episode is incredibly evenhanded in its portrayal of the two characters and the extreme options Lisa presents here shows why that careful evenhandedness is so important. Bart’s simple and candid response is, “I don’t know. I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why I enjoyed it. And I don’t know why I’ll do it again.”
But, finally at the end, Lisa asks him to look inside himself and see if he’s upset that he really hurt his sister’s feelings. He genuinely feels bad, Lisa appreciates this and they hug.
There are tons of emotional gut punches reflecting family life peppered throughout. When Marge’s mother arrives, she tells her, “I have laryngitis and it hurts to talk, so I’ll just say one thing: you never do anything right.” Later, she says, “At the risk of losing my voice, let me just say one more thing: I’m sorry I came.”
Homer worries at times that this is the worst family in the world, but he also displays a sweet optimism. When Marge goes to talk to Lisa and Bart, Homer says, “Don’t worry. Marge will fix everything.” At the end, when he sees Lisa and Bart hug, he states, “You know, Marge, we’re great parents.”
When Marge’s sisters Patty and Selma arrive, they bring their own food– swedish meatballs and trout almandine. They tell her it’s an alternative for people who find her turkey too dry.
At the old folks home, they serve turkey puree.
Smithers cooks a giant feast for Burns. He only has a couple bites and then orders Smithers to dispose of it. Despite the huge feast at his disposal, he gets violently angry when Bart steals his pumpkin pie and we also see that the guards who work for him are merely eating TV dinners.
Bart gets a little dinner at a homeless shelter after running away.
At the end of the episode, we see the Simpsons finally have a pleasant meal together when they all eat sandwiches for breakfast the next day.
Homer teaches Maggie about football. He tells her, “Those silver and blue guys are the Dallas Cowboys. They’re daddy’s favorite team and he wants them to lose by less than five and a half points!”
Later, Bart finds an old football on the roof and is excited to play with it. In yet another emotionally piercing moment, he throws the ball and then shouts, “The boy nobody wanted just won the Super Bowl”
Lisa’s centerpiece was dedicated to unappreciated women in American history. There’s also a bit that shows the awkward way parade commentators try to drop in history references. Someone asks, “Did what I say make sense?” When someone tells him that it didn’t, he says, “Now I know how the pilgrims felt!”