Sleazy politics is more topical than ever. The Simpsons Trash of the Titans is a great example of how this brilliant series addresses serious issues.
The Simpsons: the greatest show on TV?
In an earlier post I praised how Series 25, Episode 20, Brick Like Me raised a host of existential issues. I noted the parallels between the episode and the 1955 Frederik Pohl short story The Tunnel Under the World. In “Trash of the Titans”, the show goes after sleazy politics and what happens when democracy goes wrong.
Sleazy politics: when democracy goes wrong
Trash of the Titans, Series 9, episode 22, is from 1998. It was the 200th episode overall. Do the producers make a special effort with round-numbered episodes? Maybe they do: Brick Like Me was episode 550.
Trash of the Titans looks at what can happen when democracy goes wrong.
An evil corporation
(i) An evil corporation, trying to fill a lull in sales of its useless toys, cards and gifts over the summer, invents “Love Day” to boost sales. A naive executive who argues they should accept the lull – “hey, we’re making enough money, right?” is ejected by goons. Shortly after, the Simpsons are celebrating “Love Day”, despite Lisa pointing out that “the stores just invented this holiday to make money”. The family exchange gifts, which they unwrap and discard, generating huge amounts of garbage.
Lies and abuse in politics
(ii) Following an argument with the bin men, Homer runs for Springfield sanitary commissioner against the efficient incumbent. Homer’s slogan, designed to appeal to all the lazy slobs out there” is “Can’t someone else do it?” He ridicules his opponent with personal attacks (“you told people I lured children into my gingerbread house”, complains the incumbent later. “That was just a lie”, says Homer). When the incumbent tells the electorate they have a choice between “an experienced public servant” or “a bunch of crazy promises” from “a sleazy lunatic”, the electorate vote in Homer in a landslide. His chaotic efforts leads to an environmental catastrophe and Homer is thrown out of office.
In an age of sleazy politics, cynical promises and populism, much of this still seems topical.
The episode contains some fine gags (Homer: “It’s just like David and Goliath, only this time, David won!”)
Other great Simpsons episodes
Trash of the Titans does not have the depth of some of my favourites, such as Brick Like Me or Homer the Heretic (which disproves my round-number theory being episode 62 overall). But it is classic Simpsons in examining profound issues in an entertaining, near-subliminal way.
Obviously, though, it has not stopped sleazy politics, anyone voting for people making crazy promises – or buying useless gifts with excess packaging.
If you’d like to check out my own attempts at comic writing, take a look at my book Seven Hotel Stories.