Scullyfied Simpsons: "Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken" (Season 10, Episode 11)

Those kids may need an optometrist.

Airdate: January 17th, 1999

Synopsis: The Springfield Isotopes win the league pennant, causing a gang including Homer and his friends to vandalize the Springfield Elementary School. The next morning, the blame is pinned… on the children of Springfield, who are promptly placed under a curfew. Infuriated at this, the children proceed to set up a pirate radio show, which serves as a tabloid-esque program leaking the secrets of the townspeople.

Review (SPOILERS): When I was younger, “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” wasn’t necessarily my favorite episode of the show. I don’t know why it didn’t like it – it really just never endeared itself to me. Strangely, though, it’s cited as one of the better ones from Season 10. Now that I’m older, and have watched some really bad Simpsons episodes, has it gotten any better?


Many of the perennial Simpsons episodes are those that have some form of societal mockery. “Last Exit to Springfield” analyzed the balance between labor unions and big business, “Marge vs. the Monorail” analyzed style over quality and (at least, in my view) privatization, “Homer Badman” tore apart the tabloid media, and “Lisa the Vegetarian” took a look at militant vegetarianism and how it’s no different compared to the anti-vegetarian society.

“Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken”, this time around, tries to make a mockery of the scapegoat effect. Often, instead of researching problems that plague our society, we look at the group we like the least (or has a bad reputation) and pin it on them. Here, Wiggum does it to the kids, and the rest of the town, petrified of the consequences for their bad behavior (or otherwise infuriated by their children’s behavior), supports the new measure.

This curfew only serves, however, to drive the children to outright rebellion – out of frustration and/or boredom, they set up a pirate radio station and leak the embarrassing secrets. Yeah, that curfew worked well – all it did was embarrass the hell out of a town that appeared to know no shame before the fact.

You would expect this episode to present a clear-cut civil libertarian message. However, this being The Simpsons (well, the pre-Al Jean Simpsons), no side comes out unscathed. Indeed, you could argue that the adults have some very valid complaints – the children do defy authority, are selfish, and have no concept of whatever stress they lay on their parents. However, that sympathy is somewhat toned down with the simple fact that, rather than teach them, they choose to ignore it and belittle them. The only way people learn is through karmic retribution – the Seniors locking everybody up at night.

Special note goes to “The Bloodening” – the parody of Village of the Damned. As I mentioned in my review of “The Honking” (for all two of you that read my Futurama reviews), I’m not a fan of horror movies. With that said, I love how hilariously dark it was. The fact that the kids managed to be as successful as they were while basing their revenge off of that movie shows that, maybe, horror movies don’t require that much of a willing suspension of disbelief – that the psychological terror makes them so appealing.

This episode is also aided by the fact that it executes most things pretty well. Even Homer’s jerkassery, while still a bit obnoxious, was actually almost entertaining – used to reflect the “bandwagon fan” mentality that exists, whether in sports or in politics.

“Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” isn’t perfect – I felt like the union of the adults (up to and including Marge) against the kids was a bit silly, although I could excuse that as stress release. However, it’s still a well-produced episode – it’s funny, dark, and has a great societal message. While I don’t have the highest hopes for the next episode (“Sunday Cruddy Sunday”), I do hope that there are a few more of these “hidden gems” during Scully’s tenure.

Tidbits:

  • Sorta liked Cyndi Lauper’s guest bit at the start of the episode, with her singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”. It works as self-decrepation, showing her performing for a cheesy team at a cheesy stadium. Still, I preferred Bleeding Gums’ version from “Dancin’ Homer”.
  • There is one small plothole that I will try and fill. Security cameras. That could’ve exposed Homer, Lenny, Carl, and Barney easily. However, there are three things that mitigate the plothole…
    • The school is broke;
    • The adults are lazy and hypocritical, and;
    • This aired pre-Columbine and pre-9/11.
  • With that said, the fact that the school’s destruction seemed to disappear to the wayside does irk me. But, again, only a minor irk.
  • As far as the song goes, it’s alright. I definitely loved the tug-of-war, and how it built to the ultimate climax of the episode.
Zaniness Factor: 2. Admittedly, those kids were able to build the transmitter rather quickly.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. Half-a-point was added, though, for barely getting some form of comeuppance for his idiocy (if you count the episode’s resolution.)
Favorite Scene: Probably the children breaking curfew and going to the drive-in. This includes The Bloodening.
Least Favorite Scene: The implication that Homer talks about “the children’s graves” a lot is a bit too unsettling for me.
Score: 8.25.
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