The Simpsons: Once More, with Plot

Time for a change?

Former president Theodore Roosevelt is listed as a guest star in “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts,” an episode that seems designed to make me eat my words from last week. After the first third of the episode, which I never expect to relate to the rest, the plot was generally linear and coherent.

After Bart’s obvious prank costs the school its auction revenue, Superintendant Chalmers (surprise!) yells at Skinner. But in an actual surprise, Skinner stands up to Chalmers, challenging him to handle Bart. He takes the challenge, of course, and after an inauspicious start actually interests Bart—and other troublesome male students—in learning about Roosevelt. He does this by taking them outside the classroom to experience history, which is wonderful until a student is injured on an unauthorized field trip and Chalmers is fired.

Despite being a silly cartoon show, “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” touches on some hefty subjects. Chalmers is right when he says that the educational system is letting these—and a number of other, real children—down. But he loses me again almost immediately by ascribing the failure to the “feminine” way of teaching. Eep. Of course, his recognition of the failure, whatever its genitalia may be, raises questions. As Superintendant (or, ultimately, Super-Duperintendant) doesn’t he have the power to affect the educational system for all students? The nature of The Simpsons dictates that even if he does make meaningful changes they won’t last, which in the case of Springfield Elementary is sad. But that is to vastly overthink this show, when it should simply be enjoyed.

Other reasons to watch: Edna Krabappel in a mermaid suit, an outpouring of vitriol from Abe Simpson, and Jimbo’s puzzlement about school failing him (“Does school have to go to summer Jimbo?”)

This article was originally published at TV Foundry.

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