Did The Simpsons Force Food Blogging to Jump the Shark?

Categories: Film and TV

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There must be a kitchen sink that we can get to do a cameo too, guys...
Despite blogging about food for a living, the latest episode of The Simpsons did not appeal to me in the slightest. I simply didn't want to watch it, although I finally forced myself to last night.

I haven't wanted to watch an episode of The Simpsons in a long time, however, specifically for the very nature of this past Sunday's food blog episode: The show has lost all ability to create situational humor within the confines of Springfield's residents and the Simpson family itself, despite a long history of idiosyncrasies and deeply developed personalities upon which to draw. As a result, the show has increasingly relied on the type of stunt casting that typified Sunday's episode. Let's trot out Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and any other food folks who want an easy paycheck, in lieu of writing a deeper, more interesting episode.

The result of this was an episode that felt flat to me, and not just because of the flimsy way in which Homer and Marge and "the gang" were used as puppets for the show's attempt at skewering foodies. It felt flat and soulless because it seemed that -- although the foodie world is extremely ripe for skewering -- the show ultimately found no good or redeeming qualities in people who genuinely and passionately love food.

We are, in essence, people who invest too much thought and energy in -- as Homer so delicately put it --food that "is poop by now." At least according to The Simpsons.

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The good: The sheer absurdity of the Swedish Chef and Mario Batali on bouncy balls.
What good I did find in the episode was far exceeded by the bad. For example, Bart and Lisa are shown enjoying their food adventure to Little Ethiopia (side note: I did find it hilarious that Springfield now has a Little Ethiopia to add to the town's many other, rarely seen ethnic ghettos) and discovering that Ethiopian food is, in fact, amazing and tasty stuff. Yes, parents -- you can take your kids on food adventures and broaden their young horizons, and they will enjoy it and learn from it and become even more multifaceted little things.

However, this discovery was quickly tarnished by Marge's haughty reply to some foodies who'd come to the Ethiopian restaurant "on purpose" that the large platter of food off the "non-translated side of the menu" was all she ever ordered there. The conversation quickly devolved into her new foodie friends discussing how they "discovered Korean barbecue" and that the Koreans may cook it, but they "don't get it."

Is this how you, as a foodie or food lover or food nerd, want to be perceived? As tacky, snotty, slightly racist, hoarders of food experiences that you gather like rare gems and patronizingly hold over other people's heads? Because that's how The Simpsons wants to paint us.

Gone is the idea that people can enjoy ethnic food because of the cultural connection it creates, the bridges it builds and the prejudices it destroys with a single, savory bite of doro wot or bibimbap. In its place, The Simpsons wants its audience to believe that foodies are arrogant schmucks and that food is best enjoyed when processed and hoovered out of a refrigerator, or pronounced as "sherbert." Being educated and passionate about food is a scarlet symbol of elitism in this universe.

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In addition to a Little Ethiopia and horrifying meth labs, Springfield also has its own version of El Bulli.
It's upsetting, in as much as an animated show about food blogging can be upsetting. But only because in the end, the moral of the 30-minute episode was exactly that: Educated, passionate people are elitists. It reduces all the hard work that people put into creating good, honest food into a joke, and not a terribly funny one. There was no balance in the episode between smug, arrogant, obnoxious foodies and those who have a genuine, guileless interest in food and all its important permutations in our lives.

Yes, the molecular gastronomy-obsessed El Chemistri -- a witty little combination of places like El Bulli and Moto -- was worth a few good jabs. But when the episode ends, all of the foodies except the Three Mouthketeers have decided to remain behind at the table for another bowl of Regret rather than help a friend in need.

And that doesn't sound like a single foodie that I know.



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8 comments
nadia wit
nadia wit

I LOVED THIS EPISODE! BEEN QUOTING SINCE! 

Kes
Kes

Waaaahh it was all fun till they made fun of me :(

Chris Ledesma
Chris Ledesma

Hi Katherine,

Disclaimer: I work on THE SIMPSONS. I am the show's music editor, so I guess I have a built in bias, but I'll try to be as objective as possible.

I have two problems with your review. First, the show is a cartoon. I don't say this in a flip "state the obvious" sort of way. A cartoon is, by definition, a caricature - exaggerated writing or drawing. Everything about a caricature is supposed to be overblown. So why depict someone (something) as snobby or elitist when they can be shown as UBER snobby or elitist? My second problem is that, in your review, you don't seem to grasp one of the basic tenants of storytelling (script writing) - characters and situations must be more (happy, sad, interesting, dumb, smart, hungry, evil, heroic) than they would be in real life in order to hold the interest of the reader/viewer. Your call for "balance", to show the good foodies along with the bad, is boring storytelling. When you call for the foodies to leave their fancy dinner to help Marge save Homer, in real life that would be very altruistic and noble, but in storytelling that would strip Marge of her chance to be the hero and the love of Homer's life. All the stakes must be constantly raised so that the hero can "save the day". Maybe you already know this, but if so, you didn't share your knowledge with your readers.

Thanks for the forum and the opportunity for me to defend my show.

DarrenSpiegel
DarrenSpiegel

Don't take it so personally. Your article was unnecessarily defensive. It's a TV show, not an attack.

JB
JB

Meow.  Easily offended, eh?

TheDominantCulture
TheDominantCulture

I think the point of the episode was that foodies take themselves too seriously. I think this article is a good example of how they were right. #getoverit

Chris Ledesma
Chris Ledesma

Sorry, meant to say "basic TENETS of storytelling".

Denise and Karma
Denise and Karma

Well said, Chris. I think The Simpsons is so much an institution that people forget that it's TV.

I would like to add that I disagree with Katharine and feel that there is indeed a balance in the depictions of so-called foodies. CBG and Sideshow Mel as examples of "educated elitists"? Did we watch the same episode? The viewer should look at the group of people who had become "foodies" in this episode. If CBG is a foodie, isn't the episode more a comment on people who fancy themselves foodies because they eat, take photos, and blog about eating than on people who actually understand and review/write about food as part of their career? Aren't we sick of anyone with an iPhone and a Twitter account calling himself a foodie? I know I am. Plus, Marge and the kids are drawn to foodie culture in an organic (haha), honest way. To me, their appreciation DOES show balance.

So, who do you like on Top Chef this season? I'm rooting for Grayson.

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