It is pretty amazing how little things a President does while in office, can have huge, and perhaps unintended consequences that rattle for decades afterward. What is even more amazing to me, is the “Frog in the pot” scenario that happens as things change so slowly, it is almost imperceptive, until it is prevalent. What does this have to do with Ronald Reagan and the Re-Education Center? I’ll get to that…
As it pertains to TSTO and the Simpsons, Ronny appears in several scenes over several episodes. But, usually as a quick flash, a pic on the wall, or in one case, a head. But, he does have a speaking role in one of my favorite non-political episodes of all time. I’ll get to that as well.
When I was researching this post, I was reminded how little I actually watched the Simpsons in what we are now calling the “aughts” (the first decade of the 2000s). When I started re-watching some of them, I was surprised by how overtly political they were. Yes…a lot of these episodes were in the post 9/11 era, and during election years. But, it now seems like we are ALWAYS in an election year…and the current episodes aren’t as overt. So maybe the writers just got tired of trying to use a cartoon show as a bully pulpit, and have switched over to less-than-subtle references in a mobile game.
The Re-Education Center is really at the heart of ONE episode…while Ronny is kinda smattered all over the place. Let’s take a look…
For as many episodes is which he is listed, Ronald Reagan only has one brief speaking part, in one of my favorite episodes, “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” (S5E1). This episode was in the “Golden Years” where every episode had a great story, with a lot of heart. The reason I love this episode so much, is both how the group came together (along with Barney’s undiscovered talent as a singer), and how they parody the Beatles, including the introduction of Yoko, and the infamous roof-top performance from “Let It Be.” It also features a funny guest appearance by George Harrison, where he sees the rooftop performance, and mutters, “It’s been done before!”
Reference to Lennon’s mis-statement in 1966
In a seemingly random scene from this episode. the “B Sharps” perform at a “Freedom Festival” in front of the Statue of Liberty, with Ronald and Nancy in attendance. Ronny is heard to say, “DAMN CEREMONIES. THIS IS TIME I COULD BE WORKING, MOMMY!”
Ronny appears in a handful of other vignettes, including one as a dismembered head (it was from a wax museum, and no, Kathy Griffin had nothing to do with it). He also appears quickly at Burn’s birthday party, as well as a couple of shots in the background at various Republican insider meetings.
Relax…it’s in a wax museum… and the is Dr. Ruth and Mr. T beside him.
Ronald Reagan was not my favorite President…but, I’ll get to that later.
Next, we have a REALLY Heavy-Handed episode, that has weirdly current implications, and once again seems to prove the Simpsons writers have some weird precognition talent. Introduced at the height of the first true “splitting of America” and hardening of party affiliations through faux-freedom acts, and government over-reaching for our “safety,” “Bart Mangled Banner” (S15E21) is pretty much a wall-to-wall rebuke of the “America, Love It or Leave It” movement of the 200os. This is one of those “History Repeats Itself” moments, that has been around for decades…including the “McArthy Commie Trials,” loads of “counter-revolution conspiracy” actions by the Federal Government in the 60s and 70s, and now with a deepened divisiveness over the definition of the word “Patriotic.” (take a knee anyone?).
So…yes..an episode in 2004, that seems far too current, isn’t a huge surprise.
The Brief Synopsis of Bart Mangled Banner
Bart, and the kids are tricked into “shot day,” by Homer and Marge. Bart escapes, and only later is finally inoculated (yes…this was the first blush of the “Anti-Immunization Movement that has brought back several previously irradiated diseases). However, Bart has a “side-effect” of losing his hearing due to “swollen ear holes.” The inconceivable turn of events that follows goes something like this:
1. During the “Donkey Basketball Game” (yes…they really had these. I played in a couple in High School) a donkey accidentally eats Bart’s shorts, and he ends up accidentally mooning the American Flag during the National Anthem. (and you thought taking a knee was bad?).
2. When trying to defend Bart, Homer and Marge are “ambushed” by a talk show host into saying they hate America. On “Head Butt with Nash Castor” Nash asks, “What part of America do you hate most?” Marge says that, if leading questions such as that are the only forms of discussion in America, then she does hate America. She also said that she is well-liked in Springfield, prompting the host to say that Springfield hates America. Homer is ridiculed at “Moe’s” where he declares his dislike of this version of America. The entire United States then turns their back on Springfield, so Mayor Quimby frantically decides to change the name of Springfield to “Libertyville.” (Ironically…my Mom was born in the REAL Libertyville, in Illinois)
Everything in town is quickly patriotized; the traffic light colors are changed to red, white, and blue, and everything costs $17.76. While at church, Lisa speaks her opinion about patriotism, and the Simpsons are taken into custody, in violation of the “Government Knows Best Act“.
With some help from the last-registered Democrat, the Simpsons escape the prison, but realize that the re-education center is actually Alcatraz Prison. While they are swimming to land, they are picked up by a French freighter and are brought to France. They adjust to French life well, but still miss America, mainly because it is where all their belongings still are.
The final scene shows them arriving by boat, into New York harbor past the statue of Liberty, back to the US dressed as 19th century immigrants from Europe where Homer speaks of plans of integration into America.
OK then. Bring us your tired, poor, and overtly politicized cartoon characters…
So…the amazing thing about this combination Character/Building, is that they had to have planned this months ago. And now…once again, the headlines are loaded with the immigration debate, and divisiveness over who is “more American.” We don’t really seem to evolve much…apparently.
I bought this combination. But not for the reason that some may have. I bought it for the same reason I bought Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. I want the chance to keep a constant eye on characters who left an indelible mark (some would call it a stain) on American history.
And when it comes to Reagan, it has very little to do with the fact that his was the most indicted administration in history (look it up…). Or because I knew of his affiliations with the Mob during his time as head of the Screen Actor’s Guild, or his “turning in Commies” during the McArthy era witch hunt (which ironically also had a tie to RFK, whose death paved the way for Ronny’s rise). No…it is a little remembered action that has had a direct result in creating the horrible divisive and destructive reality that we now find ourselves in, as it pertains to “News Outlets.”
In 1987, Reagan abolished the FCC Fairness Doctrine. Most people had never heard of it, or cared. But, in short, the FCC established a rule in 1947, that mandated that “honest, equitable, and balanced” viewpoints be presented on all political topics. In short, you couldn’t proffer a single viewpoint or political position, and had to grant balanced programming, giving both sides of a debate. This limited the amount of political viewpoints, and for the most part, left news agencies reporting facts, rather than opinion. Opinions and commentary had to be clearly labeled as such.
On the surface, this action seemed inconsequential. However…the result was anything but. It allowed for the creation of countless permutations of “Cable News Channels” that offer completely biased, and often untrue views, that are often nothing more than the propoganda arms of politicians and political parties. So disparate are the opinions on these “News Programs” that it is easy to “cherry pick” facts, and leave the viewers (and potential voters) uninformed, politically and historically illiterate, and virtually weaponized by special interests.
What started with the original Radio Talk hosts like Limbaugh and others of that ilk, has now morphed into a Wild West of unregulated, and insanely dangerous (to the truth), Internet-based “news outlets” that have now reached into the very fabric of our elections, and closed minds to reason, compromise, and real action on Capital Hill. In short…without the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, there ability for foreign entities to create fake news channels and damaging “leak outlets” simply doesn’t exist. People couldn’t just dial up their “FaceBook News Feed” or Google News Outlet, to get the “top stories,” which may, and most likely may not, have anything but biased, cherry-picked commentary in the place of facts being proffered.
“News” as we know it is dead. As someone who has worked in and around the media for more than 40 years…it breaks my heart to say it. Even the best of the best outlets are colored with partisan slants under the guise of “News Commentary.” The facts are tossed about and parsed to suit the flavor and branding. And in the end, our REAL FREEDOM suffers…because we end up handing our ability to know the truth, to those who have the most money.
And, it all started with Ronny (and came full circle with Clinton’s deregulation of Broadcast ownership in 1996).
So…there you have it. The perfect TSTO Combo for our Independence Day celebration. A less-than-subtle reminder at what can happen when government over-reaching takes over common sense…and protesting, even when its unpopular, results in attempts to “Re-Educate” the masses.
I want Ronny in my town. Where I can keep a close eye on him.
HOWEVER…To Give EQUAL disdain for “the other side,” (I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t) Here are my favorite “besmirchments” of Bill Clinton.
Clinton actually appeared in tons of episodes…and in every single one…he was ridiculed and besmirched by the writers. Here are a couple of my favorites..
His most notable encounter with the Simpsons was when he answered Lisa Simpson’s complaint about a band contest, in which Lisa’s band was beaten by the band of another school which used an illegal tactic but still won.
Clinton: “Thank you, Lisa, for teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson: If things don’t go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true.”
Marge: “That’s a pretty lousy lesson”
Clinton: Hey, I’m a pretty lousy president!
Ironically, in one Episode, one of the media’s best known “Alternative News Talking Heads” Jon Stewart makes an appearance, when Ralph is running for President… it has nothing to do with Clinton, but is a reference to the kind of media that has replaced hard news.
Bill Clinton: Honey, how many of this signs do I have to put up? What did I ever do to you to deserve this?……………………You’re never gonna let that go, are you?
No Bill. We aren’t going to let a LOT of things go. Sorry.
And if they ever bring us Bill as a character, I’ll get him…just to keep an eye on him and keep him out of the public eye. Yes. I know they seem to only give us “Dead Ex-Presidents.” But, one can hope. Right?
Life in the world of the Simpsons and TSTO. Never a dull moment…even when we are grinding.