In recent years, a lot of The Simpsons’ humour has been at its sharpest when they’re dealing with politics. Maybe that’s because modern American politics are so absurd now, and is such low hanging fruit, but the show’s analysis is usually spot-on and sometimes pretty vicious. Of course, any scene involving the Springfield Republicans leans pretty heavily on the latter, which this week included Rainier Wolfcastle’s cracks about “charming another [young Republican] into the Libertarian Party,” and how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie thinks that GOP stands for “Gravy On Pancakes.”
On flip side, Lisa practically trips over her own political correctness when she’s caught off guard by the Latina Isabel’s conservative leanings. After all, why would a girl of Isabel’s background be a Republican (unless it’s a Catholic thing)? Later, in a hilarious nod to the changing face of America, Superintendent Chalmers has trouble pronouncing Lisa’s name, while he’s able to rattle Isabel’s full name with perfect Spanish flourish. Even Bart finally learns something, the meaning of his catchphrase of 25 years and running, “¡Ay caramba!”
But aside from the politics, the episode makes a pretty good case that underneath the politics, there’s no reason we can’t all get along, and really we have more in common that he have things that differentiate us. For instance, Marge’s advice to Lisa is that Isabel’s conservatism is a phase. “Some surprising things will happen to her body of beliefs,” Marge says, but Isabel’s mom makes the same comment about Lisa liberalism. But Isabel takes it further and adds that one’s conservative leanings don’t change, they get stronger with every year as they get further into Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand slam!).
Some politics never change though, and at the end of the episode we get a look at the year 2056. At that year’s Presidential debate, moderated by an elderly Anderson Cooper, Lisa and Isabel are still representing their respective political parties, albeit the Democrats have since merged to become the Democratic Robot Zombie coalition. And while the people might be okay with robots and zombies having mainstream political representation, the U.S. still can’t get out of Afghanistan. Go figure.
This week’s episode managed to be political without being preachy, and it was also able to let Lisa talk, learn and teach without being too terribly snobbish or shrill. There also weren’t any cheap slams at the expense of the Tea Party or any high profile Republican that might lean to the buffoon wing of the party. Old, white, capitalist stalwarts like Mr. Burns are always fair game, but attention was paid to make Isabel a character instead of a caricature, unlike, say, Jed Bartlett’s rival Gov. Ritchie on The West Wing.
On a final note for “The Kid is All Right,” the episode featured a great absurdist gag in the form of Maggie’s bar where she serves imaginary alcohol and where Bart and Lisa both go to drown their real sorrows. Of course, Maggie’s the ideal bartender, she listens intently and has a bottomless supply, but she doesn’t over serve either and she’s more than willing to make sure that the door is slammed in your face if you can’t hold your imaginary liquor. It may not make a lick of sense, but neither does Greek salad giving you Dukakis-enhanced nightmares. Plus, you can’t have a political campaign story that doesn’t end up at a bar at some point.