The Simpsons Season 33 Episode 8 Review: Portrait of a Lackey on Fire

The Simpsons Season 33 Episode 8 Review: Portrait of a Lackey on Fire
The Simpsons Season 33 Episode 8 Review: Portrait of a Lackey on Fire

Homer outdoes himself, giving the series a nuanced love interest, and Smithers is the favorite of the litter. Michael DeGraff, voiced by Victor Garber, a Fortune 500 fashion designer who not only has wealth and wealth, but also money. Enough to hire Christine Baranski to sing the soundtrack Oh mom! for a simple brunch, or cancel a trip to Milan to fall in love in Springfield. Michael, also known as a judge on “America’s Got Fabric”, whose catchphrase can bestow stardom as his oppression can topple civilizations. He compares Marge’s sisters to the ladies of Gray Gardens, who had a look as opposed to the Bouviers’ “not looking”. Don’t get him started on Milwaukee.


Marge’s thirst for gossip is fantastic. It grows from barely restrained curiosity to utter mania. She’s waiting for Homer when he gets in his car, switches to her car, and ends up on the bus to work in an order so catchy that it could have yielded another reward without going overboard. As exuberant as Marge can be, she’s also a master of grand understatement. Homer’s best and sharpest line of the evening has to do with unconditional love. It’s for the best, because the circumstances will kill you. Marge’s best line of the episode comes when a very smitten Smithers asks when she knew Homer was the love of her life? “After he got me pregnant, I just knew he was someone I was going to have kids with,” she says. And he is delighted. Together, these two feelings form the heart of the Simpson family.

The Simpsons presents a nuanced LBGTQ cross-section. The episode possesses the clichés the community has claimed for itself, and satirizes the stereotypes with empathetic alternatives. An old-fashioned, self-loathing, old-country lesbian learns to love the freedoms in the new world, except not to swipe Grindr. Comic Book Guy might declare “Portrait of a Lackey on Fire” the “Gayest Episode Ever,” which just happens to be podcast showrunner Matt Selman recasting gay Cuban character Julio from Hank Azaria to Tony Rodriguez. But it still has stiff competition from the “Homer’s Phobia” episode, where John Waters guest-starred. In that episode, Waters saved Homer from the devastating reindeer by unleashing a gaudy and loud wind-up toy replica of their vicious task master Santa.

In ‘Portrait of a Lackey on Fire’, flashy and noisy disposable fashion threatens to make Black Friday an everyday reality. While we know the punch line to Lisa’s transformation at Michael’s hands from the moment she denigrates fashion as trivial, the plot twist she initiates is poignantly unexpected. Smithers has a type, and it resembles Mr. Burns, down to how his “exquisite” sounds like the “excellent” of the nuclear power plant tycoon, the kind of tyrannical powerhouse who could hate art so much that he only buys paintings to keep them out of museums.

Evil comes in all colors, even checkered ones, and Michael can help Mr. Giving Burns a run for his money when it comes to despicable acts. Oh, except Michael has a lot more money than Monty Burns, and his sweatpants disposable fashion stores are a lot more environmentally destructive than the Springfield nuclear power plant. And he does it for no reason. Burns is amazed, awed, and giddy humbled by how even his Chernobyl mutant factory is pending producing something humans need, power. But Michael has made the dream come true. He colors the ozone with a color coating for useless objects that nobody needs. It’s brilliant.

Smithers faces real pain, loss and confusion. He is really at a crossroads in how he sees himself. He’s really not the kind of person who can accept the love he deserves at the cost of the harm done to others. Burns sees it as a no-brainer and advises his follower to immediately marry that man, “what the heck if you have to pretend you’re gay?”, which is also subversive comedic mastery. It encompasses every bit of history Smithers and Burns ever had, and still leaves enough ambiguity for future comedic and interpersonal possibilities.

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