Monthly Archives: December 2015

Best and Worst of the Disney Women Part 2

Last time, I talked about the Best, the Underrated and the honourable mentions. This time, I’ll be looking at the not so great princesses. The ones with zero personality. The princesses with questionable morals or motives. But before I do, I’ll be starting with the one princess who I think always gets an unfair bad rap.

Unfairly Hated

Cinderella (Cinderella, 1950)


We’ve all heard the feminist whining about this one. There have been countless articles written about how unempowering and dangerous the Disney princesses are to girls, and Cinderella usually makes the top of the list. They complain that Cinderella just sits around, does nothing and dreams of a better life while making no effort to improve her current situation.
Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremaine is one of Disney’s greatest villains. She is a classic example of a controlling narcissistic person, and the instigator in a highly abusive relationship. Abuse victims such as Cinderella have no control and no power in a situation like this. Their abusers give them a sense of powerlessness.
However, this doesn’t make Cinderella a bad character. I actually find her quite admirable. She’s patient, kind-hearted and still manages to find happiness in her everyday existence while putting up with three people controlling every aspect of her life. I don’t know about anyone else, but there has to be some good morals there. And since when did being patient and kind become undesirable traits? Cinderella is emotionally strong. Physical toughness does not a strong woman make. This is a different kind of strength. One that I think deserves more attention and appreciation. Go watch the movie again if you ever get the chance. It holds up pretty well.

Mixed Bag

Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989)


I’m just going to go on record here by saying I liked The Little Mermaid when I was a little girl but my fear of Ursula kept it from being my favourite. I’m serious. Even seeing a picture of Ursula was enough to send me into terror.
I loved Ariel though. I spent hours in the bathtub trying to make my hair flow like hers, and I constantly wished to sing like her (now that I’m a professional singer, I realise that my own voice is unique and great in its own way). However, as I got older, I heard that Ariel was either loved or hated. And going back to the movie, I can see both sides. She’s definitely a whiny teenager. She gives up everything for a man she’s never even spoken to. And yeah, she really doesn’t grow, change or particularly learn anything by the end of the movie. She gets exactly what she wants.
But at the same time, she has a drive and a passion that’s certainly admirable. So, is Ariel a bad character? No. She’s too flawed to be among the best princesses, but still likeable enough to avoid the worst list.

Pocahontas (Pocahontas, 1995)

Oh, how I adored this movie. Absolutely loved it. Then a couple of years ago I watched it again at the age of 20. And I sadly had to conclude that Pocahontas wasn’t anywhere near as good as I remembered. Not to say the movie doesn’t have some very strong elements. The music is excellent and the art design is amazing. But the story is so dull and predictable and the characters are straight up boring, including Pocahontas. They try to make her adventurous and free-spirited but she’s still not very interesting. However, what saves her from being on the Worst list is that she does contribute to the story and is the one to stand against the fighting. Sadly, Pocahontas is a classic example of seeing a film without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

Drum roll please, for the weakest Disney Princesses.



Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937)

snow white

I don’t know whether to blame the fact that it’s a fairy tale and therefore written this way, or that it was made in 1937, but I don’t think Snow White even gets that excuse. The dwarves have really fun and memorable personalities. The Evil Queen is terrifyingly awesome. So why on earth did they have to make Snow White so utterly bland?
She’s not bad or anything, just dull. Sure, she’s nice but she doesn’t really do much except scream and cry. Although to be fair she does have a bit of substance when it comes to cleaning and making the dwarves do things. There’s that. She’s not quite as bad as….

Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)


Aurora is rock bottom. The weakest Disney princess of them all. Go watch Sleeping Beauty again and marvel at how completely useless Aurora is. She does nothing, hardly appears on screen and has little personality. Her weakness is highlighted by the other great characters in the film. The fairies are a riot. Maleficent is incredible. The kings are charming and funny. The climax is one of the greatest in any Disney film. But Aurora and Prince Phillip are a total waste of space. We’re supposed to care that she’s fallen asleep. You need to want them to end up together. And honestly, I really don’t care about either of them. Eighteen minutes of screen time for the title character doesn’t leave a lot of room for development. And that’s not a good thing.
Princess Aurora is the essence of why people hate the Disney Princesses. She is every stereotype. Boring. Bland. Whiny. Meets a man for 5 minutes and decides he’s the one. If I ever watch the movie again, I think I’ll have the fast forward button on standby.

So there’s my list of Best and Worst Disney Women. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I missed a really important one? Let me know in the comments.

Next Week: Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.


Best and Worst of the Disney Women Part 1

Everyone loves Disney. Don’t lie. Everyone does. It’s the most magical and beloved name in cinema and pop culture. It’s often the first thing we are introduced to as children. My very first trip to the movie theatre was in 1994 when I was two years old. We saw The Lion King, naturally. I remember nothing about watching the film that day, but I definitely remember buying the ticket. I still have it all these years later, too 🙂

For a brand as revered as this, it’s only fitting that Disney has had its fair share of controversy over the years. Everything from racial sensitivity to plagiarism. But nothing seems to spark debate quite as much as the Disney Princesses.
When you come down to it, with the amount of films made by Disney, the majority actually aren’t necessarily even about the princesses, or fantasy, or faraway castles. Sure, they’re the ones we associate most closely with the brand, but overall they’re not the most common. It’s just the marketing and popularity that makes it seem so wide in the Disney universe. We love them, we sing their songs, we dream of being them.
And now it’s time for me to talk about the best and worst of the Disney women.
Now, if you’re wondering why someone is missing from the list, chances are I haven’t seen the movie. Also, a word of caution. If you came here looking for a feminist rant, you’re going to be sadly disappointed (or maybe not?). What you’re about to read will most definitely NOT be from a feminazi point of view, because that’s simply not how I do things. Besides, there have been plenty of words written from that perspective already. If there is a slightly feminist edge or question to a character, I will address it. But no more. What I’m looking at here is from a writing and character developmental standpoint. Which of the Disney females is well developed? Who is bland and forgettable? Which ones are loved for the right reasons? Who deserves more recognition? And who are the bad role models? Come along with me and find out in Best and Worst of the Disney Women Part 1.


Just add some Mickey ears and we’re halfway there


Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991)


Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to be nominated for Best Film at the Oscars, and part of what makes the movie so incredibly good is Belle.
Belle is by far my favourite official Disney princess, and I know I am not alone in this. She’s one of the best animated characters ever.  She is a shining example of Disney adapting a character to the point of improvement from the original tale.
Belle is kind, smart, ahead of her time and a total bookworm. She’s the subject of gossip in a small town, but despite the loneliness it causes her, she refuses to change. Gaston pursues Belle relentlessly, and she can’t imagine a more horrible concept than being his wife. Again, Gaston is the town hero. Everyone thinks Belle is insane for rejecting him. But she’s secure enough in herself to make her choices. Belle is looking from something different. She’s not necessarily looking for romance or a prince. She wants something greater than herself. Something bigger. Her love of books made me feel validated. Like Belle, I was a huge bookworm. I was reading fluently at the age of three. My mother didn’t read picture books to me and my older brother. We read novels. I would sit next to her and read along, sounding out words I didn’t know. And that’s how I learned to read. Because of this, people thought I was weird. But seeing Belle and how she was so unashamed in her enthusiasm for books, I felt validated.
The creators of Beauty and the Beast said the biggest update for Belle’s story was having her make the choice to remain at the Beast’s castle. Some say Beauty and the Beast is just Stockholm Syndrome. And I disrespectfully disagree. Belle is initially frightened by the Beast, but still selflessly sacrifices her freedom for her father. She has the air of someone who really has lost everything. The Beast eventually identifies with Belle as a person, and falls in love with her. Belle only falls in love with the Beast when he stops being….well, beastly. Not only that, but she stands up to him and doesn’t take his abuse sitting down.
Oh, and the clincher? When he says she can leave, she flipping leaves.

Go Belle.

Tiana (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)


Tiana’s biggest claim to fame is that she’s the first black Disney princess. But that’s not why she’s on my list. Tiana is a kickass leading lady. She’s the first Disney princess to be a workaholic. She has a dream of opening her own restaurant, and she works like a Trojan to realise it. Her story arc comes from finding a balance between work and living. She teaches viewers that while following your dreams is of vital importance, you don’t want to get so caught up in the pursuit that you forget to live. But at the same time she’s smart, determined, has a good heart and a willingness to change.
I’m not going to talk about the alleged racial prejudice or historical accuracy of the movie because it’s completely pointless. Tiana is an awesome character regardless of her skin colour and that’s that.

Princess Anna (Frozen, 2013)


Look, I agree with everyone that Frozen is WAY too overdone and is everywhere. But hey, I still think it’s an excellent movie. The story is great, has excellent twists and a very likeable cast of characters. And as much as I enjoy Elsa, I’m putting Anna on the list here because she’s the character who does everything. Sure, she makes dumb decisions such as getting engaged to Hans on the day she meets him (and I love how they make fun of it) but she actually learns from them, and the movie shows exactly why she throws herself at him. She’s been shut away her whole life so she would something like that. However, she’s definitely a strong woman. When Elsa runs away, Anna is the one who says ‘this is my problem, and I will go take care of it.’ AND SHE FREAKING DOES IT! I actually wish Anna got a bit more appreciation. I work on weekends for a party company and I regularly play Anna, but it’s mostly appearances alongside Elsa and all the kids want to talk to Elsa. Anna’s the one who gets things done. Let’s give her the limelight.
And for the record, while I do think the film has been marketed to death, I would much prefer children watch Frozen repeatedly than Twilight or anything like that. Frozen may not be the first Disney movie to teach different lessons or that girls don’t need a man to save you, but it’s probably the one that did it most successfully and most creatively.


Megara (Hercules, 1997)


I absolutely love Megara. She’s one of the best women Disney ever brought out, and she’s criminally underrated. I’m always astounded by how many people don’t know who she is.
In 2013 I actually got to play Meg in Hercules Saves Christmas, an original Christmas pantomime based heavily on the Disney flick. Along with Wendla Bergmann in Spring Awakening, Meg is my most favourite role to date.
One of the most common complaints against the Disney princesses is how quickly they fall in love. Enter Megara, who is not only uninterested in romance, she outright rejects it. Having sold her soul to Hades in exchange for saving her lover’s life, Meg was left devastated when she was rejected by him. She’s sassy, sarcastic and tough on the exterior to hide the pain. Her character arc of learning to forgive and trust people again, to the point of being willing to sacrifice her freedom and life for Hercules shows just how far she’s willing to go. Not to mention she has I Won’t Say (I’m in Love), easily one of the best songs in any Disney film.
From a critical point of view, Hercules is not the best Disney movie by a long shot. It’s a flawed film with a ton of recycled characters, a story angle that’s been done to death and a very strange overall tone (I love the muses and the music, but seriously, how does gospel fit into Greek mythology?) but it’s saved by Meg and Hades, good music and some really funny jokes. Meg is a great example of what rejection can do to a person and that it’s possible to overcome the hurt. I think that’s awesome. When I get to Disneyland next year, I hope I get to meet her. And Belle. Oh, and another reason Meg is awesome? She’s voiced by the stunning Susan Egan.

Jane (Tarzan, 1999)


Jane Porter is how a damsel-in-distress SHOULD be portrayed. Yes, she has to be saved a lot, but she’s still an interesting, eccentric character. Your basic fish-out-of-water, and therefore justifying the need to throw her into peril, Jane still contributes to the plot by educating Tarzan and being the catalyst that introduces him to the human world. I find her very enjoyable and engaging, hence her place in the underrated list.

Honorable Mentions

Esmerelda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)


She’s brave, smart, resourceful, kind, has some serious attitude and fights for justice, even at risk of her own life.

Princess Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992)


Jasmine sees herself as more than she’s treated as. She knows she’s worth more than a creature of porcelain beauty and deserves someone who loves her for who she is, not her title or because it’s her ‘duty’.

Alice (Alice in Wonderland, 1951)Wendy Darling (Peter Pan, 1953)

I’m putting these two in the same basket because a) they’re very similar (two young girls whisked off on a magical adventure) and b) they’re voiced by the same actress (Kathryn Beaumont).
Much of what makes these two characters memorable is due to the voice acting of Kathryn Beaumont. Alice and Wendy could be completely bland and boring but she turns them into something really interesting and fun.

Rapunzel (Tangled, 2010)


Tangled was a Disney movie I kind of avoided for a while, but I’m so glad I finally watched it. Rapunzel is a fun, energetic teenage girl who shows remarkable strength and spirit. In fact, the only thing that really prevents her from being in the best Disney princesses is the less-than-great voice acting. The set up to Tangled is ingenious, the characters are well written and well designed, but the voice acting for Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, to a degree is just distracting enough to take me out of the world. It’s a shame.

Mulan (Mulan, 1998)


I’d dearly love to place Mulan at the top in the ‘Best’ category, but I can’t do it in good conscience. Why? Because as tough as she is, she’s also a character that’s been done a million times. The oppressed free spirit trying to find a place where she belongs. Not a bad message, but one we’ve seen. Her scenes where she’s disguised is what pulls her through, and she’s definitely a strong woman. Sorry Mulan. I love you, but you’re nothing original.

Next time? Part 2: The Worst Disney Women

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 2

Bart’s Comet, A Streetcar Named Marge, Last Exit to Springfield, Rosebud, Cape Feare. What will be in my top 5?

5. Who Shot Mr Burns Part 1 & 2 (Season 6, Episode 25 & Season 7, Episode 1)


“Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to ‘alive’,”

I know it’s a bit of a cheat, putting two episodes in the same space, but hey, let’s be realistic here. When an oil well is discovered below Springfield Elementary, Mr Burns pirates the oil and builds a giant machine to block out the sun. The town goes into an uproar, with many swearing revenge. Mr Burns is subsequently shot by an unseen assailant.
The episode was famously a competition for the viewers to solve between seasons. The producers of the show went to incredible lengths to keep the culprit’s identity a secret. Even the director was kept in the dark, and only one animator knew. Thankfully this was before the days of the internet.
Aside from the fact that there’s a ton of great jokes and character moments, this is a genuinely good mystery. It’s well paced, nicely developed, there’s a great deal of suspense, and the mystery is actually solvable. There’s a ton of very clever clues peppered throughout Part One. It’s actually a lot of fun to go back and watch the episode to see the hints and red herrings.
But even if you know who shot Mr Burns (and come on, we all do!), it’s still an excellent episode which remains one of a kind. To date, this is the only two part episode The Simpsons has ever produced.

4. Hurricane Neddy (Season 8, Episode 8)

hurrican neddy

“Well my family and I can’t live in ‘good intentions’, Marge! Oh, your family’s out of control, but we can’t blame you because you have GOOD INTENTIONS!”

Hurricane Barbara sweeps through Springfield, but only the Flanders’ house is destroyed. The townspeople rebuild the house in the most inept fashion imaginable, and Ned Flanders finally cracks. His resulting breakdown causes him to commit himself into a mental institution, and it’s up to his childhood therapist to find the root of Ned’s trauma.
This was actually the very first episode of The Simpsons I ever watched, aged 6. I didn’t get three quarters of what was going on and I was genuinely worried that Lisa was going to be in a pie.
It might have been my age, but Ned Flanders and his outburst was completely lost on me. Of course, as I grew older, I realised what a truly inspired episode this is. My older brother used to say “Be a Christian, but don’t be Ned Flanders,”
The comedic value of Ned Flanders is his nauseating optimism, and his unshakeable faith in God. He’s the perfect neighbour, and Homer hates him for precisely no reason.
This is the episode where we finally see Ned become a three dimensional character. Sure, they’ve had a couple of other episodes where he shows an emotion other than optimism (When Flanders Failed, Dead Putting Society), but here is the first time he actually loses his temper. It’s hilarious to see Ned finally put the town in their place, and the flashbacks to his childhood are always a riot. Not only was it a milestone from a character point of view, it was the episode which sparked the fire in me, however insignificant it seemed to me at the time. But it’s a fire that rages inferno to this day.
Confession: Reciting Ned’s massive rant is currently my favourite party trick.

3. Marge vs. the Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)



This episode needs no introduction. Mr Burns is fined $3 million for illegally dumping nuclear waste in the park. A smooth talking con-man (Lyle Lanley) convinces Springfield to build a monorail, and Homer becomes the conductor. However, Lanley embezzles the money and creates a faulty monorail, putting everyone on board in danger.
Marge vs. the Monorail is the quintessential example of everything that makes The Simpsons great. Tons of jokes that hit bullseyes, a hilarious set up, parodies and pop culture references that actually work in the world of the story, and a perfect celebrity cameo from Leonard Nimoy.
I don’t need to say anything else about this episode. You all know the song, you all know the jokes, you can all quote these lines. It’s just brilliant from beginning to end.

2. Lisa’s Substitute (Season 2, Episode 19)

lisa's substitute

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand”

Lisa’s Substitute is usually touted as the most touching episode, the most dramatic episode, the most heartfelt. And….yeah. It really is.
Miss Hoover is replaced by  substitute teacher Mr Bergstrom while she recovers from Lyme disease. Mr Bergstrom nurtures Lisa’s intelligence and vivacity and she develops a crush on him.
Lisa is probably the most three dimensional character in the series. Creator Matt Groening has said Lisa is his favourite character as she is the “only one with a hope of escaping Springfield”. But that’s a discussion for another blog.
I identify with Lisa a lot in this episode. She feels isolated from people because she’s different. Her brain and creativity separates her from everyone. Mr Bergstrom teaches her that her uniqueness is something to be embraced, not hidden. He recognises her frustration with Homer. He encourages her. And when he leaves, it’s genuinely tragic.
We’ve all lost important people in a variety of ways, and seeing this episode can bring it all flooding back. Mr Bergstrom has to go, and he doesn’t ever reappear in the show. And you know what? That’s life. That’s how it works. People can appear in your life for only a season.
Homer of course has a beautiful scene with Lisa where he finally shows the kindness in his heart. But Marge has one of her finest parenting moments in this episode too, and it’s always overlooked. I would like to call attention to Marge’s brilliant line right here and right now.

“Homer, you’re not allowed to have hurt feelings right now! There’s a little girl upstairs who needs you. Her confidence in her father is shaken and no little girl can be happy unless she has faith in her daddy,”

Bravo Marge. Bravo. This is a mothering lesson to behold. She recognises Lisa’s need is far greater than Homer’s, and she refuses to let him wallow in self pity or elicit sympathy from her. She makes him step up and be a man.
Yes, Homer ideally should do this himself but that’s not the point. The point is that Marge sides with her daughter over her husband, and basically forces him to take responsibility. Go Marge.

With Lisa’s SubstituteThe Simpsons showed us why we love the show. They have this ability to splice crazy scenarios which could only exist in the world of animation with dramatic touching life lessons. This episode will always have a very special place in my heart, and the hearts of fellow fans.

you are lisa simpson

The time has come to unveil my number one favourite episode. But first, the runners up. 


Radio Bart


Blood Feud


Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy


Bart vs. Australia


The PTA Disbands


Homer’s Enemy



  1. THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS HOMER SIMPSON (Season 9, Episode 1)

“I’m getting out of this town alive if it kills me!”


Barney is designated driver one wild night at Moe’s and afterwards disappears for two months with Homer’s beloved car. Homer discovers the car is illegally parked in New York, between the Twin Towers. Having had a bad experience years ago in New York, Homer reluctantly travels with the family to retrieve the family sedan. Marge and the kids have a magical experience in the big city, but Homer has the worst day of his life.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this episode for a long time. The episode was immediately pulled from syndication following the 9/11 attacks, and only appears on TV with several jokes permanently edited out.
All that aside, this is the episode which kills me. Homer stuck in New York doesn’t sound like a particularly funny concept, but believe me, it is. The simplicity of the setting allows for a number of hilarious scenarios pulled directly from real life. Homer is trapped with a car that he can’t drive anywhere. Having had my first flat tyre experience this year, I can now join the club of the Stranded Motorists. Homer has to wait for a government official. Again, we’ve all had to wait for someone to turn up who was taking their sweet time. And finally, he becomes increasingly desperate for the bathroom.

Raise your hand if you HAVEN’T been in that situation.

*looks around, crickets chirp* I didn’t think so.

The best kind of comedy comes from misery, and is based in truth. We have ALL been where Homer is in this episode. The pain of those memories allows us to laugh along with him and share his agony. Interweave Homer’s terrible situation with the rest of the family having the time of their lives, and you have an episode which is side-splitting. The way Homer gets the boot off his car absolutely kills me every time. No other Simpsons episode makes me laugh like this. And the really amazing thing is that it was the opening to season 9. What a way to open!
The City of New York vs Homer Simpson is just as hilarious now as it was the first time I watched it all those years ago. And that alone is enough to make it my number one episode.

Didn’t see your favourite episode here? Wondering why I didn’t talk about the Halloween specials? Well, stay tuned.  2016 will be kicking off with the Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.

Next week: Best and Worst Disney Princesses!


Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 1

Who of my generation remembers the years where The Simpsons was on at 6pm each night? Wasn’t that a great time of our childhoods? Every night, switching the TV to Channel Ten and trying to guess what episode would be on? Ok, ok, maybe only I did that. But I’m not ashamed to say that I love The Simpsons. Not so much the newer stuff, but the older seasons are comedy gold. It has great humour, razor sharp satire, unforgettable characters and defined so many people’s sense of humour. I for one, can quote entire episodes off the top of my heads, and I recently went through a phase where I watched entire seasons back to back, reliving the glory days (I was sick, ok? I had nothing else to do!).
Picking my ten favourite episodes is like trying to pick my favourite dog. But heaven knows, I have to try, so here goes.
By the way, the category I’m following here are the episodes I personally enjoy most. There’s a ton of great episodes that won’t make the list. You may not see your favourite episode here, and I’m not necessarily going by the general consensus either. These are my favourites. I will do other lists of Simpsons episodes in different categories. So if you don’t see an episode up here, there’s every chance it will appear in my future blogs about the show. Crack open a can of Duff beer, grab a donut and enjoy Part 1!

10. Bart’s Comet (Season 6, Episode 14)

After a prank, Bart is ordered to assist Principal Skinner in his astronomy. Bart discovers a comet about to hit Springfield. With the only bridge out of town destroyed due to a failed attempt to stop the comet, all of Springfield crams into Ned Flanders’ bomb shelter in a panic.
Bart’s Comet is one of those episodes with a ton of great jokes. From the weather balloon prank Bart pulls to the townspeople kicking Ned Flanders out of the bomb shelter, it kills me every time. It’s not a particularly complex or deep episode. I love it because of the scenario, the animation and overall, it’s downright funny.

“So there’s a comet. Big deal. It’ll burn up in our atmosphere and whatever’s left will be no bigger than a Chihuahua’s head,”
“Wow Dad, maybe you’re right,”
“Of course I’m right. If I’m not, may we all be horribly crushed from above somehow,”
And let’s not forget, Homer was right about the comet.
I’m scared too.

9. A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4, Episode 2)


Despite a controversial song about New Orleans, this episode is simply a classic. Marge auditions for Oh Streetcar!, a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. She wins the role of Blanche Dubois and finds the character in her relationship with Homer. Like many others, the majority of my knowledge of the world came from The Simpsons and this is no exception. This was the episode that introduced me to Streetcar (and many of the other viewers), and they mirror the Stanley/Blanche dynamic with Homer and Marge so beautifully. However, Homer has a lovely redemption at the end as usual, and he definitely isn’t as bad as Stanley. The songs are hilarious, guest star Jon Lovitz steals the show, and Maggie’s Great Escape side plot remains one of her greatest moments. What’s not to love?

“I’m Lionel Hutz, and I’m filing a class-action suit against the director on behalf of everyone who was cut from the play. I also play Mitch,”

8. Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4, Episode 17)


This episode usually tops Best Simpson’s Episodes lists, and for a long time, I didn’t really get why. I remembered watching this episode once or twice as a kid, and I didn’t find it especially hilarious or even that memorable.
Well, having re-watched it a few times through the more mature eyes of my early twenties, it is one of the most clever episodes they ever produced. Homer becomes head of the union at the nuclear power plant to save the dental plan. Through a series of very funny miscommunications, Mr Burns sees Homer as a legitimate threat, and the power plant workers go on strike.
There are so many great scenarios and potential for great jokes, and the writers take advantage of them all. From movie references and flashbacks to Mr Burns’ childhood, this is satire at its best. The episode is full of pop culture and historical references, but they never feel forced. Neither does the lack of a subplot, since Lisa needing braces is directly branched to the main story. Lisa’s dentist is a riot, and the climax mirroring How the Grinch Stole Christmas could not be more perfect.  If you don’t remember this episode being particularly funny, go back and watch it. Even if you do think it’s funny, go watch it anyway. I guarantee there’s a joke or two you missed.
There’s only one thing left to say.

“Lisa needs braces”

7. Rosebud (Season 5, Episode 4)


Who doesn’t love Mr Burns? He’s one of the most enjoyably evil villains ever created for television. He concocts elaborately wicked schemes, his age makes for a lot of hysteria and his fawning assistant Waylon Smithers is a perfect sidekick.
Rosebud, from Season 5, shows us a hidden side to him. See, it turns out Mr.Burns had a happy childhood with a loving family and a teddy bear named Bobo, all of which he abandoned to live with a ‘twisted loveless billionaire,”. Years later, Mr Burns remembers Bobo and falls into a depression. When Bobo appears in the Simpson household, Maggie grows very attached to the bear and refuses to give it up.
The earlier seasons of the show had a great mix of heartfelt drama and comedy. The whole episode is obviously a parody of Citizen Kane, and it lends itself to a lot of hilarious scenarios. It’s really the first time we see Mr Burns as a human with feelings, and it’s over something we can readily identify with. Homer has one of his best parenting moments too, when he gives up a lifetime of riches so Maggie can keep Bobo.
Every joke hits the mark, the parody is great, Homer comes through for his daughter, and you actually feel a lot of sympathy for one of TV’s most dastardly bad guys. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and heart, and that alone makes it a classic.

6. Cape Feare (Season 5, Episode 2)

cape feare


When I think of episodes that had me laughing the whole way through and continues to make me smile just thinking about it, I look no further than Cape Feare, and everyone who has seen this episode will know why. In a parody of the movie of the same name, Bart receives death threats in the mail, and the culprit turns out to be Sideshow Bob (voiced by the great Kelsey Grammar). The Simpsons go into the Witness Protection program only to be followed by Bob who thirsts for nothing but vengeance on his spiky-haired nemesis.
The previous appearances of Sideshow Bob were both mysteries (framing Krusty the Klown for armed robbery and attempting to murder Aunt Selma), but this episode wasn’t. Of course, the best thing about Sideshow Bob is that while he is a bloodthirsty maniac, it is juxtaposed with his highbrow tastes and love of good culture. I am a HUGE Frasier fan, and Kelsey Grammar is so utterly perfect as Sideshow Bob you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. It’s like they were made for each other. Bob is an excellent comic foil while also maintaining his diabolical edge, and his desire to get Bart is riveting.
Every joke in this episode hits a bullseye and remains ingrained in pop culture, that other TV shows to this day try to replicate (I’m looking at you, Family Guy!). Sideshow Bob singing HMS Pinafore, “BARTDOYOUWANTSOMEBROWNIESBEFOREYOUGOTOBED?”, “Hello, Mr Thompson,” It’s a comedic goldmine, and I’ll never get tired of it.

And of course, need we forget the most famous joke in the episode? No words necessary, just the picture….


Next Week: Part 2!


Into the Woods: From Stage to Screen

Into the Woods is without doubt my favourite musical of all time. I consider it a masterpiece of story telling. The characters are wonderful, the score is flawless, there’s a perfect blend of comedy and drama and the story is beyond ingenious. It’s also pretty much the only time I will ever admit to being an original cast snob. The DVD recording of the original Broadway cast remains one of my most beloved possessions.

The movie was stuck in development hell for years, but when it was finally announced for a 2014 release, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was excited at the thought of seeing this show being immortalised in cinematic form. On the other hand, I was apprehensive. With a show this good, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Plus, this is a very hard adaptation to pull of since the musical is so theatrical, and has the advantage of an intermission.

However, the movie had a stellar cast (so I thought) and the director of Chicago at the helm, so I put any preconceived notions behind, and went to see the movie. And what did I get? A mixed bag. There were some elements that were done perfectly, and other elements that didn’t even make it up to bat. It’s definitely not the best musical movie but there was still so much the filmmakers got right. And overall, I quite liked it. So what worked? What didn’t? Let’s take a look.

Oh, by the way, spoilers ahead.


It’s your last warning!

Into the Woods, for those of you who don’t know, is based on the 1987 Tony Award winning musical composed by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. Into the Woods cleverly interweaves the classic tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel alongside an original story about a childless Baker and his wife. When a Witch reveals she cursed the pair to infertility in vengeance against his father, the Baker and his wife are tasked with finding four magical ingredients. The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold. As you can imagine, the characters all cross paths as they go to get their wishes granted, and everything ends happily….for the first act. The second act goes into detail about what happens after ‘happily ever after’ as the characters are forced to face the consequences of their actions in Act One.
This was one of the first examples of twisted fairytales. It brings the stories into the world of reality, by showing how life doesn’t always have a happy ending and what you want isn’t necessarily what’s best for you. It’s really the ultimate ‘be careful what you wish for’ message.
All the characters, main or supporting, have beautifully defined personalities that go beyond the fairytale archetypes. This is a true ensemble piece, and everyone has a realistic and developed character arc.
This story could have been a cluttered mess, and granted it is a rather dense plot, but it’s told in a way that never leaves you confused or lost. The pacing is excellent, and you have an even distribution of comedy and drama. They aren’t afraid to make you laugh and they don’t shy away from raw emotional scenes either. There’s a lot of very clever fourth wall jokes, the best one being the characters feeding the narrator to the Giant in Act 2. The score is absolutely brilliant (come on, it’s Sondheim!) with sweeping instrumentals and clever lyrics that only Sondheim in all his genius can supply.
It’s about as perfect a musical I can think of. If I had to nitpick anything, and I mean really scraping the bottom of the barrel, the ending does drag on just a little bit too long. But that’s honestly the only thing I can think of.

Ok, ok, I’ve sung the show’s praises. Time to compare.

The original cast starred Bernadette Peters (The Witch), Joanna Gleason (Baker’s Wife), Chip Zien (Baker), Danielle Ferland (Little Red), Ben Wright (Jack) and Kim Crosby (Cinderella).
In the film we had Meryl Streep (Witch) James Corden (Baker), Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), Lilla Crawford (Little Red), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack), and Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel). Generally speaking, this is solid casting, with most of these actors being good choices for the roles and many turning in strong performances. James Corden and Emily Blunt carry the film exceptionally well as two ordinary homemakers thrust into a world they don’t understand. Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone, though both too young for the roles imbibe them with youthfulness and energy. None of the supporting cast (Christine Baranski, Billy Magnussen, Johnny Depp, etc) stand out in negative ways, but the actress who really blew me away was Mackenzie Mauzy. Rapunzel isn’t a giant role in the musical and considering how much of her story was cut (which will be discussed later) she created something truly heartfelt and mesmerising.
However, this cast was not without weak links. As I said, Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone , while doing a good job, were both too young. Personally, I think Jack comes across as more comical when played older (around 18-20), considering the dynamics with his mother. As for Little Red, she’s always played by an adult who looks young (20-25 or so) for reasons that become dazzlingly clear as soon as the Wolf appears. The sexual tension in that scene just becomes creepy otherwise. I rolled my eyes when the Wolf opened his jacket, revealing an array of lollies. Subtlety? What’s that?
As for Anna Kendrick, her singing sounded lovely (possible autotune?) but her acting was…lacking. Granted, Cinderella is probably the hardest character to play in Into the Woods, but it can definitely be done. Kim Crosby turned this role into something quirky, funny and strong willed. Anna Kendrick let so many lines fall flat and missed a lot of opportunities for comedy and real drama. I don’t know if it was the character choices or the director, but her Cinderella came off as bland and not very interesting.
Then we have Meryl Streep. When I heard she was cast as the Witch, I was hyped. She seemed the perfect choice, no question. So we have the legendary actress of our time…in one of the most confusing performances I’ve ever seen. Every time I watch her, I shake my head and have less idea what she was trying to accomplish. She’s so over the top, but with no focus or reason. She adds all this weird physicality; it’s like she’s incapable of being still. I don’t know what went wrong here. It’s like she was afraid to be grounded and commanding and thought the safest option was to ham it up to 11. To be fair though, her singing has improved miles since Mamma Mia (which I am NOT planning to review any time soon, by the way) and her crowning moment was during Stay With Me. It’s not a bad performance per se, but it’s certainly not what I wanted or thought I was going to see from such talent. And in such an iconic musical theatre role. Bring on Bernadette Peters any day.
The music, however, is the star of the film, and it sounds magnificent with that orchestra. It sounds lush, epic, and majestically carries the plot forward. The staging of the songs is at times extremely clever, such as On the Steps of the Palace freezing time or the visuals in I Know Things Now. My favourite number by far was Agony, which was absolutely perfect. It’s one of the few male duets in modern musical theatre, and one of the funniest. Both Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen work off each other fantastically and the rivalry dynamic works a charm. The waterfall was a creative setting too (actually, the movie was visually stunning and didn’t rely on it either!). I do wish the reprise had been included, but you can’t have everything you want.
The only song I really missed in the film was No More, which is actually my favourite song from the musical. I can kind of see why it was cut though. Without the Mysterious Man, and therefore very little of the Baker’s Father, the song may have felt shoehorned in. But this also created a world of problems. Without the song, the Baker didn’t have much reason to return. His father’s speech made little impact. There was no decision made about whether to keep fighting on. The Baker just walks away, cries for less than ten seconds and suddenly he’s ok. Sense! Please make it!


There weren’t all that many changes to the story, and most of the changes I can understand and even like, because hey, it’s a movie, not a stage show. Having the Baker narrate the show was an inspired move, although I did miss the Mysterious Man. I’ll also admit I laughed out loud when the Baker’s Wife became pregnant in a microsecond. At least they had the smarts to actually make a joke about it.
But I do have one problem with the movie, and unfortunately it’s kind of a big one.


Great, good, meh, awkward, good, good, …what?, good, good, hilarious

In my humble opinion, the biggest mistake the movie made was not killing off Rapunzel. Why? Because it pulls the entire second act apart. In the stage show, Rapunzel suffers from Post traumatic stress disorder and post natal depression from her treatment at the hands of the Witch. The Giant’s wife climbs down the second beanstalk looking for revenge on Jack for killing her husband and stealing their things. Fair enough.  In the initial confrontation, the Narrator is fed to the Giant, Jack’s Mother is accidentally killed by the Prince’s Steward, and Rapunzel is trampled to death. The Witch sings Lament over her adoptive daughter’s fate, and spends the rest of the show trying to give Jack over to the Giant in revenge.

In the movie, Rapunzel simply tells the Witch she wants nothing to do with her anymore and rides off with her Prince. And that’s it. We never see her again.

This plot change was revealed prior to release, but the producers assured us that Rapunzel would still have a tragic ending. But this is far from a tragic ending. The Witch singing Lament, while still a beautiful song, has much less impact when sung about a person who has simply released a toxic person from their life. Additionally, because Rapunzel doesn’t die, the Witch has zero motivation to go after Jack. She has no reason to want the Giant dead. This also waters down the Last Midnight, as the Witch’s role as the ironic voice of reason is lessened since she has nothing at stake.

I realise the producers probably didn’t want to upset the kids in the audience by killing off Rapunzel. But here’s my argument: just who do they think this story is aimed at? It is not a children’s story. There’s a number of reasons why there’s a junior version of Into the Woods. Fairytales were originally dark and gruesome. They were cautionary tales. Killing off Rapunzel is one of the many brave choices James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim made in the original. None of the characters are in the right. The things they wished for didn’t bring them true happiness. There have been serious consequences, including death. In most fairytales, the Witch would be the villain, but as I said above, here she’s the voice of reason. The writers of the musical were not afraid of these changes in the pursuit of the message and story they were telling. The movie is another example of Hollywood being terrified of giving audiences the truth.

But at the end of the day, this is still a good film of a very difficult adaptation and it’s not getting out of here without a recommendation. Still, I would also highly recommend checking out the original Broadway cast DVD. Whichever way you choose, Into the Woods is musical theatre at its finest.