The Simpsons Tackles Taylor Swift Standom
The most effective commentary made during the episode concerns the bullying of celebrity fanatics. The buildup grows consistently strong through the first two acts, as the pop taste war encroaches on the lives of the Simpsons, and how invasive it is. The episode shines as a spoof of stan culture. The inside references are transparently specific, and the visual gags were vaguely hilarious. The entire nuclear plant is on red alert, and Lenny and Carl are forced to wear Ashlee Starling t-shirts, and any sea-cake can bring on the emptying of a candy machine. But it’s Bart whose reaction is the most telling. He becomes a robotized drone, mouthing catchphrases and statements of empowerment in the least empowered way at the very bad mention of the celebrity’s name. He is a machine, pretending to fight the programming.
Lisa has idolized celebrities before, and was a huge Malibu Stacy aficionado, so it is easy to see her falling into the rabbit hole of pop idolatry. Though still a bit out of character, she ultimately sees the groupthink as mind-numbing, but this is after she bulldozes Homer, and tosses Bart under the tiny wheels of his own skateboard. He is living out a life-long dream. She is following the crowd. Bart’s motivations are pure, evil of course, but in the Simpson tradition. Lisa’s betrayals are unlike her. Usually when the two Simpson siblings team up for something, they see it through to a successful conclusion. Even if sometimes the credit is taken by any of their many nemeses.
Marge is perfectly within character. She is an enabler, and loves the immediate bonding of new friendships. Not to mention vanity brand sparkling whiskey. The idea that Lisa gets jealous is a fun touch, which could have been mined for deeper cuts in the family ties.
Billy Eichner returns in a guest voice, but there should be more Springfield Elementary classmates in the Murmur group. It would have both personalized the fandom, and given secondary characters a chance to warp expectations. Bart does Nelson’s “Haw-Haw,” in a tribute, but we should have been given more regulars.
Songwriter Jade Novah is slyly and giddily convincing as an alternative pop diva, voicing Echo, whose followers are called Echodisiacs. Her fragrance is called Reverb, and her name carries an ingenious effect, legal changed, and quite unexpected. Homer and Echo make a lot of humorous noise before they wind up making good music together. Their relationship is fairly well fleshed out within the episode’s length, but she could have been given a shadier side. The enemy-of-my-enemy bit could end all meme wars.
The musical numbers are classics of style and parody lyrics. They work on several levels at a time, poking fun at the players, and playing along with the gag. The accompanying visuals in the music video is almost sad, how it turns The Simpsons canon into a revenge song. If not for lines like “standing for number one and sitting for number two,” the tune might even prove Homer’s initial appraisal as a whiny pop song. His retort, in the second music video, may be as cringy as the Ashlee Starling fans take it, but the montage of Simpsons archival footage brings it home, possibly a little too comfortably.