What makes Homer generally likable and sympathetic even through his childishness and destructiveness is the genuine joy he gets out of what he does, and I think this episode is a great example of that. No matter your feelings on the fat acceptance movement, I think we can all agree that eating enough fast food to weigh three hundred pounds in order to qualify for disability is a bad thing, but Homer’s gleeful dedication to the task he sets himself is so endearing that I get caught up in it watching him go. He comes together with Bart to really work at achieving his goal, with triumphs and setbacks and learning from experience. I also think the whole reason he tries is genuinely sympathetic; we’ve all worked shitty jobs that we wish we could just walk away from, so I know a part of me thinks “yeah, I suppose I would at least fantasise about that”. Homer becomes a weird kind of hero for the people who hate having to work a shitty job to make a living, doing something we can’t bring ourselves to do. I especially love the sweetness of Maggie giving Homer his last little push over the hill, as well as the Simpsonsesque subversion of that sweetness when he eats it without thinking.
Once Homer manages to achieve his goal, the episode splits into two ideas. The first is perfectly capturing how it feels to work from home (or, in my case, working only a few hours of a night that you’re effectively at home all day). The thing that particularly strikes me is Homer’s glee at washing his fat guy hat. Being at home all day effectively means being denied any kind of stimulus you don’t actively seek out, so you end up throwing yourself into new things, even if they’re that silly – I’ve often seen articles on working from home that basically say you avoid depression by forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do to combat that. The specifics of home computing have shifted over the decades (although “Where’s my Tab?” is evergreen), but the basic social emptiness of pushing buttons will never die. Even then, it captures the highs, too, like Homer’s relief at not having to commute.
The other idea is the issues fat people face. Make me pick a side, I choose the fat acceptance movement over the other lot; it often seems to me that people target fat people because their cruelty has to go somewhere, and that they can be targeted under the guise of caring about their health, which, like, fat isn’t necessarily connected to health, and even if it was, who cares what other people do? A lot of the things Homer faces in the second half of the episode are things perfectly ordinary people who didn’t do anything to anybody have to deal with, ranging from ugly clothes to snide insults; the sweetest moment in the episode is when Lisa responds to cruel taunts about her father with “Just because he’s overweight doesn’t mean he’s bad! He’s a sweet man, and he has real feelings.” It’s hard to say this pushes a pro-fat agenda, considering it’s a strange sequence of not especially realistic events in which Homer is not 100% sympathetic, but I feel like there’s a general validation of this in that Homer’s weight gain this episode is an extension of things we like about him and see in ourselves.
Chalkboard Gag: Indian burns are not our cultural heritage,
Couch Gag: The family are clockwork toys that walk in.
This episode was written by Dan Greany and directed by Jim Reardon. The writers thought Carey Grant would be perfect as the pig Homer eats in his fantasy, but he was a little too preoccupied with being long dead. Joan Kenley returns as the voicemail lady.
Love that this world is detailed enough that we have one doctor too ethical to help with the plot and one who isn’t (and of course, Hibbert isn’t really that ethical). I watched this with my best friend and he pointed out the absurdity of Dr Nick apparently carrying fried chicken around in his pocket. I love Burns in this episode, apparently really getting into leading calisthenics and his use of the phrase ‘frozen pudding wagon’.
The episode references Billy and Benny McCrary, the world’s then-heaviest twins. The scene of the kids watching Homer through the window is a reference to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. When Homer vents the gas, a farmer references Paul Newman. Honk If You’re Horny apparently stars Pauly Shore and Faye Dunaway.
Iconic Moments: 2. Dr Nick rubbing chicken against a piece of paper has become a common shitpost device. | “I warsh mahself with a rag on a stick.” Which is also my favourite example of an audience politely applauding something stupid.