Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Five, “Zapp Dingbat”

Written by: Eric Rogers
Directed by: Frank Marino
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“You know, the rents are a lot more reasonable in Peru.”

This is another one of those rare ones that’s about the best expression of a bad idea that you could get. On “The Thief Of Baghead”, beloved commentor Lack Of Name remarked that the CC years were more willing to casually kill off their characters for a quick joke, something that comes off self-consciously edgy; this breaks up Leela’s parents just as casually and cruelly for no reason whatsoever, and then to my great exasperation actually makes a meaningful story with a lot of funny lines. This isn’t really about the Turungas, it’s about Leela’s relationship with her parents as an adult. Granted, she specifically did not grow up with her parents, but I really relate to her having to grapple with the notion of her parents as fellow adults, capable of making independent choices that she might not always agree with. In a way, I suppose it’s worse for Leela than for me – I grew up with my parents, and the transition from all-knowing deliverers of punishment and love to fellow human beings was a much more gradual one than the jarring shift Leela is forced to go through here. I wonder how people whose parents divorced when they were adults relate to this episode.

“Last time you tried that, the Mexican restaurant declared war on us.”

Leela’s relationship with her mother especially reminds me of my own. The central cause of conflict is that Munda has an education and talents that she finds very fulfilling but has never gotten to use, and it’s only in middle age that she can pursue it at the expense of her family. My own mother is going through something like this now, although with the full support of myself and my sister; it’s to the rest of her family (and, to an extent, in her own head) that it looks like dating Zapp Brannigan. It was a strange thing the first time to think of my parents as my friends, which comes down to seeing them as people making choices as opposed to titanic icons; I can see Leela going through the process of accepting that her mother will make choices she finds unpleasant but nevertheless supports out of love for her mother and a desire to see her personally happy.

Title Card: A pair of buttons labelled ‘cancel’ and ‘ok’, with the user clicking ‘ok’.
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“I don’t know where most of her is, but her tongue’s in Zapp’s mouth.”

George Takei makes a cameo as himself. I also want to make it clear that once you get past the reason he and Munda divorce, I actually like and support Morris in this episode too, and indeed for much the same reason as Munda – gotta respect someone who knows what their ambitions are, especially when they’re as low as his. There’s an okay joke where Fry quips that maybe he’s marriage material which has a great punchline in Leela acknowledging “[he’s] getting there,” which is a pretty great and obvious demonstration of character development – the exact same setup would have a very different punchline even a season ago. 

“Mouth Mutant?! I oughta punch him right in his big mouth! And then in all his smaller mouths!”

The title is a parody of the typeface Zapf Dingbats. When Fry and Bender get covered in sewer water from Brazil, Bender’s headdress is a reference to the one worn by Carmen Miranda in the film The Gang’s All Here. There’s an entire shot-for-shot sequence lifted from Star Wars: A New Hope, with the Mos Def Cantina combining the names of Mos Eisley Cantina and rapper Mos Def. The dancing hologram is a reference to The Star Wars Holiday Special. Zapp orders Kiff to get on the wing of the plane, a reference to an episode of The Twilight Zone starring William Shatner (who, as we all know, was a big source of inspiration for Zapp himself). Leela says “I don’t want to put a rat in your face-cage,” a reference to the climax of the book 1984. Leela has a Truffala tree from the book The Lorax.  

“Then once again, my lies have been proven true.”

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “The Butterjunk Effect”. “Well, we lost to all our opponents. Even that team that turned out to be us in the mirror.”