Warning: Spoilers for The Simpsons season 34, episode 6.
While The Simpsons season 34’s Treehouse of Horror Halloween special is mostly a chance for the show to poke fun at some genre media, the episode’s parody of The Babadook also pointed out a major Marge problem. The Simpsons has always been willing to make fun of the show’s issues, but season 34 has leaned into this self-effacing humor more than ever before. Already, The Simpsons season 34 mocked the plothole-producing choice to reuse supporting characters in multiple roles.
The Simpsons season 34, episode 6, “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” pointed out the oldest issue with Marge’s character twice in one episode. While Marge has had plenty of short-lived jobs, she doesn’t have a social life outside the Simpson family and, even within the confines of the family, she is often reduced to a passive, non-comedic supporting role. While there are classic Simpsons plot lines that revolve around Marge, she hasn’t been developed as much as the rest of the family, and The Babadook parody featured in “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” highlighted this as Maggie searched for happy memories in a family album only to realize that Marge’s misery was ignored in each photograph.
Earlier in season 34, The Simpsons addressed Marge’s non-existent social life with an episode that saw her grow obsessed with an exercise bike routine since she had nothing else to fill her days. In another season 34 outing, Marge took a job on Krusty’s daytime TV show to assuage her boredom and, in “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” The Simpsons featured the most explicit acknowledgment of Marge’s plight so far. The fact that Marge is often left in the background of everyone else’s fun is literalized by Maggie’s attempts to bring back her mother’s loving side with a look through a family album.
The Simpsons admitted that most of the family’s adventures were no fun for Marge, a gag that worked both as a reference to The Babadook and a meta-joke about the show underutilizing her character. Fortunately, season 34 has broken The Simpsons’ rules repeatedly and upended its routine, with two out of the first five episodes of season 34 focusing on Marge’s dissatisfaction with her lot in life. As such, The Babadook parody in “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” was not a case of The Simpsons acknowledging a problem and doing nothing about it, but rather an instance of the show mocking a shortcoming that it has recently been improving on.
Later on in “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” The Simpsons addressed the limitations of Marge’s role on the show again as the family spouted their catchphrases. To pass themselves off as unthinking robots living in a Simpsons-themed park, the clan had to loudly call out classic lines like Bart’s iconic “Don’t have a cow, man.” This prompted Marge to offer a reluctant “… Dinner’s ready?” in another moment that saw The Simpsons season 34 mocks the show’s problems by tacitly admitting that her character is underdeveloped in comparison to Bart or Homer. This gag, along with the earlier parody of The Babadook and recent Marge-centric storylines, promises more focus on the Springfield family’s matriarch as The Simpsons season 34 continues.
New episodes of The Simpsons air on Fox on Sundays.
Next: The Simpsons Pennywise Spoof References A Classic Treehouse of Horror