Bart the General
- "I promise you victory, I promise you good times!"
- ―Bart Simpson
| Bart the General
| Episode Information
"Bart the General" is the fifth episode of Season 1. It aired on February 4, 1990. The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by David Silverman. This is one of the few episodes that doesn't include an opening sequence.
- "After defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz, Bart becomes Nelson's latest school bullying target. Sick of the harassment and torment, Bart, Abraham Simpson, and Herman Hermann (a slightly deranged military antique store dealer with a missing arm) rally the town's children into fighting back against Nelson and his cronies."
The episode begins inside the Simpson's kitchen before school where Lisa's baking cupcakes to bring to Miss Hoover at school. Homer and Bart think Lisa's trying to butter up her teacher, but she is just being nice. On the school bus, Lisa makes Bart suck up to her in exchange for a cupcake. Once at the schoolyard, Lisa shows off her cupcakes to her friends, and one of Nelson's minions steals the cupcakes away and begins to eat them. Bart comes to Lisa's rescue and attacks the bully. Nelson comes over to break up the fight; he picks up Bart by the shirt collar with Bart blindly swinging. One of Bart's punches lands and gives Nelson a bloody nose. Everyone gasps after seeing what Bart unwittingly did. Nelson tells Bart he'll get him after school. In class, a worried Bart daydreams about the showdown. In the dream, there's nothing Bart can do to defeat Nelson. Milhouse wakes Bart up in time to go to lunch. In the lunchroom, everyone hails Bart as a hero. A modest and nervous Bart downplays the situation. Nelson walks up to a trembling Bart to remind him about the fight after school. Back in the classroom, Bart daydreams again this time about his own funeral in which his family mourns him, and Nelson pounds him one last time. After school a nervous Bart darts around the playground hoping to avoid Nelson. Bart turns a corner only to see Nelson standing right in front of him. Nelson promptly pummels Bart, throws him in a trash can, and informs Bart to meet again tomorrow after school for another beating. Nelson and his minions roll Bart away in the trash can.
The garbage can with Bart inside rolls to a stop in front of the Simpson house, and a weary Bart stumbles out and goes inside the house. Once inside, Bart walks past his parents in the living room and heads to the bathroom to cry. Marge sends Homer in to console Bart. Marge eavesdrops on the conversation, and, when it's revealed Nelson's picking on Bart, she bursts in and gives Bart advice. She advises him to talk nicely to Nelson and try to settle things like gentlemen. Homer doesn't like this advice and takes Bart into another room to show him how to fight Simpson style (i.e. fighting dirty). The next day after school in the schoolyard, Bart uses Homer's advice and flings mud in Nelson's eye which only makes Nelson angrier.
Nelson beats up Bart again, throws him into another trash can, and rolls him away. Once again in front the Simpson house, Bart's trash can rolls to a stop. Lisa's sitting out on the sidewalk and suggests Bart should seek Grampa's advice. Bart goes to the retirement home and visits Grampa, angrily typing a letter to TV advertisers. Grampa tells Bart to just stand up for himself. Jasper quickly enters Grampa's room and demands Grampa's newspaper. Grampa says no and stands up for himself, but Jasper takes the paper away, anyway. Realizing Bart standing up for himself may not work, Grampa says he knows someone else who can help. Grampa and Bart go over to Herman's Military Antiques to ask Herman Hermann for advice. Herman tells them Bart needs to start a small army, and they begin to devise a plan.
At school, a note's passed around class. The note tells the kids anyone fed up with Nelson should meet at Bart's treehouse after school. Inside the treehouse, a group of kids along with Herman and Grampa wait for Bart to arrive. Bart stumbles in after being beaten up again, rallies the recruits, and encourages them to join in his battle plan against Nelson. A montage of army marches, drills, obstacle courses, and training with Bart as the drill sergeant commences. Back inside the treehouse, days later, the battle plan's being finalized by Bart, Lisa, Herman and Grampa. Milhouse steps in and informs Bart of Nelson's whereabouts, and the battle plan begins. Outside on the streets, Bart confronts Nelson and, out of nowhere, Bart's army appears with water balloons much to Nelson's surprise. Water bombing takes place, and Nelson is captured. Bart wheels a tied up Nelson in a wagon back to the Simpson house. Bart tells Nelson he hopes he has learned his lesson and reaches to untie him, but Nelson says that as soon as he is free, he's going to pound Bart. Inside the Simpson house, Herman draws up a peace treaty between Bart and Nelson they both sign. Marge steps in and hands out cupcakes to everyone for a happy ending.
At the end of the episode, Bart sits on a table in a library and talks directly to the camera about the seriousness of war.
This episode was running too long to use the normal opening sequence. It did therefore not feature a chalkboard gag or a couch gag. Instead they just cut to image of the Simpson house. David Silverman was the director and was kind of stressed, because he was doing storyboards for this episode while also directing "Bart the Genius". Originally, he had planned to use the song "War" by Edwin Starr in the episode. The plans were dropped, when they decided that the song did not really fit the story. The episode had problems with the censors, who did not want the characters to say "family jewels" on prime time television. The producers ignored the notes and "family jewels" remained in the episode.
Two new characters were introduced in this episode. The first one is Nelson Muntz, who remains a frequently used recurring character. The second is Herman Hermann who has been used less. Another two characters were to be introduced in this episode, which were Nelson's parents. Their appearances were cut from the final script. The design of Herman except for only having one arm was inspired by the look of the writer John Swartzwelder. The voice was partly inspired by George H. W. Bush and performed by Harry Shearer. The original idea with Herman was that every time he would be shown he would have a different story to why he only has one arm.
Matt Groening notes on the commentary track that he finds it strange how controversial this episode seemed at the time of its release. Today, they would go a lot further and to him this episode now seems harmless. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said: "Some good lines and setpieces aside - we love Bart's fantasy of death at Nelson's hands - this episode nevertheless feels a bit unsure of itself, particularly towards the end." In a DVD review of the first season David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 3/5 and adds "Another episode that helped to propel Bart's popularity into the stratosphere ...".
Use in scientific research
"Bart the General" and Seinfeld's "The Tape" were used in a Dartmouth College experiment to study brain activity in relation to humorous moments in television shows. The results were published in a 2004 issue of the academic journal Neurolmage. The researchers noted, "During moments of humor detection, significant [brain] activation was noted in the left posterior middle temporal gyrus ... and left inferior frontal gyrus".
In other languages
- Silverman, David. (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart the General" [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt. (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart the General" [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). Bart the General. BBC. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
- Original script for "Bart the General" on The Complete First Season Boxset
- Grelck, David B (2003). The Simpsons: The Complete First Season. WDBG Productions. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
- qtd. in Keay Davidson. "So these scientists go into a lab to see what's funny ... - They find gender differences in how humor affects brain". San Francisco Chronicle. November 21, 2005. A1.
|Season 1 Episodes|
|Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire • Bart the Genius • Homer's Odyssey • There's No Disgrace Like Home • Bart the General • Moaning Lisa • The Call of the Simpsons • The Telltale Head • Life on the Fast Lane • Homer's Night Out • The Crepes of Wrath • Krusty Gets Busted • Some Enchanted Evening|