29 October 2012

The Long Halloween Vol. IV: Simpsons Edition - Hurricane Neddy

Soon you will be introduced to the Fourth Installment of The Long Halloween, Norwegian Morning Wood's yearlong look at every special holiday. This year we're showcasing The Simpsons Edition, highlighting a proper Simpsons episode to tag along with a holiday each month. Today, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy descending upon the East Coast, we decided to give a little preview with the most appropriate hurricane television episode ever, "Hurricane Neddy" (S8;E8).

Hurricane Sandy is one of the largest storms to hit the United States in recent memory. The thing stretches from Boston to Jacksonville. It's a classic nor'easter, south'easter, tropical storm, and Fuck-o-cane all at once. Because of its amalgamation of parts along with its Halloween descent, it's been called the Frankenstorm. It should still do less damage than Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), though. It's a shame it didn't land a few months ago for Frankenstein Day.

So in addition to serving as a huge impediment to trick-or-treaters and toilet-paper-throwing-afficionados alike, Frankenstorm is about to wreak havoc all over the Eastern Seaboard. It's snowing in Kentucky. Flooding in Ohio. Dogs now collectively rule the Carolinas. President Obama and Fuhrer-nominee Romney have been forced to cancel many last minute campaign stops in some crucial swinger states like Virginia and Florida (never pick up Romney's keys at a party), and how el Presidente handles this blustery week in the area could have a tremendous influence on the election (I bet Black people everywhere get water a lot faster than Katrina, and that's a good thing).

It is a sign of our technological and social development, and for sure some of its growing interdependence on each other, that there is so much out there right now to prepare and track this monstrosity as it creeps up Appalachia. The Weather Channel is offering live commentary, there is already a Twitter handle out there, and there is even a confluence of zeitgeists with @RomneysStormTips, which was taken down moments ago for unknown, but likely conspiratorial reasons.

It's really the magic of the Internet displayed in full, glorious force. Sandy is widespread and sudden enough that millions of people react to it instantly and put those reactions online. Whether it's to show the devastation of their situations, ask for help, or make pop culture-fueled jokes, the capturing of such a surprise huge event through social media has never been this unified, massive, and instantaneous.

Why did I start this post? Oh yeah, "Hurricane Neddy." As you're bunkering down, you may get some good tips from this episode. When Hurricane Barbara strikes Springfield, a town with no history of such storms ("But the records only go back to 1978 when the Hall of Records was mysteriously blown away!"), the citizens panic. This is all what's going on right now - areas with no expertise in dealing with storms this big are panicking and worrying (probably over nothing, which is what happened with Barbara). Flood the grocery mart, stock up on Creamed Eels, Corn Nog, and Wadded Beef, and then go play in the basement.

The episode really shines though, after the Hurricane subsides and it becomes a deeply intense character study of what makes religious goody two-shoes Ned Flanders tick. What results is an honest and humanizing look at the character, with some hilarious side notes (My shoes are in the den? May God have mercy on us all...). More importantly, as most Simpsons episodes do when dealing with the subject, it is not necessarily a critique of Flanders' faith as much it is the very human tendency to bottle up anger and try to deal with frustration in unhealthy ways. What else would you expect from a Spankological Protocol developed by the University of Minnesota?

So as Sandy barrels down the coast and into the mainland, destroying everyone in her path, we may take a moment to acknowledge good steps to take during a hurricane: 1) Don't spend time with your family, they will annoy you. 2) The animals are always the first to know. 3) Notice that eery calm? That's the eye of the storm, it ain't over yet, bud. 4) I just got that Butthole Surfers joke.

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