CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, February 7, 2005

Homer Simpson and the Law 101

The Bench & Bar of Minnesota has a great post about the Simpsons and the law: "Despite its earlier reputation for vulgarity, "The Simpsons" has come to be widely hailed for its insightful commentary on American culture.  An academic treatise on philosophy has even been written using the show as source material.  Yet, little attention has been paid to the incisive commentary on the law found in "The Simpsons." This article examines "The Simpsons" for the light it sheds on the practice of law."  Detailed Simpsons analysis here, including analysis of the following courtroom exchange:

Hutz: I move for a bad court thingy.

Judge Snyder
[modeled on Robert Bork]: You mean a mistrial?

Hutz: Right!! That's why you're the judge and I'm the law-talking guy.

Judge: You mean the lawyer?

Hutz: Right!

  [Mark Godsey, via Oregon CrimProf Tom Lininger]

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This article simply sucked the fun out of the jokes which it plodded through in order to explain. The fun of The Simpsons is that it has no agenda beyond a certain subversive irony. The author touched on this by (mirthlessly) pointing out how the show is beyond cynicism. Further analysis sort of misses the point, in my view.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 7, 2005 12:54:37 PM

What I hate about reaching the age of cynicism is that I now see everything through a prism that divides all into either left/blue or right/red. The Simpsons' creators are definitely of the former.

But the author left out the best lines of the 'All you can eat' civil suit:
Hutz: And what did you do after leaving the restaurant?
Marge: We drove around looking for other all-you-can-eat seafood restaurants.
Hutz: And after that...?
Marge: We went home.
Hutz: I remind you that you are under oath. I ask you again...
Marge (weeping): We went fishing! (sobs)
Fat man in jury: That could have been me!!

Posted by: Miles | Feb 7, 2005 1:32:49 PM

I don't know if I necessarily see The Simpsons as a red/blue dichotomy, like Miles does, but I do appreciate the rather clever sense of legal humor it has always had. I knew about the Judge Bork joke (along with the joke regarding the female judge, whose name eludes me, that wears a lace choker akin to that worn by Justice O'Connor), but wasn't sure about the Roy Cohn joke. I thought the article could have done more with that humor, but did sum up the "hyper-cynicism" of the Simpsons rather well.

I just wish it had mentioned my favorite Lionel Hutz, Esq., quote: "I refer you to the case of Finders v. Keepers...."

Posted by: TPB, Esq. | Feb 7, 2005 2:02:17 PM

The show has gotten outright preachy of late. Where's the mirth or subversive irony in a recent episode with Lisa insisting to Homer that her eating disorder (blame society) is a complicated social and psychological problem that cannot be cleanly resolved in a half-hour episode? uh. . . . ha ha?

And let's just not mention episodes where they make attempts at timely political zingers. So bad.

Posted by: ss | Feb 7, 2005 2:02:43 PM

Apparently, the author misses the Godfather reference in the last joke he quotes ("Earl Warren wasn't a stripper!" "Now who's being naive?"), and thus looks rather foolish-- he's writing a detailed analysis of a joke he doesn't get.

Posted by: John Tabin | Feb 7, 2005 2:08:56 PM

Who can forget the best celebrity-lawyer inspired barb:

"Lionel Hutz, court-appointed attorney. I'll be defending you on the charge of... [reads slip of paper] Murder One! Wow! Even if I , I'll be famous!

Posted by: Nick Sylvain | Feb 7, 2005 2:19:52 PM

Dang it. That should of course read "Even if I lose, I'll be famous."

Posted by: Nick Sylvain | Feb 7, 2005 2:20:57 PM

Dr. Hibbert: Now, regardless of what this thing is, it's a priceless scientific find. So our most pressing concern now is to determine who owns such a valuabe skeleton,and I'd like to suggest that I do.

Mel: I'd like to hear from Lionel Hutz!

Hutz: It's a thorny legal issue all right. I'll need to
refer to the case of Finders v. Keepers.

"Lisa the Skeptic" 5F06

Posted by: Yo | Feb 7, 2005 2:23:44 PM

"Mr. Simpson, the state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement.
But just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement."
-- Lionel Hutz, ``Bart Gets Hit by a Car''

Posted by: Lionel Hutz, Esquire | Feb 7, 2005 3:20:23 PM

Let's not forget Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld and his memorable quotes :)

Posted by: Tejas | Feb 7, 2005 3:55:18 PM

The best ever is the Simpson lessons on the Law of the Sea. Outside of territorial waters, monkey-knife fights are legal!

Posted by: Brian | Feb 7, 2005 4:33:23 PM

I miss Phil Hartman *snif*

Posted by: David Ross | Feb 7, 2005 4:38:55 PM

The Simpsons has gone way downhill since Phil Hartman died. I miss him too.

One of my all-time favorite Hutz moments was from "The Devil and Homer Simpson" (in "The Treehouse of the Damned III"), which the article quotes. But it fails to note that Hutz was facing the Jury of the Damned: Benedict Arnold, Lizzie Borden, Richard Nixon, John Wilkes Booth, Blackbeard the Pirate, John Dillinger, and the starting line of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers!

Nixon: But I'm not dead yet! In fact, I just wrote an article for Redbook.
Satan/Flanders: Hey, listen, I did you a favor!
Nixon: [humbly] Yes, master.

My other favorite Hutz moment is when Marge gets a job in Lionel's real estate office and he gives her some pointers on salesmanship.

[Lionel shows Marge a realty catalogue. The first featured house is extremely small.]
Marge: It's awfully small...
Lionel: I'd say it's awfully -- cozy!
Marge: That's dilapidated.
Lionel: Rustic!
Marge: That house is on fire!
Lionel: Motivated seller!

And of course Lionel's business card reads: CLOGGING OUR COURTS SINCE 1976

For all things Hutz:

Posted by: Andrew | Feb 7, 2005 5:33:20 PM

Not only was the piece not funny, it was not accurate. The dialogue from "The Devil and Homer Simpson" was misquoted.

Hutz says a contract is an agreement which "cannot be broken", not which is "unbreakable". It looks like a small difference, but sounds much funnier the right way -- especially when Hartmann repeats is: "...which CAN NOT BE BROKEN!"

One hopes this piece does not represent the author's usual standard of cite-checking.

Posted by: GaijinBiker | Feb 7, 2005 6:38:17 PM

Let's not forget Hutz's phone book ad for "I Can't Believe It's A Law Firm"....

Hutz: All right gentleman. I will take your case. But I will require a thousand dollar retainer.
Bart: A thousand dollars. But your ad says "no money down".
Hutz: Oh, they got this all screwed up. [Writes on the ad to change "Works On Contingency. No Money Down" to "Works On Contingency? No! Money Down!"]
Bart: So you don't work on a contingency basis?
Hutz: No! Money down! Oops, I shouldn't have the Bar Association logo here either. [Hutz then literally eats the ad]

Posted by: Aaron | Feb 7, 2005 7:16:59 PM

Actually, the text is correct in citing Hutz as saying "unbreakable", yet the article did screw up in not mentioning his emphatic repeat:

[cocky] That was a right-pretty speech, sir. But I ask you, what is a contract?
Webster's defines it as "an agreement under the law which is unbreakable."
[emphasizing] Which is unbreakable!
[The jury look at him]
Excuse me, I must use the restroom.

The hilarity of course due to the fact that he is hurting his Homer's case rather than helping it by mentioning a contract's definition and re-emphasizing it.

Posted by: Kevin | Feb 9, 2005 2:28:08 PM

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