Some holiday traditions wear out their welcome fairly quickly, like itchy Christmas sweaters or those chalky candy hearts on Valentine’s Day. Others, such as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, bring kooky, non-canon scare fare from America’s favorite dysfunctional family. Since 1990, Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have spoofed classic tales of terror from film, television, and literature to the delight of millions.
This year, they celebrated their 28th Treehouse. Filled with the usual ghoulish delights, each segment skewered fear staples, including demonic possession in “The Exor-Sis,” a redux of Neil Gaiman’s hauntingly charming modern fable, Coraline as “Coralisa,” and the most amusing taboo, cannibalism, in “Mmm…Homer,” featuring celebrity “cooker-upper” Mario Batali. Since this is The Simpsons, pop cultural references abound like wildflowers after a mmm…springy (*drool*) day.
Here are every Easter egg and reference from Treehouse of Horrors XXVIII.
The opening segment tips its hat to a familiar and favorite Halloween sight: a candy bowl awaiting the sticky hands of trick-or-treaters. In addition, the computer-generated animation style also spoofs long-running Bible-based series Veggie Tales, which relates the adventures of CGI vegetables like Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and Junior Asparagus.
Appropriately, Veggie Tales inaugural direct-to-video release was “Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?” and contained the segment, Tales from the Crisper. In it, the young asparagus gets freaked out watching a horror movie, before his parents calm him down and he meets the actor who plays “Frankencelery.” Somehow, though, we doubt the two shows have much of a crossover audience, especially with Simpsons Halloween specials spoofing the Catholic Church and cannibalism.
Sweet, Sweet Candy
In the CG-candy intro, the Simpson family are all anthropomorphized candy… aside from Lisa, who’s a healthy apple. For instance, Homer is an Oh Homer! (or Oh Henry! bar) and Bart is a “Barterfinger” – which Homer and Marge both joke means he’s safe, because “nobody wants a Butterfinger, er, Barterfinger.” The gag enjoys an added layer of meta-humor, since Bart and his family, to a lesser degree, were the spokes-cartoons for Butterfinger candy from 1988 on. After all, “nobody better lay a finger on my Barterfinger.”
Additional family members represent different sweets: Homer sacrifices Grandpa Simpson, a packet of Senior (Junior) Mints, to save himself. Plus, Marge is a Marge (Mars) Bar and Maggie is a Ring Pop, with the lollipop standing in for her pacifier. The Simpson kids’ cohorts also get in on the action, with Milhouse and Martin Prince as boxes of Nerds and Nelson Muntz as a Nelson (Nestle’s) Crunch. Not to be left out, Patty and Selma are York Peppermint Patties, Moe is a Bazooka (Joe) Moe, and Superintendent Chalmers is a Chalmond (Almond) Joy. Alien adversaries Kang and Kodos also make an appearance as domed lollipops.
An Un-apple-peeling Urban Legend
During the candy bowl segment, Lisa bemoans how nobody wants her because she’s an apple, griping about people being afraid of finding a razor blade in her. Marge tries to cheer her up, suggesting someone might dip her in caramel. Still, Lisa’s sharp-tongued gripe refers to a dark yet widely accepted urban legend.
Throughout the ‘60s and’70s, stories made the rounds about unlucky trick-or-treaters receiving a lethal candy apple laced with poison, pins, or razor blades, courtesy of a neighborhood sadist. Fortunately, the horrific tales were little more than sensationalist news stories meant to warn kids of potential dangers and stir up circulation around Halloween. Despite a lack of proof, parental paranoia pushed suspicion on many an innocent holiday foodstuff (and oddball neighbor). As a result, many hospitals and schools offered free X-rays for concerned parents and inadvertently led, at least in part, to a preference for pre-wrapped Halloween treats.
Does anyone else smell a sweet, sweet, candy company conspiracy?
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